Microsoft Launches $500 Million Global Youth Initiative

Microsoft announced a new youth-based global program that serves to close the “opportunity gap” for young people, reports The Seattle Times.

The announcement for the initiative, called YouthSpark, came on Thursday by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to the company’s blog.

The company plans to invest $500 million in the initiative, its biggest philanthropic step in the 37 years of the company, said Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, The Seattle Times reports.

Over the next three years, YouthSpark aims to create education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries, according to the press release.

“Through Microsoft YouthSpark, the company will dedicate the majority of its cash contributions to nonprofits that serve the youth population around the world,” Microsoft announced in the press release.

Youthspark will help young people gain access to Microsoft programs such as Partners in Learning, Office 365 for Education, Skype in the Classroom, DreamSpark, Imagine Cup, and BizSpark, among others.

On its Corporate Citizenship blog, Microsoft stressed the importance of bridging not only a digital divide that affects today’s youth, but also an opportunity divide, “an emerging gap between young people who have the education, skills and opportunities they need to succeed and those who do not.” The company will partner with “governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses” in their fight toward closing this gap.

Three new programs will be launched as a part of the initiative:

  • Give for Youth, a global microgiving marketplace.
  • YouthSpark Hub, an online space where people can find out more about the programs and resources.
  • Innovate for Good, a global, social online community geared toward connecting youths with each other.

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