Our partnership with BLUETOWN has brought internet to rural communities in Ghana, creating digital transformation in schools. Photo credit: BLUETOWN
Last year, the world reached a major modern milestone – as of 2018, half of the world’s population is online with some form of internet connection. The bad news is that, despite this progress, this status quo still puts billions of people on the wrong side of the digital divide. Leaving half the world without access to the electricity of today’s age – internet access, and increasingly at broadband speeds – means that existing inequalities, poverty and insecurity will persist, worsen and become increasingly difficult to address.

Efforts to accelerate internet access globally, with a focus on developing nations, are not new. But it’s clear that the world needs a new approach to this work. The UN State of Broadband Report found that broadband adoption has slowed, and progress is especially elusive in low-income countries and rural areas across the globe. Most of the connected population relies on low speed, basic cellular services and only 14.1% of the global population has an in-home internet subscription.

That is why Microsoft is reaffirming our commitment to global connectivity today at the Devex Conference on International Finance. Through the new international track of the Airband Initiative, our goal is to extend internet access to 40 million unserved and underserved people around the globe by July 2022. We’ll concentrate our efforts to areas with significant underserved populations – initially, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa – that also have regulatory interest in solving connectivity issues. Extending internet access to 40 million people around the world in the span of three years is a big task – but it’s informed by our ongoing work in connectivity, experience with partners and engagement from development finance institutions.

In the past, we’ve done this work on a project-by-project basis spanning across Africa, Latin America and Asia. In the U.S., we formalized our connectivity work in 2017 by launching the Airband Initiative, with the goal of bringing broadband connectivity to 3 million people in rural America by July 2022, and today marks the formalization of the international work within the Initiative.

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