City IT staff support technology charities

The sight of Bill Gates herding his sheep across the City of London may not be something you see every day but as a member of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT), he is entitled to do it whenever he chooses.

IT is not often associated with the traditions of the City but when the WCIT became the one hundredth livery company in 1992, tradition and technology teamed up. Livery companies have a long history -- going back some 700 years -- and as well as dedicating themselves to maintaining high standards in the trades, they also have a history of supporting charitable causes and community work.

With a donation of £5m from the Shirley Foundation announced today, the WCIT is hoping to to give a boost to technolgy in the UK as we enter the next century. "Launching" the initiative, Buzz Aldrin -- one of the first men in space -- described the importance of technology in projects in the US. "Sharing is seen as important and with so many needy people and institutions in the world, so much can be supported by foundations and spurred on by industry," he said. Looking to the future, Aldrin predicted "hotels in space" as tourism becomes the space race of the 21st century.

Projects from the WCIT include donating computers to hospital schools allowing children access to the Net from their bedsides, apprenticeships in IT for school leavers, and setting up a cyber café for disadvantaged young people living in Bishopsgate. Taking part in charity drives is increasingly seen as an important part of building a business profile, proof that the firm is a part of the community in which it operates, says Steve Shirley of the FI Group. Companies of all sizes are reaping the good will benefits of charitable work, with giants like Intel and Microsoft recently making high some very high profile donations to charities and educational foundations.

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