Software major Microsoft announced the launch of a new fund to support technology companies with solutions that bring affordable Internet access to underserved markets.
Microsoft will offer approximately $75,000 in funding and free software and services to recipients. They will also have the opportunity to participate in a program offered by Microsoft to connect with other grant recipients and potential funders.
The IT giant did not mention the total size of the fund.
Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative invests in new last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services and applications, and business models that can reduce the cost of Internet access and bring more people online. The Microsoft program is aimed at supporting approximately 4 billion people who do not have Internet.
“Through this fund, we hope to kick-start the entrepreneurial process by identifying promising ideas that we can help nurture, grow and scale,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft.
Under its Affordable Access Initiative, Microsoft partners with Internet access providers and other public and private sector entities on practical connectivity and services solutions.
Applicants must be organizations with two or more employees and have a prototype of a working solution and preferably paying customers. Such business models might combine new cloud services and applications, low-cost forms of Internet connectivity, and new payment mechanisms designed for consumers and smaller businesses in underserved markets, said Microsoft.