Microsoft's Dubai declaration: Free Office 365, ProPlus; click to check your eligibility

Anthony Salcito, Vice-President, Worldwide Education, Microsoft. (Supplied)

Call it a learning exercise. In a global education forum in Dubai, Microsoft has announced the free availability of Office 365 and Office 365 ProPlus to students, faculty and staff all across the world – at no charge, starting today, February 23, 2015.

Hundreds of teachers as well as education and school leaders have descended upon Dubai this week in an unprecedented push to share their knowledge about how to bring about innovation in the classroom.

“Our CEO Satya Nadella has made it clear that education is not just a priority for Microsoft, it is the priority for Microsoft,” Anthony Salcito, Vice-President, Worldwide Education, Microsoft, said in his keynote yesterday at the annual Microsoft in Education Global Forum, which is being held for the first time in the Middle East.

The audience of over 500 includes innovative educators, school leaders, partners and government officials from nearly 40 countries across the Middle East, Africa and India.

Salcito said that while a worthwhile goal for anyone would be “a device for every teacher and student in my country,” technology should not be the goal, but enabler of better learning so as to build employable skills for youth preparing them for a stronger future and career.

“Technology can help drive student excitement and collaboration in the classroom, something that forms the basics of learning,” said Salcito. “Technology is not the plan,” he said. “Technology can help the plan.”

Since last year, Microsoft has been offering students of qualified schools in the US access to its Office platform at no cost. It maintains that millions of students have already downloaded the latest version of Office to use both at school and home.

From today (Monday, February 23), the company says it is now making it easier for millions of other eligible students around the world to sign up for Office 365 ProPlus and download free Office from their schools.

Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus for Education is a communication and collaboration platform available in the cloud, currently used by over 110 million students, faculty and staff worldwide. A recent IDC study found Microsoft Office proficiency is among the top 20 skills required for high-growth/high-salary occupations.

“We’re committed to making the technology needed for college and career readiness available to as many students as possible – an imperative in today’s market. Bringing the Office 365 ProPlus benefit to MEA helps to close the opportunity gap between those who have access to the skills and training they need to be successful, and those who do not,” added Salcito.

Eligible students, Microsoft notes, will be able to sign up for Office 365 ProPlus and install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Access on up to 5 PCs or Macs and mobile devices including Android, iPad and Windows tablets. In addition, they’ll also have access to OneDrive and Office Online.

Starting this week, students can check their eligibility for free Office from their school. Teachers can do the same by clicking here.

“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders, and we are committed to helping them to achieve more throughout their lives. But they will not reach their full potential if the public and private sectors don’t work together to create opportunities that make a real impact toward improving youth employability and entrepreneurship, education, digital inclusion in order to stir creativity and innovation,” said Salcito.

“Our commitment to the youth in the MEA region underpins many of our regional programs, such as YouthSpark, which have the goal of improving access to technology, boosting skills and igniting innovation,” he added.

“In order for youth to overcome existing economic challenges and for countries to attain knowledge based economies, the overall mindset in the region needs to be changed to allow technology to be embraced fully as a catalyst for progress,” said Marwan Ahmad Al Sawaleh, Undersecretary, UAE Ministry of Education.

Microsoft has a strategic partnership with the UAE Ministry of Education in which the Microsoft IT Academy-authorised testing centres for secondary schools have increased from 14 to 25 over the last three years.

“Our economies have no future if the youth are not empowered with the right tools that can address current and future challenges. We appreciate Microsoft’s initiatives for taking steps to facilitate these groundbreaking changes,” added Al Saleh.


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