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Information technology company Hewlett Packard (HP) has donated US$5 million to non-profit organisations to help businesses in low-income countries.

The HP Microenterprise Development Program provides equipment, cash and training resources to help microenterprises — businesses with five or fewer employees, minimal start-up capital and little to no access to the traditional banking sector — develop and succeed.

Grants were given to 106 non-profit and nongovernmental organisations in low-income countries.

In Latin America, HP awarded grants totalling US$480,000 to 14 organisations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

One of the recipients in Chile, Fundación Solidaria Trabajo para un Hermano  (the Work For a Brother Foundation) will receive US$14,000 in HP equipment. The foundation offers training and advice to the unemployed and those in danger of losing their jobs. 

Francisca Donoso Montt, a member of the foundation, told SciDev.Net, "This grant will help micro-entrepreneurs and self-employed people learn to use computers to improve the management of their small productive units and to look for business opportunities."

"These grants represent one channel for us to support economic development to accelerate entrepreneurial growth and success," said Yvonne Hunt, vice president of global philanthropy for HP, in a press release.

In Africa, Europe and the Middle East, US$1.4 million was put toward HP's Graduate Entrepreneurship Training through IT (GET-IT) programme, which trains underemployed and unemployed young adults in information technology and business.

Tracy Mayhew of ORT South Africa in Johannesburg, one of 35 centres receiving laptops, projectors and other equipment for the GET-IT programme, told SciDev.Net the training helped boost the confidence of young people in impoverished communities and "showed them what they could do".

Elsewhere, donations totalling US$1.36 million were made to organisations in the Asia Pacific and grants of US$56,000 each were given to causes in Puerto Rico and the United States.