Gates advises Portuguese on IT

MICROSOFT CHAIRMAN Bill Gates was in Lisbon early this week to unveil his company’s public services and e-government strategy and host Microsoft’s Government Leaders Forum Europe 2006, a two-day event held at the capital’s Ritz Hotel.

The forum welcomed 600 government leaders from across Europe, captains of industry and high-ranking Microsoft officials, amid some of the tightest security Lisbon has ever seen.

Among the key Portuguese figures to attend Microsoft’s Government Leaders Forum Europe 2006 were President of the European Commission, Durão Barroso, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, both former Prime Ministers of Portugal, and the Ministers for Internal Administration and Foreign Affairs, António Costa and Freitas do Amaral.

This was Gates’ third trip to Portugal, this time providing the IT supremo with the opportunity of presenting Microsoft’s contribution to the Portuguese government’s technological plan, currently one of the most important focal points of Prime Minister Sócrates’ agenda.

Microsoft’s e-government strategy focuses on the core capabilities of government IT administration, including identity management, customer relationship management and case management, document and forms management. The scheme, part of the Microsoft Connected Government Framework, is billed as a way for governments to build less expensive IT systems with better service for citizens.

As well as advising the powerful and the prominent, the Microsoft chief also made time during his visit to give an IT class for 100 pupils, from schools in the Lisbon area, at the Pavilhão do Conhecimento, in Parque das Nações.

During Gates’ visit, various co-operation agreements were signed, including a contract between Microsoft and the Polícia Judiciária (PJ), to supply computer equipment and provide technical assistance in an effort to strengthen the war against cybercrime. Microsoft will certificate various technology courses at Portuguese universities and provide training for professors and teaching staff, among other initiatives.

Gates receives top

Portuguese honour

The Microsoft founder has given millions to charity and was honoured with Portugal’s highest civilian award for his work to fight poverty and disease. Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio presented Gates with the Order of Infante Dom Henrique in a ceremony on Tuesday night in Lisbon.

“This award is a sign of recognition on the part of the Portuguese State for Bill Gates’ dedication to humanitarian causes,” said Sampaio, adding that former Portuguese colonies like Angola and Mozambique had benefited from the aid.

The Order of Infante Dom Henrique is named after the 15th century Portuguese Prince, known internationally as Prince Henry the Navigator, who launched the Portuguese on their worldwide voyage of discovery. The award is granted for services relevant to Portugal, at home and abroad, and for the expansion of Portuguese culture.

World’s biggest charity

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a 29 billion dollar (23.7 billion euros) endowment, making it the world’s biggest charity. It has saved at least 700,000 lives in poor countries by investing in vaccination programmes, donated computers and internet access to 11,000 libraries and sponsored the biggest scholarship fund in history. Gates recently announced his foundation would triple the amount it dedicates to tuberculosis research to 900 million dollars from the current 300 million dollars by 2015.

Last month, Time magazine named Gates and his wife Melinda, along with rock star Bono, its “People of the Year”, citing their charitable work and activism aimed at reducing global poverty and improving world health as the basis for the award.

Immense wealth

Gates last visited Portugal in 1998 for Lisbon’s hosting of Expo’98. His first visit though was back in 1994. Gates is the world’s richest man with a fortune of 38.8 billion euros, an amount that makes him 30 times richer than Portugal’s wealthiest man, Belmiro de Azevedo, president of the Sonae Group, which owns the Modelo and Continente supermarket group, hotels and real estate developments among other business activities.