Microsoft taps startups to boost Internet access worldwide

   
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The Redmond giant has promised investment to firms able to develop new affordable Internet access solutions. Microsoft has awarded grants to entrepreneurs seeking to expand Internet access across the world using new access technologies. The Affordable Access Initiative issues grants and awards to startups which are focusing on technology which can be harnessed to improve Internet access to communities.

In this round of funding, 12 businesses in 11 countries have been successful, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

The initiative aims to "democratize access to the Internet through grants, commercial partnerships, connecting new leaders and community engagement," according to the firm.

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.

The companies which have snagged a grant come from a range of countries across the world.

In addition to financial support, Microsoft has promised peer and mentor programs, the firm's own research & development team available on call, and virtual conferences annually.

"To further empower people and organization in communities benefitting from the Affordable Access 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," the tech giant says.

Among the Affordable Access Initiative 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.

In addition, the Redmond giant has invested in four application solutions companies, Kelase from Indonesia, the UK's Movivo, Argentina-based Tambero.com and VistaBotswana.

"With more than half of the world's population lacking access to the Internet, connectivity is a global challenge that demands creative problem solving," said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft.

"By using technology that's available now and partnering with local entrepreneurs who understand the needs of their communities, our hope is to create sustainable solutions that will not only have impact today but also in the years to come."

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.

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