Microsoft trains ex-combatants in IT

Former paramilitary fighters in Colombia may be able to shoot a gun far better than they can fire off an e-mail, but that could soon change thanks to a new program — partly funded by Microsoft Corp. — that aims to train the ex-combatants on computers.

Microsoft has agreed to contribute more than US$300,000 to the three-year La Llave program initiated by the Organization of American States (OAS), the company said Thursday.

The program aims to open eight Digital Opportunity Centers for training 30,000 demobilized paramilitaries and reintegrating them into the nation’s job market. The former paramilitaries were recruited to fight in Colombia’s civil war, according to Microsoft.

Because the centers will be open to the community, thousands of displaced people in Colombia are additionally expected to benefit from the program.

The donation consists of $234,000 in cash and software worth $77,000. The contribution will also be used to develop a database to track the career ambitions of the former fighters and match their skills with the needs of potential employers.

Despite having turned in their guns as part of a 2003 peace deal, many paramilitaries have had trouble finding work because they lack education and have a violent history.

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