Microsoft Makes Its First Grants to Promote Global Internet Access by Laura Lorenzetti @FortuneMagazine May 24, 2016, 11:35 AM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Linkedin Share icons Microsoft awarded 12 Affordable Access Initiative grants Tuesday as part of its previous $1 billion promise to expand the availability of affordable broadband services and make cloud technology more widely accessible. The software company is giving between $70,000 and $150,000 to each of the 12 organizations which will be used to help scale solutions and business models to increase affordable Internet access worldwide. It’s part of Microsoft’s push to close the global divide with regards to digital access. Instead of pushing its own solution into communities, it’s opting to support smaller businesses that are developing local plans and giving them access to not only funding but the heft of Microsoft’s development tools. “With more than half of the world’s population lacking access to the Internet, connectivity is a global challenge that demands creative problem solving,” Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft, said in a statement. “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.” Grant recipients, which are all for-profit enterprises, are based across five continents in 11 countries and are working on a range of solutions specific to their communities. African Renewable Energy Distributor, a company based in Rwanda, is developing solar-powered mobile kiosks that provide Wi-Fi and battery charging. Tambero.com, based in Argentina, is leveraging remote monitoring technology so farmers can keep tabs on their herds no matter where they roam. One U.S. company was also one of the recipients. Axiom Technologies, based in eastern Maine, is working to expand Internet access in that area. Microsoft MSFT committed in January to give away $1 billion worth of cloud services over three years, and this latest round of grants will come from that Affordable Access Initiative fund. The director of the initiative, Paul Garnett, said that this is just the beginning and there will be bigger partnerships to come this year with major national partners.