Microsoft has announced that it is granting monetary rewards to twelve entrepreneurial businesses to help speed and scale its effort to provide affordable Internet Access all around the world.

Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative is focused on providing startups with the necessary resources and funding to scale their ground-breaking cloud technologies and cutting-edge hardware technologies to connect communities all around the world. The Redmond tech giant has stood by its commitment to invest $1 billion in cloud-based technologies to bring internet and online services to the masses, via affordable broadband and philanthropic programs.

The first round of funding saw the addition of twelve startups to the initiative, which includes two Indian businesses – AirJaldi and Zaya – who are trying to bring communication and educational advancements in the rural ares of the country, respectively. In addition to India, other grant recipients are based across five continents in 11 countries: Argentina, Botswana, Indonesia, Malawi, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The key objective of this initiative is to democratize access to the Internet through grants, commercial partnerships, connecting new leaders and community engagement. Microsoft wants the grant recipients to address a wide-variety of challenges and take advantage of last mile technologies such as TV White Spaces. In order to be connected to the initiative, the entrepreneurs should show the passion and the ability to scale and sustain the business in a developing market like Indonesia or India.

The entrepreneurs will also receive free software, services and technology support to help support their cause and extend their connectivity using advanced technologies.

With more than half of the world’s population lacking access to the Internet, connectivity is a global challenge that demands creative problem solving. By using technology that’s available now and partnering with local entrepreneurs who understand the needs of their communities, our hope is to create sustainable solutions that will not only have impact today but also in the years to come.

says Peggy Johnson, the executive vice president of business development at Microsoft.

In addition to the seed grant and free resources, the startups will also be a part of a global sustainable network, to discuss and share best practices with their peers and mentors. They will also receive support from Microsoft’s Research and Development Team, alongside participation in annual creator summits. AirJaldi

AirJaldi Networks was setup in 2009, building on the earlier work of a group of people informally known AirJaldi.

The vision of the company is synonym with the AAI and it believes that affordable Internet should be as accessible as roads, electricity, and water. To realize this vision, AirJaldi provides high-quality Wi-Fi broadband connectivity to rural India at reasonable rates. Through AirJaldi, over 100,000 clients from corporate, civil society, and private sectors have engaged online.

Zaya Zaya, on the other hand, is increasing access to quality education and broadband Internet for rural schools in India. To lower the cost of high-bandwidth learning content, Zaya is developing a configurable, plug-n-play ClassCloud solution using advanced analytics, deployment infrastructure, and Windows and Android app integration. We’ve tried to contact both Indian startups for a comment on their selection. We’ll update you once we receive word from them.

The Affordable Access Initiative is Microsoft’s attempt to connect and provide internet services to all around the world. Their vision falls in parallel to Facebook’s Freebasics and antenna systems, while Google’s Project Loon is also trying to deploy balloons to provide internet access in remote and rural areas.

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