Microsoft Backs Startups to Improve Internet Access to Communities

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – More than half of the world’s population still lacks access to the Internet. Improving connectivity in developing regions of the world continues to be a global challenge that requires creative solutions. Involving local entrepreneurs who understand the needs of their communities and deploying innovative technologies can help to deliver sustainable connectivity in these regions.

Microsoft has chosen to address this challenge through its Affordable Access Initiative. The project is issuing grants and awards to startups which are focusing on technology which can be harnessed to improve Internet access to communities. In the first round of funding, Microsoft has selected 12 businesses in 11 countries.

In addition to financial backing, Microsoft will provide support in terms of peer and mentor programs, the company’s in-house R&D team available on call, and virtual conferences, annually. Among the grant recipients are power solutions firms African Renewable Energy Distributor from Rwanda and New Sun Road from Uganda, India's Zaya Learning Labs and a range of connectivity solutions companies from India, the US, Malawi, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Microsoft has also invested in four application solutions companies, which include Kelase from Indonesia, the UK's Movivo, Argentina-based and VistaBotswana. The initiative aims to democratize access to the Internet through grants, commercial partnerships, connecting new leaders and community engagement.

To further empower people and organizations in communities benefitting from the initiative, Microsoft Philanthropies will make digital literacy, online safety and computer science education programs available through its global YouthSpark initiative, as well as cloud product donations and training for nonprofits.

In order to qualify for a grant, Microsoft wants to see new, innovative technology which harnesses resources including TV white spaces – unused broadcasting frequencies – to expand Internet connectivity, as well as scalable business models and sustainable solutions.

Microsoft is not the only company looking at ways to expand Internet availability. Google's Project Loon is taking a rather novel approach by releasing balloons which act as extenders for broadband penetration.

Source: ZDNet

Image Credit: Flickr via oreoluwa