Microsoft Corporation has launched a new fund, worth $75,000, for cultivationg companies that can innovate and showcase solutions for improving internet access in underserved markets. According to Microsoft, 57% of the world's population is offline and they aim to change that by introducing this fund. The fund is part of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, which invests in new last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services & applications, and business models that can reduce the cost of Internet access and help more people affordably get online. Starting today, eligible companies can submit their application online at a portal especially created for the fund.
“The ability to close that gap is more achievable than ever with technology that is readily available and affordable in many parts of the world. Through this fund, we hope to kick-start the entrepreneurial process by identifying promising ideas that we can help nurture, grow and scale,” said Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President of business development at Microsoft. Entries for submitting ideas will be open till 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time, January 15, 2016. Applicants must be commercial organizations with two or more full-time employees and have a prototype of a working solution and preferably paying customers. Such products and business models might combine new cloud services and applications, low-cost forms of Internet connectivity, and new payment mechanisms designed for consumers and smaller businesses in underserved markets. In addition to receiving on average approximately $75,000 in funding and free software and services, recipients will also have the opportunity to participate in a program offered by Microsoft to connect with other grant recipients and potential funders.
Microsoft has also been deploying television white spaces technology, which takes advantage of unused TV frequencies to provide affordable internet access to areas with low connectivity and reach. The company is already working with the Andhra Pradesh government to implement this technology, on a pilot basis, in the Srikakulam district of AP. Recently, Bangalore-based firm, Saankhya Labs was also in the news for designing a postal stamp sized chip called Pruthvi, which also uses TV white space to beam low-cost internet to rural Indian households.