In 2017, Microsoft launched the Airband initiative. A program designed to promote internet connectivity across rural areas in the US, with an objective to expand internationally and help 40 million people gain access to high-speed internet.
Earlier today, Microsoft announced its new and expanded Airband partnerships that are in place to help the company deliver on its promise to connect 40 million people across Latin America and Africa to fast and reliable internet.
These partnerships in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Guatemala, and Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda mark significant progress in our commitment to extend high-speed internet access to 250 million people living in unserved and underserved areas around the world, including 100 million in Africa.
Last year in December, Microsoft partnered with Viasat, a global communications company to help provide internet access to 10 million people around the globe, including 5 million across Africa. The goal behind these new partnerships is to help the Initiative get closer to its main agenda which is to deliver internet access to a quarter of a billion people across the world, including 100 million people on the continent of Africa, by the end of 2025.
Microsoft believes that limited access to a stable internet connection prevents people from reaching their full potential and exploring the vast opportunities available. It also prevents them from developing the digital fluency and skills required to carve a niche in the digital economy.
For instance, in Latin America, approximately 37% of the total population in rural areas has access to the Internet. But with the Airband Initiative’s assistance in collaboration with Wayfree in Guatemala, Fundacion Pais Digital in Chile, Brisanet in Brazil, and Anditel in Colombia, 18 million people in rural areas will gain access to high-speed internet.
In Africa on the other hand, vast rural areas have posed a major challenge. However, the Airband Initiative continues to make strides toward ensuring that internet connectivity is available across most areas in the continent. The current internet usage rate in Africa is currently at 40% on average. “Partnerships are key to the success of the Airband model, and we are building upon our existing partnerships in Africa, including with Mawingu and Tizeti,” says Microsoft.
At Microsoft, we believe that internet access and meaningful connectivity is a fundamental right. The Microsoft Airband initiative was launched to bring transformative connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world. Through the Airband initiative and its partners, Microsoft is serving as a catalyst to enable affordable access to connectivity, specifically focusing on regions with lower digital connectivity rates.
Better internet connectivity across Latin America and Africa in rural areas will help people tap into more opportunities that were not available to them, and provide access to better education and employment opportunities. Microsoft expanding Airband partnerships places the Initiative in a better position, which will help it achieve its main objective quicker.