UNHCR, Red Cross and Microsoft launched a community technology learning centre in the historic city of St. Petersburg in April 2004. The first such centre of its kind, it will provide information technology (IT) access, skills training and education for refugees and asylum seekers, as well as local citizens with disabilities.
The facility is located in the Professional-Rehabilitation Centre of the Labour and Social Security Committee of St. Petersburg, and is one of more than 300 Community Technology Learning Centres (CTLCs) across Europe, the Middle East and Africa that Microsoft has set up with over 200 local partners as part of its Unlimited Potential (UP) global community investment programme. However, the St. Petersburg Centre is the first one specifically earmarked for refugees and asylum seekers, as well as local people. The company has committed $1 billion in cash, software and employee time over the next five years to UP and other community and humanitarian initiatives.
The St. Petersburg CTLC is equipped with personal computers (PCs), a server, donated software and community staff trained by Microsoft employees to deliver an IT curriculum designed to provide students at the Centre with basic and advanced IT skills, as well as provide support for self-study and other community-building activities.
Cheenar Gul Khalil, head of the local Afghan Cultural Centre, said the facility is a “big gift” to Afghan refugees in St. Petersburg. “This is an excellent opportunity and I hope my children will also finish these courses which will provide us with the most sophisticated knowledge that is available these days.”
One major benefit of the skills learned in such community technology centres is that they are highly mobile, and refugees can make use of them either in their countries of asylum or when they return home.