Technology giant Microsoft has launched a new fund to invest in companies working on solutions to bring affordable Internet access to underserved markets.
The fund is part of Microsoft's Affordable Access Initiative (AAI), which invests in 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 addition to receiving on average about USD 75,000 (about Rs 49.5 lakhs) in funding and free software and services, recipients will also have the opportunity to connect with other grant recipients and potential funders, Microsoft said in a statement.
"Today there are approximately four 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," Microsoft Executive Vice President (Business Development) Peggy Johnson said in a statement.
Through this fund, Microsoft hopes to kick-start the entrepreneurial process by identifying promising ideas that it can help nurture, grow and scale, she added.
Under AAI, Microsoft partners with Internet access providers and other public and private sector entities on affordable connectivity and services solutions. Other efforts under AAI include Microsoft's deployment of TV white spaces technology and 4Afrika Initiative.