The Microsoft Airband Grant Fund has provided funding to three African startups delivering internet-connected solutions to rural communities.
The Airband Grant Fund, through which Microsoft also works with recipients to refine and expand the reach of their solutions, is part of the company’s Airband Initiative, which has the goal of extending connectivity to underserved communities around the world.
Microsoft has announced eight early-stage companies selected for its third annual grant funding round, which it said were overcoming barriers to provide affordable internet access to unconnected and underserved communities using TV white spaces and other promising last-mile access technologies.
They include three from Africa, namely Rwandan solar-powered microgrid provider Mesh Power, Nigerian solar-powered cold room solution Cold Hubs, and Kenyan solar-powered agro-processing machine developer Agsol.
The grant fund will provide financing, technology, mentorship, networking opportunities and other support to help scale these startups new technologies, services and business models.
“Today, internet access is as essential as electricity. It empowers entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses, farmers to implement precision agriculture, doctors to improve community health and students to do better in school,” said Shelley McKinley, head of technology and corporate responsibility at Microsoft.
“But almost half the world’s population is still not online, often because they live in underserved areas, and therefore miss out on opportunities to take advantage of and become part of the digital economy. As a global technology company, we believe we have a responsibility and a great opportunity to help close this gap.”