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Helping Foster Digital Learning: What's In It For Business

Self-interest is the fundamental driver for investors in the "saving the world" business. Companies want to help educate people in remote corners of the U.S. and developing countries because educated people will get jobs, make money, and buy products. 

Governments, meanwhile, want to help educate people for jobs to increase the tax base and build more vibrant communities. The key, of course, is preparing people for the right jobs—jobs for which employers are and will be hiring, jobs that require digital literacy. And at the high end, jobs will require aptitude in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Helping people find and prepare for meaningful work was among the topics discussed last week by more than a thousand corporate, NGO/nonprofit, and government leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative's seventh annual meeting in New York, which matches funders with programs. Following The Economist summit the prior week, I was particularly inspired to learn about investments in technology education to prepare people for jobs.

"The opportunity for digital learning to transform education is upon us," said Anthony Salcito in our conversation at CGI. Salcito, vice president of worldwide education for Microsoft, is particularly enthusiastic about broadening access to education through Microsoft’s Shape the Future program. "Providing technology, as well as education and training, puts students on the path to graduation, employability, and a better future," Salcito said. At CGI, Microsoft announced a new three-year commitment to bring digital access to one million low-income students in the U.S. 

"Companies understand that people with jobs will have expendable income; they will become customers," said Ken Eisner, director of the One Economy Ventures Group. With support from global corporations, One Economy brings internet access into the homes of low-income communities to advance education, employment, and healthcare. 

"The broadband marketplace is slowing down," Eisner added. "This market [people from low-income communities in the U.S. and emerging countries] is the growth market where all of the new ads and revenues will come from. So when we look at this broadband marketplace, not only is it good and vital for communities, it’s good for business."

Good for business is the only way this will work; that’s the case to shareholders. It's also the path to a better world.

[Flickr user CIAT]