TechSpark Fargo: Grand Farm project will create the farm of the future | Microsoft on the Issues

TechSpark Fargo: Grand Farm project will create the farm of the future | Microsoft on the Issues

For generations, farmers throughout North Dakota have traditionally hired seasonal farm hands to help with planting, harvesting and other jobs. Digital technologies and big data are transforming agriculture. Today, those same farmers need to hire technologists, programmers and data scientists to improve productivity to meet food demands, boost yields to increase profitability, environmentally sustain the land and improve safety. But, according to the consulting firm Accenture, less than 20 percent of acreage today is managed using digital ag tech.

Grand Farm
In West Coast tech corridors 1,800 miles away, technologists, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are coming up with their next big ag tech ideas. But too often those ideas are disconnected from the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses the technology is meant to help. We believe meaningful innovation will happen when farmers are a part of the solution.

Drone investment
Our TechSpark signature investment in the Grand Farm will leverage projects like a TechSpark North Dakota investment we made earlier this year in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which most people know as drones, to provide access to low-cost aerial data imagery. Gov. Burgum, local businesses, universities and economic development organizations in North Dakota have an ambition to be the epicenter of U.S. drone innovation and entrepreneurism.We also plan on leveraging Microsoft technologies like those used in FarmBeats at the Grand Farm. FarmBeats uses AI in data-driven farming to augment human knowledge and help increase farm productivity and decrease costs. It uses inexpensive IoT sensors, drones, low-cost broadband connectivity using TV white spaces, and vision and machine learning algorithms to help maximize the use of agricultural land. FarmBeats gives farmers precise information about soil temperatures and soil moisture so they know exactly when the best times are for planting, watering and fertilizing, as well as the precise amount of water and fertilizer needed.

Rural broadband
Getting data from the farm is extremely difficult given there is often no broadband available on many farms. In the U.S., more than 19 million people living in rural America don’t have access to broadband internet. The farm of the future requires rural broadband.

Digital skills and employability
Ag tech innovation and broadband-connected farms require the right talent – people who know how to create and use new ag technology.

This starts with students in the region, who need the opportunity to study computer science in high school if they are to succeed in the digital era. But only 45 percent of U.S. high schools teach computer science, according to the nonprofit Microsoft’s Technology and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program is helping schools across the nation and British Columbia build their own computer science programs through partnerships between teachers and volunteers from the technology sector.

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Do Video Telehealth Requirements Curtail Access in Rural States? | mHEALTHINTELLIGENCE

Do Video Telehealth Requirements Curtail Access in Rural States? | mHEALTHINTELLIGENCE

Living in a urban center, I never really thought about the bandwidth requirements for video telehealth, but mandates to bring it to places that are still on effectively dial-up or 3G speeds are short-sighted at best. Then again, my local providers of such services aren’t covered by Medicaid here in North Carolina (or if they are, that’s certainly not promoted!).


A new study finds that states that mandate video-based telemedicine may be curbing access to care for underserved populations that don;t have the broadband to use video.

Source: Do Video Telehealth Requirements Curtail Access in Rural States?

Microsoft to expand TV white spaces Airband Initiative globally |

Microsoft to expand TV white spaces Airband Initiative globally |
Courtesy of OnMSFT.Com

I have detailed previously here, here, and here in this blog how Microsoft, while not being alone in major tech companies such as Google and Facebook providing Internet access worldwide, is the company with the most potential to reach everyone. Now that their initiative is proven in the United States, now time to reach the world with Airband 2.0 (my term).

Microsoft is expanding its Airband Initiative—an effort to bring broadband Internet access to unserved 3 million residents in the U.S.—to become a global initiative.

Source: Microsoft to expand TV white spaces Airband Initiative globally

OnMSFT.Com Tue Oct 08 2019 11:23:57 [time arrived at my feed reader]

The path to prosperity through access to high-speed internet | Microsoft on the Issues

The path to prosperity through access to high-speed internet | Microsoft on the Issues

Last year, the world reached a major modern milestone – as of 2018, half of the world’s population is online with some form of internet connection. The bad news is that, despite this progress, this status quo still puts billions of people on the wrong side of the digital divide. Leaving half the world without access to the electricity of today’s age – internet access, and increasingly at broadband speeds – means that existing inequalities, poverty and insecurity will persist, worsen and become increasingly difficult to address.

Efforts to accelerate internet access globally, with a focus on developing nations, are not new. But it’s clear that the world needs a new approach to this work. The UN State of Broadband Report found that broadband adoption has slowed, and progress is especially elusive in low-income countries and rural areas across the globe. Most of the connected population relies on low speed, basic cellular services and only 14.1% of the global population has an in-home internet subscription.

How the program will work

Like our work in the U.S., our goal is to empower local partners who know their communities’ geographies and needs to solve their community’s last mile connectivity challenges. Experience has taught us that diverse challenges require diverse solutions. What works in one part of South Africa may not be a fit for Ghana. A wireless technology or a business model that is suitable for connecting customers in one location might not be suitable for connecting customers in another location. Bringing broadband access to the world’s unserved communities will require much greater reliance on innovative technologies, regulatory approaches and business models. Our experience has shown us that a multi-stakeholder approach is needed to close the connectivity gap. While we might go faster alone, we go much farther together. For this reason, these programs seek to combine our and our partners’ expertise and assets.

