Microsoft’s Airband Initiative plans to bring internet access to 40 million people by 2022
In 2018, around half of the people on this planet had access to the internet in some shape or form. This was a great achievement, but it also highlighted that the other half of the population had no internet access at all. Microsoft wants to change that, and at this year’s Devex Conference on International Finance, it announced that the company wants to bring internet to 40 million ‘unserved and underserved’ people around the globe, particularly Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. It will use the Airband Initiative, created in 2017, originally meant to streamline internet access across the US to achieve this goal.
Microsoft will focus on four main ways to ensure 40 million people gain access to stable internet over the next three years. Firstly, it will start by removing roadblocks to helpful technologies like TV White Space, unused broadcasting frequencies, so that networks can be quickly extended to the predominantly rural areas Airband is targeting. Next, it will partner with ISPs already present in the area to help provide affordable and reliable internet access to more people. It will also focus on supporting off-grid energy sources along with agriculture, education and rural entrepreneurship to help locals put the internet to good use. Finally, it will look into building a self-sustaining ecosystem of support and funding so that the project will be feasible beyond just the initial investment by the company.
The company draws on previous experience and success such as its projects in Columbia and Ghana. This initiative ties in very well with projects from other companies such as Duolingo, with its app that teaches people to read and write. If all of this innovation works cohesively, it could lift millions of people out of poverty and help them on their way to a better life.