Microsoft is a huge proponent of improving literacy skills around the world, partnering with UNESCO and supporting UNESCO as it leads the United Nations Literacy Decade with the goal of increasing literacy rates by 50% by 2015. I had the opportunity to attend the International Literacy Day conference and celebration hosted by former First Lady Laura Bush and UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova… and it was great to see the outpour of a focus on literacy.

Interestingly, the conversation immediately turned towards technology's role, and there was some debate whether technology is at the center of what we need to do in terms of getting people digital literacy skills, which Microsoft is certainly in support of…but I think it quickly reflected the need to have a holistic framework, which is very much what we say with regards to thinking beyond technology, and embracing soft skills. So, when we think about literacy, just like we think about technology's impact, we need to think about it holistically…thinking about literacy, social literacy, health literacy, and certainly technology literacy.

Microsoft is proud to be aligned with UNESCO to support these efforts around the world to help people get access to information, get access to training and tools, to help them live in our society, grow and prepare for the future. That’s why we are helping support the creation of a global online network to bring together literacy researchers, experts and other stakeholders. The Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) portal will allow practitioners all over the world to connect, collaborate, share information and best practices. The portal is being built on SharePoint Server by Microsoft partner Infusion and will be available beginning November 1st, 2010.

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment in providing digital literacy training to families, parents, students around the world. Our digital literacy resources help with things like access to online safety tools, helping communities get an understanding, basic or intermediate understanding of how to use technology, both as a tool, as well as the basic understanding of technology.