Microsoft trains Colombian ex-paramilitaries ... in ICT

Swapping guns for computers

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

Microsoft has agreed to contribute more than US$300,000 (NZ$447,000) to the three-year La Llave programme initiated by the Organisation of American States (OAS), the company says.

The programme aims to open eight Digital Opportunity Centres to train 30,000 demobilised paramilitaries and reintegrate them into the nation’s job market. The former paramilitaries were recruited to fight in Colombia’s civil war, according to Microsoft.

Because the centres will be open to the community, thousands of displaced people in Colombia are also expected to benefit from the programme.

The donation consists of US$234,000 in cash and software worth US$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 the 2003 peace deal, many paramilitaries have had trouble finding work because they lack education and have a violent history.

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