Microsoft to create wifi cloud for Africa

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

4Afrika
Microsoft’s offices during the European launch of the 4Afrika Initiative.

If you live in the good ol’ US of A, you’re almost guaranteed to have internet access. Free wifi abounds in restaurants, bookstores, cafes, and even hospitals for crying out loud. In fact, the nation’s so connected, it’s easy to forget not every territory in the world is as fortunate.

Take Limpopo, for example, which is one of the poorest regions in South Africa. The only way residents get internet access is by walking long distances to the nearest major city. However, thanks to Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative internet project, the residents will soon be surfing the web… through unused TV stations!

What, how is this possible? Well, before digital television technology was created, we had to rely on tall towers to broadcast shows through different frequencies, just like radio stations do now. People flipped from channel to channel directly on the tube (not via a cable box) in order to access different networks. Now, however, since most digital cable services only use a single channel, the rest are just sitting there unused as “white space.” If you’ve ever seen a channel that looks like a billion snowy flies buzzing around, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, Microsoft plans on taking advantage of this white space to create a “cloud” of wifi over large areas!

However, the townspeople won’t use it for browsing YouTube and updating their Facebook pages. Instead, the city of Limpopo will focus on providing students with an extra source of education. “Their lives are going to be made easier,” says Mahlo Mokgalong, a professor at the University of Limpopo. “Some of the schools in the area have a shortage in terms of materials… so it will definitely benefit the learners in those schools and expose them to computer usage.” The project will launch this October and last for an entire year, so young scholars will have plenty of time to reap the benefits of the internet.

Images and video courtesy of Microsoft 4Afrika Initative.