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Microsoft Research Strives to Narrow Global Technology Gap


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$1.2 million earmarked for worldwide academic research focused on making computing more affordable, accessible and relevant, while the new Inspire program supports research communities in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 20, 2005 — Underscoring its commitment to the academic research community, Microsoft Research announced a $1.2 million Digital Inclusion funding opportunity that empowers academic researchers worldwide to tackle technological challenges to positively affect health, education and socioeconomic conditions.

Being digitally connected has become ever more critical to global economic, educational and social advancement. Through a request for proposal (RFP) process, Microsoft Research is encouraging academic research that explores how technologies such as mobile devices, cellular phones and networking can unlock the potential of people everywhere by making computing affordable, accessible and relevant.

In addition, Microsoft Research unveiled its Inspire program, designed to promote interaction between academics from developing and developed countries in Africa, Europe and the Middle East while recognizing exceptional students from developing countries who want to embark on a research career.

Both initiatives seek to support growth in computational research and technological uptake in developing countries. With the Digital Inclusion funding opportunity and Inspire’s sponsorship of researchers and lecturers, Microsoft Research aims to develop the intellectual capital needed to help close the existing global technology gap.

“The personal and informational connections made possible through computing and communications technology are becoming ever more critical to economic, educational and social progress,” said Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research. “Yet many significant challenges remain to be solved in the push toward digital inclusion on a global scale. We hope these programs will encourage more researchers to pursue approaches in computing technology that advance these goals — getting us one step closer to global digital inclusion.”

Microsoft Research is particularly interested in academic research projects that strive to achieve fundamental breakthroughs and leverage these areas:

Creative new infrastructures, form factors and applications of mobile devices

Connectivity, particularly in environments without existing network infrastructures or intermittent availability to networking and power

Appropriate user interfaces to address challenges in literacy and novice users of technology

Culturally relevant technology applications for computing

The release of the Digital Inclusion RFP builds on work that Microsoft Research started last year in India, through the Information and Communication Technologies for Underserved Communities (ICT4D) RFP. The ICT4D RFP goals are to incubate creative approaches to bring computing to the massive number of people who had no prior access to technology, and to support new research projects aimed at solving the needs of rural and underserved communities.

“Funding from a high-profile organization like Microsoft Research lends a sense of urgency and legitimacy for rigorous research in a field where, despite the potential for significant social impact, scholarly work is still patchy,” said Balaji Parthasarathy, winner of the India ICT4D RFP, from the Indian Institute of Information Technology in Bangalore. “While the technology perhaps exists to deal with many of the challenges posed by underserved communities, the problem is that the challenges themselves are terribly ill-defined. This calls for collective definition of user needs for which users, designers and researchers must work closely.”

Microsoft Research is accepting Digital Inclusion proposals from Nov. 7, 2005, through Jan. 13, 2006. Funding recipients will be notified Feb. 10, 2006. Proposals should reflect a commitment to make all results stemming from a funded project, including the intellectual property within those results, broadly available in either the public domain or under a nonrestrictive license. Submission guidelines are available at http://research.microsoft.com/ur/us/fundingopps.

New Inspire Program Encourages Collaboration

The new Microsoft® Research Inspire program includes the following components:

Volunteer visiting researcher and lecturer program. This program matches universities in developing countries that need someone to teach basic computer science with researchers and lecturers from Europe or the U.S. who volunteer to do so. A travel stipend may be provided to some of the volunteers.

Research summer school travel award. This award is designed to bring together students and lecturers from developing countries in a program of workshops, lectures and tutorials in Africa, Eastern Europe or the Middle East in 2006. The program is already scheduled to support the International Federation for Information Processing summer school on software technology and engineering in Gordon’s Bay, South Africa, Jan. 15 through 20, 2006. More information can be found at http://polelo.cs.up.ac.za/ISS2006.

Ph.D. proposal award. This is an award for promising final-year students who will begin work toward a doctorate degree. Preference will be given to novel approaches in computing technology that have the potential to positively affect the developing world. Areas of interest include education, healthcare and economic development. The application deadline is Feb. 1, 2006; notification of awardees will take place in April 2006.

Application criteria and other details about the Microsoft Research Inspire program can be found at http://research.microsoft.com/ero/icd/inspire.

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research employs more than 700 people in six labs located in Redmond, Wash.; San Francisco; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing; and Bangalore, India. The External Research and Programs group within Microsoft Research is dedicated to building world-class relationships with colleges and universities that enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and establish Microsoft as a valuable technology partner for higher education. More information can be found at http://www.research.microsoft.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.



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