Microsoft has launched a new fund as part of its Affordable Access Initiative, a program through which the Redmond giant delivers cloud-based services and affordable internet solutions to underserved markets around the globe. The fund will provide resources to companies developing innovative solutions to get more people connected in these markets.

According to Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft:

Today there are approximately 4 billion people globally without Internet access. The ability to close that gap is more achievable than ever with technology that is readily available and affordable in many parts of the world. Through this fund, we hope to kick-start the entrepreneurial process by identifying promising ideas that we can help nurture, grow and scale.

Microsoft has already announced that it will bring affordable broadband internet access to 500,000 Indian villages, leveraging unused TV "white space" spectrum. The Redmond giant is now using the same medium to roll out internet across 17 countries.

Under the Affordable Access Initiative, Microsoft will collaborate with internet service providers as well as public and private companies to deliver new forms of cloud-based services, low-cost internet access, and new payment mechanisms. Participating companies will receive up to $75,000 in funding, software and services, as well as the opportunity to connect with potential founders. Microsoft will be taking applications until 15 January, 2016. Interested companies can find all the relevant details from the Affordable Access Initiative website.

Two projects that are already underway have been highlighted:

  • Microsoft's deployment of TV white spaces technology, which repurposes TV frequencies not being used locally to provide affordable, robust Internet access to entire communities. With its partners, Microsoft is currently deploying the technology in 17 countries and five continents.
  • Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a multiyear initiative through which Microsoft is actively engaging in Africa's economic development to improve its global competitiveness through locally relevant innovation, affordable access and skills development.

Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative