Microsoft says it’s partnering with a fiber-cable connectivity venture called Liquid Intelligent Technologies to bring high-speed internet access to an additional 20 million people in Africa by 2025.
The collaboration is part of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, which aims to help extend broadband coverage to 250 million people living in unserved and underserved areas of the world, including 100 million people in Africa.
Microsoft President Brad Smith announced the partnership with Liquid in advance of the Fifth U.N. Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which gets underway next week in Doha, Qatar. Microsoft will co-chair the meeting’s Private Sector Forum.
“The private sector can plan an important role in creating opportunities for the 880 million people living in LDCs [least developed countries], where only 36% of the population uses the internet today, and it’s important for Microsoft to do its part,” Smith said in a blog posting.
Over the past five years, the Airband Initiative has helped bring internet access to more than 51 million people in rural America and around the world. Through its Airband partnerships, Microsoft provides seed investments and other resources to support expanded infrastructure in regions that need it. In December, for example, Microsoft announced a partnership with Viasat to provide satellite internet access to 10 million people globally, including 5 million in Africa.
Liquid, a business of Cassava Technologies, focuses on fiber infrastructure in Africa.
“Access to high-speed connectivity is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity,” Nic Rudnick, group deputy chairman of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, said in a news release. “With a fiber backbone of over 100,000 kilometers across the continent, Liquid is uniquely positioned to bring high-speed connectivity to the remotest of communities. Our vision is to create a digitally connected future that leaves no African behind, and this is just one more investment from us to realize the vision.”
The new collaboration will initially target regions including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Zambia — and will also extend high-speed connectivity to remote areas of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.
In addition to the Liquid partnership, Smith highlighted several other high-tech initiatives that will benefit less developed countries:
- A collaboration with Planet Labs and the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to use artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to track global population shifts. Gaining insights into such demographic trends could help optimize the delivery of needed resources.
- An initiative to provide 20,000 young people, women and entrepreneurs in Senegal, Uganda, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with digital skills training.
- A partnership with OCP Africa, which supplies fertilizer solutions adapted to local conditions, to reinforce and scale OCP’s Digital Agricultural Platform. “With Microsoft, this effort will support 40 million farmers and agri-stakeholders in Africa by 2040,” Smith said.