Like other Silicon Valley giants, Microsoft is striving to spread low-cost internet to regions around the world without it. However, its Affordable Access Initiative hasn’t gotten the kind of publicity efforts from Facebook and Google have, maybe because Microsoft’s doesn’t involve flashy balloons. But on Tuesday, Microsoft announced one of its largest efforts yet, allotting grants and access to Microsoft resources to help selected businesses develop technology.
The grantees are from Argentina, Botswana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, the U.K. and the U.S. Their seed grants and resources provided by Microsoft are intended to broaden the reach of their services.
The company says that its Affordable Access Initiative aims to “democratize access to the Internet through grants, commercial partnerships, connecting new leaders and community engagement,” and to empower people by building out digital literacy and computer science education programs as well. Connecting 4 billion people to the internet is no small task, but adopting a smaller scape than say Facebook and its Internet.org initiative, or Google and its Project Loon, Microsoft is focusing on the entrepreneurial side of internet development.
After all, a major obstacle in establishing internet connectivity in places without it is building the actual internet economies in those regions. If businesses can’t sustain connectivity, then it’s impossible to provide it on a realistic level for general users. Microsoft says that the Affordable Access Initiative invests in “last-mile access” technologies. It has other developments in the works in terms of cloud computing that will underscore these grants and hopefully help more companies reach more unconnected users.