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Microsoft, start-ups partner on internet and power initiative

Microsoft, start-ups partner on internet and power initiative

Airband will leverage TV white spaces (TVWS) and other last-mile access technologies.

Microsoft has given grants to three technology start-ups to extend internet and electricity penetration in three African countries.

Agsol, Mesh Power and Coldhub operating in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda respectively will benefit from the grants (for an undisclosed amount) to enable them push internet and energy coverage in rural areas, under the Microsoft Airband Initiative.

"These startups are overcoming barriers to provide affordable internet access to unconnected and underserved communities using TV white spaces (TVWS) and other promising last-mile access technologies," a statement from Microsoft said.

It added that, "The grant fund will provide financing, technology, mentorship, networking opportunities and other support to help scale their innovative new technologies, services and business models."

Agsol mainly deals with electricity generation from the sun and enables to power crop processing machines. The excess energy from their machines is used for lights, phone chargers and small appliances. Their machines are cloud connected and Microsoft hopes that their grant will enable them to be more efficient and offer energy to off-grid farming communities.

Mesh Power in Kigali, Rwanda has an internet connected PV DC microgrid providing 48 volts of DC energy to customers as a competitive price.

"The next phase of work will focus on driving economic development and diversifying beyond energy, to increase internet access and scale mini-grids to eco lodges and schools. The grant fund will be used to provide affordable internet access in Rwanda," Microsoft said.

ColdHubs provides solar-powered walk-in cold rooms installed in rural markets to store and preserve perishable foods. Their technology eliminates loss of crops and increases farmers' income.

"ColdHubs will use excess power from each hub to deliver affordable Wi-Fi to smallholder farmers, who will benefit from internet-based agricultural training, and digital skills and marketing training," the statement added.

Airband Grant Fund will work with the three companies over a year to refine and expand the reach of their solutions.

The initiative has been rolled out in the US, Latin America and Asia.

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