Despite the global economic downturn, Microsoft's perspective on Russia has not shifted. It remains a strategically important market. The Russian government is to be applauded for its steps to minimize the effects of the crisis, and for focusing on long-term measures that recognize IT and innovation as key factors. Microsoft, for its part, will continue to invest in Russia and is committed to supporting sustainable economic growth and social development, in line with government priorities.
For Microsoft, partnership has always been the key to mutual success. We are therefore making a $300 million, 3-year investment in Russia that includes short-term measures as well as long-term strategic programs.
In the short term, Microsoft is directly supporting entrepreneurship in Russia, fostering local innovation and creating jobs. 1,000 innovative startup businesses will receive software licenses for Microsoft products free of charge from 2009 through 2012. Each package includes software for both back-office infrastructure and up to 10 workstations for information workers or developers. The recipients will be selected by the Russian governmental foundation FASIE (Foundation-for-Assistance-to-Small-Innovative-Enterprises).
Microsoft is also committed to improving e-skills across society and industry. To increase employability and bridge the digital divide, 300,000 people will be trained in e-skills to strengthen their job standing, to find better work and to truly engage in the information economy. To accomplish this, 60 IDEA community technology skills training centers across 43 Russian regions will be used.
Microsoft plans to bring the number of computer literacy centers to over 100 centers, extending the program to cover every region of Russian Federation.
Microsoft will also play an active role in a countrywide, IT-industry initiative to provide government-certified training to IT students and professionals in cooperation with leading Russian universities. There are already around 200 Microsoft IT Academies in higher-education institutions in Russia. Advanced IT professional skills that students learn in these IT Academies offer valuable preparation for the job market.