Microsoft has announced a new international track for its Airband Initiative which will see the firm bring internet access to 40 million people.

The key to this initiative is that Microsoft will focus its efforts in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa – areas that are traditionally underserved and that have regulatory interest in solving connectivity problems.

Something of note is that Microsoft doesn’t seem to want to lay lines and then leave but rather empower locals who know their communities and are best placed to solve the challenges.

“Our experience has shown us that a multi-stakeholder approach is needed to close the connectivity gap. While we might go faster alone, we go much farther together. For this reason, these programs seek to combine our and our partners’ expertise and assets,” Microsoft’s head of technology and corporate responsibility, Shelley McKinley, said in a statement.

Microsoft says Airband International’s success will rely on four things:

  • Removing regulatory obstacles to TV White Space (TVWS) and other technologies that help our partners extend their networks quickly in unserved, predominantly rural, areas.
  • Partnering with local internet service providers (ISPs) to provide affordable, reliable internet services.
  • Enabling rural digital transformation in newly connected areas, with a focus on supporting agriculture, education, rural entrepreneurship and telemedicine, as well as off-grid energy sources where necessary in order to improve rural productivity and livelihood.
  • Building a larger ecosystem of support, with a focus on stimulating international financing, to scale connectivity projects beyond our own direct investments.

In Columbia, Airband has co-invested with internet service providers to bring broadband access to 6 million Columbians. In Ghana, TVWS was used to bring 800 000 people broadband access where they previously had none.

Airband as an initiative appears to work but it does require assistance from folks in the country. Speaking frankly, that’s better than Microsoft arriving in Africa, laying cables and then leaving. Investing in the people in those countries who will maintain and manage those services is a great way of doing things, well done Microsoft.

“There are too many things that divide us in the world today. The internet can bring us closer together, foster new understandings and connections and remove structural barriers to opportunity and equality. Airband International is focused on doing just that, and we hope that you’ll add your support to these efforts as we move forward,” concludes McKinley.

[Source – Microsoft]