Microsoft introduces new YouthSpark philanthropy program

Microsoft is introducing a new philanthropy program aimed at youth outreach in which it is investing half a billion dollars over three years.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft already offers a number of "Spark"-branded outreach programs aimed at bringing new groups of developers and users into the Microsoft fold, including DreamSpark and BizSpark.


On September 20, Microsoft added another Spark to its list: YouthSpark.

YouthSpark is a new program via which Microsoft will partner with other governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses "to help close the opportunity divide for youth," according to a company blog post.

GeekWire's Todd Bishop reported that Microsoft is investing half a billion dollars over three years and donating technologies that bring the total to "multiple billions" as part of the new program.

The exact details on what participants will get are still somewhat vague at this point. 

"Through Microsoft YouthSpark, the company will dedicate the majority of its cash contributions to nonprofits that serve the youth population around the world," explained the company in a press release. Those participating in the program will get access to Office 365 for Education, unspecified free technology tools for teachers and students, Skype in the classroom, and "a free global community for teachers to connect their students with others around the world."

The Microsoft Corporate Citizenship Blog post explains:

"This is a new focus for our philanthropy efforts. We are committing the majority of our corporate cash giving to support nonprofits that serve youth and we are announcing a number of new Citizenship programs....

"We are activating the company around this challenge because that’s how we can have the greatest impact. We will help young people access a wide range of Microsoft programs that share the common objective of supporting and serving young people in their quest for opportunity. This includes, among others, Partners in Learning, Office 365 for Education, Skype in the Classroom, DreamSpark, Imagine Cup, and BizSpark."

As Bishop noted, the timing of the announcment of the new initiative is somewhat awkward, as Microsoft is the target of a report that will be released today in advance of a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. that cites Microsoft's "aggressive international tax maneuvers" over the last three years.

According to Bloomberg, the report said Microsoft used transactions with subsidiaries in Puerto Rico, Ireland, Singapore and Bermuda to save at least $6.5 billion in taxes. Microsoft isn't the only U.S. company to engage in this practice, which does not violate U.S. laws, however.

Update: Bishop has posted the text of the Senate memo, which also mentions HP as another accused loophole exploiter.

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