Microsoft’s Airband initiative has invested in eight additional startups to help bring internet to rural areas. The program seeks to help the growth of technologies such as white space utilization to bring access to underserved communities in the U.S., Africa, and Asia.
“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,” explains Shelley McKinley, head of technology and corporate responsibility at Microsoft.
Half of Microsoft’s investments are in its home continent, supporting startups in New York, West Virginia, and California. The rest support companies in Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Here’s the full list:
- “US: CV Wireless (Essex County, New York), Skylark Wireless (Mingo County, West Virginia), Tribal Digital Village (Valley Center, California) and Numbers4Health(Texas, Maine, and Compton, California).
- Africa: Mesh Power (Rwanda), Cold Hubs (Nigeria) and Agsol (Kenya)
- Asia: ME Solshare (Bangladesh)”
White Spaces and Wi-Fi Fridges
Microsoft says all of these are attempting innovative solutions to help local communities, and its investment should help raise awareness, too. It highlights, for example, that 35% of people on US tribal lands don’t have broadband.
In some regions, though, power is the biggest rival to internet connections. ME Solshare focuses on building a network of electricity sharing to solve that issue, with several partners across Bangladesh and the globe.
Meanwhile, ColdHubs has a much stranger idea. It’s planning to add WiFi hotspots to its solar-powered refrigerators in Nigeria, tackling food spoilage and internet at the same time. This will let farmers access agricultural training to improve their yields and profits.
“Whether in the U.S. or around the world, we believe in nurturing innovative solutions by supporting local companies and entrepreneurs. We are eager to work in close partnership with these Airband Grant Fund recipients over the next year to refine and expand the reach of their solutions,” ends Microsoft.