Microsoft and President Obama are on the same page when it comes to virtual education.
The tech behemoth will spend $1 billion to give kids in the country’s 14,000 public school districts access to affordable mobile devices provided by Microsoft partners like Dell, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, and Acer, who are also cooperating on the initiative, Microsoft’s chief technology officer for U.S. education Cameron Evans told VentureBeat late Tuesday.
The $1 billion was offered in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s ConnectEd Challenge. The agreement is purely a Microsoft initiative and has nothing to do with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has given billions to a multitude of topics Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his wife have endeared themselves to, including education.
“Kids have needs,” Evans said. “We want to create a new, level playing field. We’re passing these savings to the students.”
The company said in a statement:
“Microsoft’s education offer will be available immediately to all U.S. K–12 public schools and available through Microsoft original equipment manufacturer partners Dell, Lenovo, and others. The offer encompasses a variety of device offerings at significantly reduced pricing levels, as well as an array of popular software and services tailored for education, including Bing for Schools, Office 365 Education (making more than 12 million copies of Office available to students for free at qualifying institutions) and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning teacher training resources.”
Students wanting alternatives like Apple or Samsung products are out of luck. The $1 billion is to be spent purely on Microsoft partner hardware running MS Windows software. Microsoft also made it clear that although it has donated $750 million for U.S. school programs previously, the $1 billion is in total support of Obama’s ConnectEd program, one of the president’s pet initiatives to help public schools in this country successfully transition into the digital age.
“We share the goals of the education community and the president’s ConnectED initiative and are proud to partner with Microsoft to maximize access to digital learning with affordable and efficient IT solutions,” Bill Rodrigues, Dell’s president for North America and global sales, said in a release dovetailing with Microsoft’s announcement.
Another Microsoft partner, Everyoneon, which helps people obtain affordable Internet access, is also on board.
“Specifically, when kids and these devices leave the school building, Everyoneon will help them get connected when they’re at home,” Evan’s said.
“You have to understand,” Evans said. “Twenty years after president Bill Clinton really focused on getting more connectivity and devices in schools, we can now take advantage of broadband penetration” and, ultimately, transform American education for the better.