SEATTLE — The Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative Fund works with companies developing technologies that could make the internet available and affordable to people in underdeveloped countries. More than half the people in the world have no access to the internet.
Some may think of the internet as a luxury used for gaming, shopping and social media, but in underdeveloped countries, the internet is a necessity. Internet access creates opportunities in information, communication, banking, education and healthcare.
Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Philanthropies had this to say: “Too many people around the world lack internet connectivity and the educational, commercial and economic benefits of cloud-based services.”
In December 2016, Microsoft announced that it was accepting applications for the Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative Fund for a second year. Applications were accepted through January 31, 2017. Twelve businesses were awarded grants in 2016, comprising:
- Movivo, U.K. – This software company is using the grant to expand its mobile application that allows users to earn free airtime so it can be used across devices, giving access to as many people as possible.
- Africa Renewable Energy Distributor (ARED), Rwanda – ARED is providing remote areas with Mobile Solar Kiosks — a reliable energy source. These kiosks can charge mobile phones and supply a WiFi network. The business is also empowering women by requiring that 30 percent of it franchises be owned by women.
- New Sun Road, Uganda – This technology company is using the grant to expand its network of micro-grid stations, clean renewable power systems.
- Ekovolt, Nigeria – This company is expanding access to affordable broadband in remote areas of Nigeria and providing Nigerian small businesses with access to cloud-based technologies.
- C3, Malawi – This company is using the grant to build a TV White Space network that will provide affordable internet and phone access to rural areas in South Africa.
- VistaAfrica, Botswana- This medical technology company has developed a digital application that uses cloud technology to maintain medical records and health information. This will help healthcare providers and patients in remote areas.
- AirJaldi, India – This company is building a wireless broadband network to provide affordable internet access to rural areas.
- Zaya Learning Labs, India – It is developing software to help children learn English and offering ClassCloud technology, a plug-and-play wireless solution to provide affordable interactive and personalized education to remote areas.
- WiFi Interactive Network, Philippines – This company provides free WiFi to communities all over the Philippines.
- Kelase, Indonesia – This digital learning company provides teachers, students, and parents with digital courses, training and educational materials.
- Tambero.com, Argentina – This company is developing cloud-based applications that help farmers monitor animal health, track rainfall and record crop information.
- Axiom, U.S. – Some rural communities in the U.S. do not have access to the internet. This company provides broadband and technology education to rural communities in Maine.
The opportunities that become available with internet access could stimulate the economy by as much as $2.2 trillion and add more than 140 million new jobs. Bringing internet access to underdeveloped countries is a huge step for the goal of the Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative Fund in the journey to eliminate global poverty.
– Mary Barringer