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Microsoft wants to bring affordable Internet access to 'underserved markets'

Posted: 19 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Microsoft  Internet  India  China 

Internet is already ubiquitous in some markets today, yet in others access to the World Wide Web is not as affordable or readily available.

According to Internet Live Stats, around 40 per cent of the world population—or some 3.2 billion people—has an Internet connection today, a far cry from the less than 1 per cent number of Internet users in 1995.

China topped the list as the country with most users last year, with 642 million people representing nearly 22 per cent of the total number of Internet users. The Asian country has more users than United States (279 million), India (243 million) and Japan (109 million) combined.

India, on the other hand, has the lowest penetration at 19 per cent and the highest yearly growth rate, according to the website.

India also ranked 15th amongst its Asian neighbours in terms of broadband speed, according to GMA News Online, quoting an Ookla report. The Internet metrics provider said country has an average of 7.04 Mbps, which is lower than Bhutan's 7.82 Mbps but higher than Malaysia's 7.03 Mbps, Laos's 6.92 Mbps and Indonesia's 6.68 Mbps. Afghanistan has the slowest Internet speed at 2.52 Mbps, followed by Philippines at 3.64 Mbps.

To help the lagging, "underserved markets," many heavyweight companies have started launching efforts to get more people online worldwide.

Early this week, Microsoft announced that it is investing to help start-ups and companies offer affordable Internet access in underserved markets. The fund is part of the company's Affordable Access Initiative, which invests in new last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services and applications, and business models that can reduce the cost of Internet access, which, in turn, will help get more people online affordably.

"Today there are approximately 4 billion people globally without Internet access," Peggy Johnson, Microsoft executive vice president of business development, said in a statement. "The ability to close that gap is more achievable than ever with technology that is readily available and affordable in many part 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 plans to team up with Internet access providers and other public and private sector entities to develop "innovative and practical connectivity and services solution." The company has already started deploying TV white spaces technology, which repurposes TV frequencies in 17 countries and five continues that are not being used locally to provide affordable Internet access.

There's also the 4Afrika Initiative, which Microsoft uses to actively engage in Africa's economic development "to improve its global competitiveness through locally relevant innovation, affordable access and skills development."

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