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Microsoft offers grants to promote affordable Internet access




. China launches $14.6b investment fund

Microsoft Corp. has renewed its Affordable Access Initiative grant fund for a second year. The fund assists companies working to bring Internet access and new technologies, services and models to underserved markets. The application process is now open for a new set of partners.
According to Microsoft Affordable Access Initiatives Director, Paul Garnett, said the social enterprises “we support have inspired us with practical, high-impact and scalable approaches to help close the digital divide. It’s a privilege to see these solutions take shape, and to play a role in helping local entrepreneurs spur job creation and economic growth.”
The facility will therefore offer more funding for Internet operations across the globe. According to Internet Stats, the world currently has 3.4 billion Internet users or 46. 1 per cent of world population estimated to be 7.43 billion. Non-users are estimated to be around 4.001 billion

In the fund’s first round of investments, Microsoft awarded grants to 12 businesses offering affordable Internet access or cloud-based services in fields such as power generation, health, education, finance and agriculture. Applications will be accepted until midnight on January 31, 2017.

AirJaldi, a 2016 grant recipient, provides high-quality Wi-Fi broadband connectivity at reasonable rates to more than 90,000 public- and private-sector clients in rural India. Vista Africa, another recipient from last year, is a cloud-based software platform that helps healthcare providers more easily screen, track and treat patients’ health in areas where connectivity is limited.
In addition to receiving funding and software to help power and develop their businesses, grant recipients will join a growing ecosystem of other grantees and funders to further increase their impact.
This initiative is in line with Microsoft’s Philanthropies, which is helping to bring technology’s benefits to those who need them most. Microsoft Philanthropies is making its digital literacy, online safety and computer science education programs available to grant recipients and the communities they serve.
Corporate Vice President and Head of Microsoft Philanthropies, Mary Snapp, said too many people around the world lack Internet connectivity and the educational, commercial and economic benefits of cloud-based services.
“Affordable Access Initiative grants, and the technology ecosystems they help support, empower entrepreneurs to provide connectivity, which then enables the creation of critical services for those who need it most,” she stated.
To apply, Microsoft said applicants must be commercial organisations with two or more full-time employees and have a prototype of a working solution and preferably paying customers. Such products and 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.

Meanwhile, CHINA at the weekend launched a 100 billion Yuan (about 14.6 billion U.S. dollars) Internet investment fund.The Cyberspace Administration of China and Ministry of Finance fund will support Internet companies and the Internet Plus action plan via equity investment, according to the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), one of the largest investors in the fund.

The fund has already raised 30 billion Yuan from state-owned banks and enterprises, including the ICBC, which invested 10 billion Yuan.The ICBC, together with the China Development Bank and the Agricultural Bank of China, will provide financial services and 150 billion Yuan of credit to enterprises that have attracted investment from the fund.

The China Internet Network Information Centre claims that China’s Internet population has hit 731 million last year, with 695 million of them using mobile devices.

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