Redmond-based software firm, Microsoft Corp. late last year in December renewed its Affordable Access Initiative (AAI) grant fund for a second year with the grant awarded to businesses whose solutions deliver internet connectivity, access to energy, and the power of the cloud to communities in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the United States.
The fund also seeks to support, grow and scale innovative businesses that are developing technologies and business models that have the potential to help billions more people affordably get online. Areas of interest include last mile access technologies, off-grid renewable energy solutions, and alternative payment mechanisms, as well as verticals such as finance, payments, healthcare, education, and agriculture.
This year’s initiative, a Ugandan based weather startup; Kukua, was last month in June named among the winners landing a partnership deal with Microsoft’s AAI.
Kukua a social enterprise aims to close Africa’s weather information gap, and in turn, help farmers improve their crop yields endeavors to be the primary source of accurate, hyper-local weather information across the continent.
They developed a solar-powered weather station based on DAVIS sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, where they upload local weather data via SMS to the cloud every 15 minutes for collation and analyses, thereby building local weather maps at a fraction of the cost of normal weather stations.
Having won the grant, they aim to use it to conduct an impact study in Uganda, and further develop its apps, products, and delivery channels with an aim of improving and better scaling its solution.
Other winners named long-side KuKua were:
- Electric Vine Industries – Indonesia: a private microgrid developer that brings sustainable, pre-paid, and smart-metered energy access and income generation opportunities to unelectrified households throughout Southeast Asia.
- Sigora International – Haiti: a micro-utility energy system provider that utilizes specialized hardware, web-managed software, and simple, mobile-enabled, and pay-as-you go pre-payment solutions designed for emerging markets.
- Solaris Offgrid – Tanzania: a modular, pay-as-you-go, mobile payment platform that offers affordable access to energy, educational content, and connectivity to more than 1 billion people.
- Standard Microgrid – Zambia: a solution that aims to reinvent the African utility industry via its containerized, micro-grid in-a-box solar packages. Its containers are combined with IoT home sensors aimed at off-grid and underserved communities.
- SunCulture – Kenya: a solution that aims to help smallholder farmers improve their crop yields through solar-powered irrigation systems.
- VABB – Virginia: a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) that uses fixed wireless technology in both the unlicensed and licensed frequency ranges to provide high-speed Internet to both unserved and underserved rural communities within Central and Eastern Virginia.
- TEAM PicoSoft – Nepal: a solution that aims to provide affordable, high-speed Internet services in rural Nepal, where difficult geography makes it exceedingly challenging to deliver broadband through traditional means.
- VisionNet – Democratic Republic of the Congo: a solution that provides Internet access to rural University students in the DRC, where only 3 million out of 79 million people have access to the Internet.
- WrightGrid – Democratic Republic of the Congo: a solution that provides connectivity by designing, manufacturing, and deploying solar-powered phone charging and wireless Internet stations in public spaces.
Notably, all the grant recipients are given seed funding, mentorship and access to a network of peers to help them pilot and scale their solutions.
New Sun Road from Uganda was also named among the winners for this program last year along side African Renewable Energy Distributor from Rwanda who were in the Power Solutions category. The firm is based in Berkeley, California, and they build solar power systems for the developing world.
Editor’s Note: Grant recipients are only based across five continents in 11 countries: Argentina, Botswana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (U.S).