The objective of this Guide is to provide a qualitative, in-depth analysis of Microsoft Unlimited Potential (UP) that will complement the largely quantitative analyses that have preceded it, and create a broader evidence base for understanding how UP works in Australia. In this sense, it is not an evaluation report but rather a collection of good practices, ideas and lessons learned by stakeholders involved with the program at all levels (eg. UP Centre Managers, UP Trainers and participants). It is intended to provide guidance on getting the most out of the program at all stages of implementation, from initial staff and community engagement to ideas for meeting the needs of UP graduates after completion of the course.
From the introduction, p.8
Microsoft Unlimited Potential (UP) is a global initiative designed to help broaden digital inclusion and aid global workforce development by providing technology skills through Community Technology Learning Centres (CTLCs). Whether in a remote village or a major metropolitan area, CTLCs are free or low-cost, friendly places where people of all ages and abilities can learn about computers, use the Internet, explore new careers, further their education, participate in community activities, or develop technology skills.
In June 2004, the UP program was officially launched in Australia by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Prime Minister John Howard. Its nationwide rollout since then has been designed and built on the collective experience, skills and networks of Microsoft, The Smith Family, RMIT University and the other UP Foundation Partners: WorkVentures, Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA) and Yarnteen Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Corporation.4 Across all of the Foundation Partners, there are currently more than 200 CTLCs delivering the UP program (known informally as 'UP centres') located in every Australian state and territory. Through UP, Microsoft Australia has committed more than AU$40 million over five years in software, funding, curriculum and training support to reach disadvantaged Australians.
However, the strategic emphasis of UP in Australia ? particularly as implemented by The Smith Family ? has been somewhat different to other countries in the world in that it focuses more heavily on broadening digital inclusion than aiding workforce development. This is in part due to the nature of the communities participating in the program, who face considerable barriers of low self-esteem, poor literacy skills and social isolation that must be overcome long before the notion of preparing to enter the workforce becomes relevant / achievable. This does not mean that the UP centres in Australia are not contributing to any employment related outcomes, but rather that they function as the first important step of many on the road to greater economic participation.