Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Other Tech Giants Invest $1 Billion to Get Kids Online

Adobe and Prezi are the latest companies to join the White House's ConnectED initiative, which aims to get 99 percent of America's students connected to the Internet in the next 5 years.

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By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Kids today are the innovative leaders of tomorrow and if the U.S. intends to be globally competitive for generations to come, kids need to be digitally fluent starting early.

That's the idea behind the White House's ConnectED Initiative. The effort was unveiled earlier this month and aims to connect 99 percent U.S. students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless in the 5 years.

As part of that effort, President Obama has solicited more than $1 billion in investments from some of the largest technology companies in the U.S.

Related: How the Changing Education Landscape is Helping Entrepreneurs

Presentation software company Prezi announced today that it will provide $100 million in software licenses to hundreds of thousands of high schools and educators as part of the mission. Also today, software company Adobe announced it is donating $300 million worth of software to teachers and students.

"Better education is our best chance to improve the world," said Peter Arvai, co-founder and chief executive officer of Prezi, in a White House statement. "Prezi, in particular, will help teachers convey ideas and enable students to understand and retain concepts." Prezi has headquarters in San Francisco and Budapest and is used by more than 35 million people in more than 190 countries.

The $400 million from Adobe and Prezi come on top of another $750 million worth of investments from Apple, Microsoft, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Autodesk, and O'Reilly Media that was announced earlier this month.

For these tech giants, the donations are philanthropy and also customer development, with a very long-term return on investment projection. When students grow up using technology, they demand -- and pay for -- that technology for the rest of their lives.

Related: Ed-Tech Startups Aim to Reinvent Classroom (Video)

"Now, this is an extraordinary commitment by these business leaders, but they're business leaders, so they're not just doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They want the country to do well, but they also understand that they want educated customers. They want customers who are able to get good jobs, who are going to be using these tools in the future. They want that next young architect coming out of here to be familiar with using that iPad so that they're designing buildings and using their products," said Obama, when he announced the effort.

In celebration of the ConnectEd project, the White House hosted its first-ever White House Student Film Festival today. As part of the video competition, 2,000 students from kindergarten through high school submitted short videos about technology, education and their life. Of the 2,000 submissions, 16 will be screened. One of the finalists is embedded below. In the video, four high school students in Ohio, Lexus Wolf, Natalie Koeritzer, Caroline Proffit, and Elizabeth Russell, predict what technology will look like in the future.

Trevor Bailey, an executive at Adobe, blogged about visiting the White House for the film festival. "Without a doubt, this is one of the best things about my job at Adobe – seeing what students are creating with digital media tools. The winning videos lined up for today will undoubtedly be impressive," Bailey wrote. "Unleashing creativity in all students and teachers is critical as we prepare this generation for the careers of the future. Today's students live in an increasingly digital and visual world and must do more than just consume digital media. They must create it in order for their ideas to take shape and their voices heard."

Related: Why Everyone Wants a Piece of Ed Tech (Video)

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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