Microsoft Awards First Grants to Help Expand Global Internet Access


Microsoft has largely stood by as other technology giants like Facebook and Google have begun work on grand plans for balloons, satellites, drones, simplified apps and even bicycle hot spots to deliver Internet access to the four billion or so people around the world who are not yet online.

The venerable software company, still best known for the Windows software that runs most of the world’s personal computers, did buy the handset business of Nokia, the Finnish cellphone maker, in 2014 — a platform that could have been the basis of a mobile access strategy — only to write off most of the business a year later and sell the low-end side of it last week.

But now Microsoft finally seems to be settling on a strategy for addressing the great global disconnect: It is going to fund other businesses developing local solutions and help build the ones that show the most promise.

On Tuesday, the company, which is based in Redmond, Wash., announced the first winners of grants under a new program called the Affordable Access Initiative. The 12 recipients, who will get $70,000 to $150,000 apiece, include a company in Rwanda franchising solar-powered mobile kiosks that provide Wi-Fi and battery recharges, and an Argentine firm that uses monitoring technologies and chatbots so that farmers can keep tabs remotely on the health of their cattle.
Read the full story in The New York Times here: