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Microsoft picks state for school

Calcutta, Dec. 16: Global software major Microsoft is planning to set up an IT academy in the state to churn out trained teachers to spearhead the click literacy movement in Bengal.

The academy will be part of the company’s $20 million Shiksha project, flagged off by Bill Gates during his visit to India.

“We were always eager to involve Microsoft with a teachers’ training initiative in the state. It’s good that they are seriously considering West Bengal as a possible destination for their IT academy,” state information technology minister Manab Mukherjee said today.

Rajiv Nair, president of Microsoft Corporation, India, met Mukherjee and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Writers’ Buildings to discuss the company’s future projects in the state.

The government today extended its contract with the technology giant for one more year. The first MoU was signed in August 2001, when Microsoft was roped in by the Left government to develop and deploy technology solutions in the state.

“We will set up 10 such academies in the country and right now we are in discussions with various state governments to understand their commitment to the cause of IT. Though we are yet to take any decision on the locations for these centres, West Bengal is very much there on our list,” Nair said.

At the Writers’ meeting, Nair also gave the exact line for Microsoft Office and Windows in Bengali.

“The Bengali version will be available by November 2003. This will be of real help to the state’s e-government initiative as various applications can be developed in local languages and reach more people,” he said.

As per the MoU signed between Microsoft and the Bengal government, the company will be responsible for drawing up the next steps for the e-governance project in the state and training government officials to run the system effectively. But training teachers will be the key focus of the company, asserted Nair.

The technology major has set a target to reach 80,000 teachers and 3.5 million students with its IT curriculum by 2007 as part of the Shiksha project.

“We found the administration here very responsive and the government’s commitment to the cause of IT can match the so called progressive states in the country,” said Nair.

In the past one year, Microsoft, in association with Webel, the government’s nodal IT agency, has been involved in a host of projects. These include training of key government personnel, deployment of mail messaging system in Writers’ Buildings, supporting the citizen-government interface portal, digitisation of land records and developing an information system to track criminals for Calcutta police.

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