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					News release

  Microsoft and IDRC announce the launch of Rural Innovation Fund
                            A join fund by Microsoft and IDRC

Chennai, July 28, 2006: Microsoft India under its sustainable and self reliant rural
market initiative, Project Saksham, today announced the launch of Rural Innovation
Fund. The Fund setup in partnership with IDRC‟s initiative at the 3rd
Annual meeting of the M S Swaminathan led Mission 2007 will help local software
application development vendors in smaller towns to create and provide localized
applications and solutions customized for the needs of the rural communities. It will
initially focus on verticals like telemedicine, education and agriculture, areas which are of
maximum interest to the rural communities.

The fund is a collaborative effort between Microsoft and IDRC, a Canadian Development
organization and will be managed by a committee set up under Mission 2007, comprising
of eminent people from the industry, academia and government. The program committee
will choose the various applications for the programs in the next 6 months.

The Rural Innovation Fund will have a two pronged benefit. It will empower the local
software industry by promoting individual or organizational endeavors towards low cost
innovative applications and at the same time enable the development of rural applications
in the following areas:

      Fostering ICT based entrepreneurship for youth in rural areas,
      Learning systems or Skill development interventions via ICT for rural
       communities to enhance livelihood opportunities
      Improve healthcare delivery systems
      Specific applications for physically challenged and the disabled community

Commenting on the initiative Mr Ravi Venkatesan, Chairman, Microsoft India said,
“We are confident that this will generate a new generation of local IT entrepreneurs who
will build localized and customized solutions for rural communities. The Rural
Innovation Fund is yet another step in the direction of empowering people to achieve
their potential.”

Prof. MS Swaminathan, Chairman, Swaminathan Foundation added, “Microsoft and
IDRC have taken tremendous initiatives to bring technology closer to the marginalized
sections of the society, especially the rural communities who could immensely benefit by
the proper utilization of technology. I am confident that the launch of this Fund will
create an entire network of rural IT entrepreneurs who would develop local software
specific to the needs of the rural communities. It will lead to an entrepreneurship
revolution in rural India and will help to retain educated youth in villages. ”

Commenting on IDRC’s partnership, Dr Basheerhamad Shadrach, Senior Program
Officer, International Development Research (IDRC) & Secretary, Mission 2007
said, “We are excited to be a part of the Innovation Fund which will create IT solutions
for the rural areas and help build localized solutions for them. We look forward to this
partnership with Microsoft towards enabling the rural ecosystem for building IT solutions
for them. The idea is to scale innovations across networks. ”

Project Saksham
„Saksham‟, through its four levers of innovative business models, public private
partnership, localized content and affordable solutions will address the issues that have so
far affected the uptake of IT in the rural segment – be it the lack of infrastructure and
connectivity, or of affordable and relevant IT services and solutions. The initiative also
effectively addresses concerns regarding the economic viability of existing kiosk models.

„Saksham‟ has been developed in close consultation with industry partners and imbibes
the principles of public-private partnership to create a sustainable economic model and a
strong rural IT ecosystem. „Saksham‟ will not only provide local entrepreneurs with the
opportunity to set up and manage these kiosks for content and services, but also provide
the local ISV (Independent Software Vendor) community with the opportunity to develop
rural content and applications. The rural portal which is under development currently,
will bring all of these services together in a comprehensive manner at the front end, and
provide a seamless experience to the end user.

About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software for
personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and
services designed to empower people through great software-any time, any place and on
any device. Microsoft has been in India since 1990 and employs over 4000 people across
its offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune.

International Development Research Centre (IDRC) sees development research as a
collaborative venture to support long-term solutions to the problems developing countries
face. IDRC works towards identifying, initiating, and coordinating strategic relationships
to the benefit of poorer communities in developing countries. “”, a
collaborative initiative by IDRC, Microsoft and SDC aims at connecting telescentres,
networks, innovators, social investors and other interested groups. Telecentre is a public
place where people can access computers, the Internet and other technologies, and that
helps people to gather information and communicate with others as they develop digital
skills. The project‟s premise is that information and communications technology, used
locally, empowers individuals and the communities they live in. It invests in
strengthening telecentre networks to foster sustainable ecosystems that provide better
service delivery for the rural or poor communities. To be effective, telecentres must share
best practices, innovation, products and services with each other and have an
infrastructure that supports these practices.

Mission 2007
The National Alliance for Mission 2007 brings together Central and State Government
agencies, business and Industry, academic Institutions, civil society organizations
committed in bridging the rural-urban divide. The partners are all committed to the goal
of ushering in a knowledge revolution in rural India. The total number of partners now
stands at 126. The National Alliance for Mission 2007 is chaired by Prof. M S