Microsoft Corp and Viasat, a global communications company, have announced a new partnership to help provide Internet access to 10 million people around the world, including 5 million across Africa.
Viasat is the first satellite partner to collaborate with Microsoft’s Airband initiative and together they will deepen Airband’s work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States, as well as prioritize the expansion of the program in Egypt, Senegal and Angola to provide the necessary internet connection, often for the first time.
This first-of-its-kind global partnership for Airband is an important step in achieving the Initiative’s expanded goal of providing Internet access to a quarter of a billion people worldwide, including 100 million people on the African continent, by the end of 2025.
According to the International Telecommunication Union at the United Nations, approximately one-third of the world’s population, or 2.7 billion people, have never used the Internet yet. Satellite enables internet access to reach remote areas that previously had little or no options for conventional connectivity.
Working together, the companies will pool expertise and resources to help enable telehealth, remote learning and education, precision agriculture, clean energy and other services to reach new areas through the transformative delivery of energy and connectivity. The companies will collaborate to deliver and pilot technologies including, but not limited to satellites (both in geostationary orbit and low earth orbit) and fixed wireless.
“We believe internet access is a fundamental right and that digital skills create and enable economic prosperity for people, businesses and governments. Through our Airband Initiative, we will extend access to high-speed internet to 100 million people on the African continent and a quarter of a billion people living in underserved and underserved areas around the world by 2025,” said Teresa Hutson, Microsoft’s vice president of technology and corporate responsibility.
“Working with Viasat, we will use satellite to reach remote areas that previously had little or no options for conventional connectivity. Together, we will be able to rapidly scale and expand the reach of Airband by exploring a larger pipeline of projects and new countries we haven’t worked in yet.”
Nearly a third of the world’s population lacks online access to education, better medical care, job opportunities, family ties and more. And most of this population lives in just 20 countries in Africa and the global South. Universal and affordable internet access is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and by focusing much of this new partnership on Africa, Microsoft and Viasat are working to deliver connectivity and digital literacy for better education, health care and economic opportunities in critical markets.
“We are proud to partner with Microsoft as it represents another important step in bringing affordable internet services to Africa, Latin America and the United States as both companies continue to break down barriers to bridge the digital divide and make significant progress towards digital equity and inclusion,” said Evan Dixon, President, Global Fixed Broadband at Viasat.
“Providing internet access to the world is a challenging and bold goal, and doing so in a sustainable and responsible way will unlock lasting opportunities for those who need it most.”
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