While Internet adoption and mobile phone ownership are on the rise, figures show staggering gaps in access for women in many regions of the world. Addressing this gender digital divide is more critical now than ever before, as multiple sectors—such as agriculture, health, education, and civic engagement—increasingly utilize digital solutions. Women who previously benefited from traditional development interventions are now often left out of digital ones, perpetuating gender inequality and moving development content out of reach. Since women’s empowerment is key to sustainable community development, Microsoft and USAID partnered to create sustainable and gender-equitable connectivity offerings in Colombia, Ghana, Guatemala, India, and Kenya.
Launched in August 2020, the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative is a collaboration between Microsoft Corporation‘s Airband Initiative and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This public- private partnership seeks to bring Internet access to more women around the world, expanding women’s economic opportunities and enabling digital development services. The partnership will utilize the technical expertise and scale of Microsoft’s staff and operations as well as USAID’s expertise and successes on combating gender inequality in the digital development space.
Six participating Microsoft Airband partners across the five countries include: New Sun Road (Guatemala), Bluetown (Ghana), AirJaldi (India), AndiTel (Colombia), Mawingu (Kenya) and M-KOPA (Kenya).
- How-To: Bring More Women Online: This guide highlights learnings from the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative pilots and presents recommendations for Internet Service Providers and technology companies interested in incorporating a gender-sensitive approach to their work.
- New Sun Road Factsheet: New Sun Road is a public benefit corporation that specializes in solar power systems and bringing Internet access to under-served communities. Through the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, New Sun Road developed solar-powered digital community centers and provided digital skills training to indigenous women in Guatemala.
- Bluetown Factsheet: Bluetown, an Internet service provider in Ghana, provides cost-effective Internet infrastructure solutions. Through its partnership with the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, Bluetown aims to provide and enhance access to Internet connectivity and offer social and economic opportunities for women and girls through access to digital services, content, and training.
- AirJaldi Factsheet: AirJaldi is an India-based Internet service provider. Through the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, AirJaldi increases the number of women with fast, reliable, and meaningful Internet connectivity through subsidized Internet packages, technical support, and training on Internet usage.
- AndiTel Factsheet: Anditel is a Colombian telecommunications company. Through the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, Anditel has developed and implemented digital centers in community and women’s associations buildings that provide high-speed reliable Internet service and digital skills trainings for women in historically underserved, agriculturally focused regions of Colombia.
- Mawingu Factsheet: Kenyan company Mawingu Networks provides Internet connectivity to the most underserved areas in Africa. Through its partnership with the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, Mawingu expanded inclusive service offerings to women across areas of coverage. These interventions included reducing costs for access, providing appropriate digital content adapted to specific local needs, and creating safe “women only” online forums to share digital experiences and build digital skills.
- M-KOPA Factsheet: M-KOPA is an African fintech platform providing digital financial services to underbanked consumers. Through its partnership with the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative, M-KOPA increased Kenyan women’s access to affordable smartphones, advancing women’s economic opportunities, and fostering more inclusive Internet connectivity.
- Blog: Gaining Connection & Connectivity: Women Leaders Share Five Ways Digital Centers Impact Their Rural Communities in Guatemala: New Sun Road’s solar-powered digital community centers are run as microbusinesses by women’s leadership committees (WLCs). In this blog, WLC members share five key reflections and lessons learned from their involvement with the centers and the impact the program has had on their community.
- Blog: Bridging the Gender Digital Divide: Four Approaches to Bringing Women Online From the USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative: The USAID/Microsoft Airband Initiative creates innovative and sustainable solutions to connect rural women and girls to the digital world. Based on early results and learnings, this blog explores four approaches implemented by the Initiative to bring rural women online.