Microsoft has announced the renewal of its Affordable Access Initiative, offering grants to businesses in the field of offering internet access and related technologies to otherwise disconnected markets.
In its first year Microsoft's Affordable Access Initiative awarded grants to a total of 12 businesses from 11 countries, including the UK's mobile data platform Movivo which allows users to 'earn' mobile data allowances by completing surveys, trialling apps, and completing crowdsourced tasks. Other winners of the first round of grants included wireless and white space broadband providers, renewable energy companies, digital learning companies, a cloud company which aids farmers' animal management, and VistaAfrica's 'occasionally connected
' architecture for medical data recording.
'Unfortunately, 3.9 billion people worldwide, often in economically disadvantaged, rural and other underserved communities, lack internet connectivity,
' wrote Microsoft's Paul Garnett in a blog post
detailing the programme. 'The [Affordable Access] initiative is a call to innovate. By using seed grants, mentoring networks and sparking community engagement, we cultivate partner companies that demonstrate promising market-based solutions through hardware, software or infrastructure improvements that deliver connectivity.
The second round of grants is, Microsoft has explained, open to any commercial organisation with two or more full-time employees and a functioning prototype demonstrating the potential of their idea. To minimise the risk of its investment, though, the company is unsurprisingly focusing on more mature companies with a roster of paying customers, but claims that this is simply 'preferable
' rather than an absolute requirement.
Full details of the grants, including an application form open until January 31st 2017, can be found on the official website