Gates’ US$400m Indian software boost

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Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has announced a US$400 million investment in India to expand the company's operation and to help boost computer literacy.

The investment is part philanthropic and part business investment, and aims to improve Microsoft's penetration into the Indian schools market, and among India large population of computer programmers. The US$400 million is to be invested over three years.

Microsoft plans to spend about 25 percent of the money on its existing software development centre in Hyderabad, in the south of India. The facility is Microsoft's only development operation located outside of the United States.

Gates outlines a plan to boost the Hyderabad centre's employee numbers to 500 by 2005 – about triple its current size.

About US$20 million is to be spent on training teachers and students on computers and software within Government schools. Under the so-called “Project Shiksha” plan, Microsoft hopes to teach 80,000 students and more than three million students. Shiksha means 'education' in the local Hindi language.

Gates said one of the primary strengths of the Indian economy – which has continued its fast growth despite the world slowdown – lay in its software development skills and its fast expanding communications infrastructure.

India has in recent times been enamoured by open source software platforms like Linux. Gates said the Microsoft investment was not related to Linux' strength in India.

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