Building global connectivity, one community at a time

At Microsoft, we believe that technology can empower everyone to achieve more. And for much of the world, it already has. You’re probably reading this on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, each connecting you to the incredible benefits of the Internet.

But for 4 billion people – more than half the world’s population – the benefits of digital technology remain out of reach.

To these communities, technology represents opportunity. The Internet can connect an expectant mother with her doctor, even if they’re hundreds of miles away. With a basic mobile phone, a rural smallholder farmer can access financial services like microloans and online banking. And with a simple Wi-Fi connection, any child can take online courses from the world’s best schools.

In my role, I get to dream big about how to solve these kinds of challenges. This past November, we announced the Affordable Access Initiative, one step Microsoft is taking to help bridge the digital divide and bring affordable Internet access to underserved markets around the world. Taking what we’ve learned from our TV White Spaces work, we’ve seen how, for the first time, we have real, affordable solutions that truly bring the benefits of the Internet and computing to even the most remote communities. We don’t have to wait to make an impact.

The challenge is deploying them, and then empowering people with the tools and information to make the most of them. And when you’re talking about an issue that affects 4 billion people, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Last-mile connectivity is a global challenge, but it requires local solutions.

So today, we are excited to announce the 12 recipients of our Affordable Access Initiative grants. With these grants, we’re partnering with local entrepreneurs across five continents, each of whom deeply understand the unique needs of their own communities, and are already delivering hardware, applications, connectivity and power solutions to solve them. Our partners will receive seed funding, as well as a range of resources, including mentorship and BizSpark tools like free software, services and tech support so they can scale up the great work they are already doing in their communities. You can learn more about our grant recipients through our website and video.

Many challenges remain, but the opportunities are far greater.

Together with these committed partners, our goal is to incentivize business and build an affordable, sustainable market that will not only have an impact today, but also in the years to come.