Airband Initiative is a little known program run by Microsoft. The initiative sees them partner with equipment makers, ISPs, energy access providers and entrepreneurs to make affordable internet access a reality. Through this very same program, yesterday, Microsoft invested in three African startups to provide internet access and cloud-enabled solutions to underserved African communities.
All three startups that got the investment are involved in Africa. Mesh Power and Cold Hubs are Rwandan and Nigerian solar-energy companies, whilst the final startup Agsol is also a solar company but it’s registered outside of Africa. They are active in Kenya for what it’s worth. The startups received undisclosed amounts and are part of eight other startups from America and Asia.
Shelley McKinley – Microsoft Head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility – put up a blog post detailing why Microsoft is investing in the aforementioned startups:
That’s why we’re excited to announce the eight early-stage companies selected for our third annual Airband Grant Fund. These start-ups are overcoming barriers to provide affordable internet access to unconnected and underserved communities in the U.S., Africa and Asia using TV white spaces (TVWS) and other promising last-mile access technologies. Our grant fund will provide financing, technology, mentorship, networking opportunities and other support to help scale these start-ups’ innovative new technologies, services and business models. The Airband Grant Fund is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, launched last year to extend broadband access across the United States and, ultimately, connectivity around the globe.
Microsoft isn’t the only company making moves
Google is also opening 200 free internet Wi-Fi hotspots around Nigeria in a similar bid to improve access to internet in the country. The company behind Android also signed its first commercial deal to deploy Project Loon in Kenya and this will see internet access finally reach previously neglected areas using Google’s balloon-powered satellites.