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Microsoft and United Nations Team up to Improve Tourism in Africa

Microsoft Corporation and the United Nations have partnered to create an online infrustructure they say will improve tourism in Africa. The idea is that increased promotion, centralized information, and connectivity will lead to a more efficient tourism sector and increased visitation, ultimately contributing to the attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development
Goals. In addition to Microsoft and the UN World Tourism Organization, the UN Industrial Development Organization and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development are also involved in the project.

The main technologies planned for development include a new portal system, called “Windows on Africa,” and a UNWTO Emergency Response System. According to a joint announcement, the portal will organize information from visitor centers, museums, and libraries across Africa for easier navigation by potential visitors, even providing readers with PDA updates about specific travel destinations. The portal will also serve as an online training center for African people working in the tourism industry. The emergency response system will streamline information related to natural or man-made disasters to improve safety for visitors to Africa, focusing first on avian flu preparedness. Technologies like electronic border clearance for tourists have also been discussed to facilitate entry to African countries.

Francesco Frangialli, Secretary General of the UNWTO, said its partnership with Microsoft will create jobs in the tourism industry, provide African people with marketable skills, and generate income for the continent. Mr. Gates is confident that development in Africa can be achieved through education and easy, affordable access to technology.

Clearly, the deal is advantageous for Gates, as the project will employ Microsoft products and applications. For instance, 25 schools in eight African countries will receive a PC lab. Nonetheless, Mr. Gates has been very philanthropic when it comes to Africa and is devoting much of his time to its development, primarily through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Some of the pair’s projects to date have centered on HIV/AIDS, agriculture, malaria, and, of course, technology; the foundation has donated money through the The Smart Cape Access Project, which provides computers and
internet access to the people of Cape Town.

More recently, Mr. and Mrs. Gates joined former President Bill Clinton on a tour around the continent this month before attending a Microsoft forum in Cape Town on development in Africa. Said President Clinton, “The efforts I’ve seen from Bill Gates and companies like Microsoft, in partnership with governments, NGOs and other private-sector organisations, are helping Africa in its push to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.”

“TourismAfrica2006” was also held September 10-15, joining business and organizations to discuss investment and development in Africa’s tourism sector-particularly sustainable tourism and promotion. As with Microsoft’s plan, the theme of this particular meeting was development through investment projects that are mutually beneficial for investors and Africa.

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