Microsoft to donate Office 365 licences to charities worldwide

Office 365 logo in orange against a white background

Charities in 41 countries around the world will be able to use Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite Office 365 for free or at a substantially reduced price.

Qualifying organisations will be given the free licences to use in their workplace, once they prove their charitable status. The company said the initiative will be available in 90 countries by July 2014.

"Choosing the right cloud solution increases your organisation's efficiency, saves on technology costs, and fosters your best collaboration," Microsoft said on its charity website.

Charities wanting to use desktop versions of the software will be able to get them for a reduced rate of $4.50 instead of the usual $20. The free E1 package includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Lync available through the browser. The second, paid version, has the desktop versions of the software as well as Excel, Access, Visio, Yammer and InfoPath.

Last year, Microsoft made the A2 version of its Office 365 for Education available to students and academic staff for free.

"Today we are donating to non-profits and NGOs access to Microsoft's best-in-class cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools, enabling them to spend fewer resources and time on IT and focus on their missions addressing global issues, such as disease eradication, education and literacy, and environmental sustainability," said Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International.

"Non-profits operate in the same way as any other organisation or business. However, many lack the resources to implement the latest technology. The donation of Office 365 allows them to be more effective and efficient in the work they do."

According to a survey carried out by TechSoup Global, charities said the top four advantages of cloud computing are easier IT administration (79 per cent), cost savings (62 per cent), improved collaboration (61 per cent) and data security (54 per cent).

The head of ICT for UK-based charity Christian Aid, Philip Humphries, said the free Microsoft tools would greatly help his organisation’s operations. “We see Office 365 as an important enabler for our strategy of ensuring all staff can easily and reliably access not only email but also collaboration tools wherever they may be,” he said.

Microsoft donated $795 million in cash, software and services to 70,286 non-profits in more than 115 countries around the world this year, it said.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.