In addition to the new Philanthropies division, Microsoft announced new partnerships for its "last-mile" program.
In November, Microsoft launched a new fund to help "cultivate companies with solutions that bring affordable Internet access to underserved markets" as part of its Affordable Access Initiative. This program "invests in new last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services and applications, and business models that can reduce the cost of Internet access and help more people affordably get online." In a recent blog post, Paul Garnett, Director of the Affordable Access Initiatives, announced new progress for the projects including new partnerships. "In the United States, Microsoft is partnering up with Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities (MBC) to help close the homework gap in two rural areas in Southern Virginia. These are counties where only about half the students have broadband Internet access at home," explained Garnett. This partnership will enable thousands of students to have connectivity at home by leveraging "new TV white space" and last-mile WiFi technologies. Microsoft believes this project could serve as a model for further expansion, potentially across the globe.
While the MBC partnership is limited to the US, Microsoft's Affordable Access Initiative is also completing phase one of other projects across the globe. "In Botswana, we are proud be partnering with the Botswana Innovation Hub, Vista Life Sciences, the United States Agency for International Development and Botswanan ISP Global Broadband Solutions to assist Botswana-University of Pennsylvania in remotely delivering specialized medicine, including cervical cancer screenings, to women at rural healthcare clinics," explained Garnett. "In Nanyuki, Kenya, our network operator partner, Mawingu Networks, is rapidly extending the reach of its wireless broadband network, delivering low-cost 'packets and power' to small businesses and individuals in rural communities." The initiative has received applications from five continents since its launch last month. Eligible companies can apply from January 15.
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