Airband International will rely on a four-part approach:

  • Removing regulatory obstacles to TV White Space (TVWS) and other technologies that help our partners extend their networks quickly in unserved, predominantly rural, areas.
  • Partnering with local internet service providers (ISPs) to provide affordable, reliable internet services.
  • Enabling rural digital transformation in newly connected areas, with a focus on supporting agriculture, education, rural entrepreneurship and telemedicine, as well as off-grid energy sources where necessary in order to improve rural productivity and livelihood.
  • Building a larger ecosystem of support, with a focus on stimulating international financing, to scale connectivity projects beyond our own direct investments.

Early signs of success

We know that new technologies like TVWS can be incredibly useful in meeting rural connectivity needs at an affordable price. However, regulatory frameworks in many parts of the world have not kept pace with innovation. We’ve seen great progress from engagements to date. In Colombia, as we started our work to create a long-term solution for the Meta region, we sat down with the national spectrum regulator to understand the region’s needs, existing regulations and to determine any gaps. In Ghana, we partnered with government officials to ensure strong regulations were in place to deploy long-term solutions such as TVWS.

School children sitting and holding tablets
In Colombia, we worked with regulators to create a framework that will now allow us to extend access to 6 million people throughout the country. Photo credit: Colombian Ministry of ICT

Once these hurdles are removed, partners around the world are poised to move quickly and deliver big results. BLUETOWN is a connectivity and digital content service provider committed to making broadband connectivity more accessible. With regulations in Ghana now permitting access to the TVWS, BLUETOWN is on a path to bring affordable broadband access to over 800,000 people living in the rural eastern part of Ghana who were previously underserved.

These large-scale gains in connectivity are not limited to smaller countries, nor does it stop at connectivity alone. In Colombia, with coffee company Lavazza, ALO partners, Makaia and Microsoft’s support, a small project connected two schools and five farms to broadband via TVWS technology – perfect technology for the region’s jungled and mountainous terrain. It has continued to grow, and now includes an agreement between Lavazza, Microsoft and the National Coffee Growers Association of Colombia that will result in the rural digital transformation for half a million small coffee farmers in the region. Additionally, Airband has co-invested with ISPs in Colombia to extend broadband access to 6 million rural Colombians – that’s 12% of Colombia’s total population.

Looking forward

To close the digital divide once and for all, we need to act to connect the world quickly. This will require the engagement of companies like Microsoft, but importantly, the financial support of international financing organizations around the world. Internet connectivity and technology infrastructure has made up a very small percentage of development bank funding historically, and that will need to change to bring connectivity to the more than three billion people around the globe who lack access to some form of internet connection. To help tackle these challenges, international financing organizations also need to be willing to make bets on local entrepreneurs deploying innovative new technologies and business models better suited to reaching the remaining unconnected communities.

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Closing the rural broadband gap is an urgent national crisis| Microsoft on the Issues

Closing the rural broadband gap is an urgent national crisis| Microsoft on the Issues

It’s been clear to us for some time that the digital divide in this country is an urgent national crisis that must be solved. Since 2017, we’ve been working with internet service providers to do just that, through our Airband Initiative, and we’re on track to cover 3 million Americans in unserved rural areas by 2022.

It’s encouraging to see this issue rise in national prominence, through funding from the administration, congressional legislation and most recently new proposals introduced by several candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. While there’s been some progress already, solving the broadband gap will require active engagement as well as effective policy proposals from all parts of the public sector.

It’s time to recognize that inequal access to broadband translates into inequality of opportunity. People in rural areas that lack broadband face higher unemployment rates, see fewer job and economic opportunities and place children from these communities behind their suburban and peers in school. Of course, this is not just a rural issue – broadband deserts exist within very urban areas as well, where costs can be unaffordable and availability non-existent...<snip>

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Working together to bring broadband to rural Veterans|Microsoft on the Issues

Working together to bring broadband to rural Veterans|Microsoft on the Issues

This isn’t some one-off PR move by Microsoft, they have a real commitment to Veterans companywide. It didn’t start with Satya Nadella, but he has enhanced it during his tenure. Even though I was not a veteran, most of my family was, so I have an appreciation for those that chose to serve.


Our nation’s Veterans have contributed to our country in so many ways, in countless locations around the globe. When they return home, many Veterans who reside in rural areas are not able to access broadband internet which is critical to using telehealth services, gaining educational opportunities, and growing a small business or running a family farm.


There are 2.7 million Veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs (VA) who are living in rural communities, 42% of them do not have internet access at home which could support their use of VA telehealth services, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’, Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Rural Health. These rural Veterans live in areas where access to fast, reliable internet service may be limited or inaccessible and are facing higher rates of unemployment, longer drives to reach the nearest clinics and medical centers, and lower levels of educational attainment compared to their urban counterparts. Connectivity has the potential to improve this reality — with broadband, they can access telehealth services offered by the VA, identify and compete for well-paying jobs, improve and grow their own businesses, and take advantage of online education classes.


Microsoft and VA have been strategic partners, working together to improve the lives of Veterans, for more than 20 years. Today, I’m excited to share that Microsoft will begin expanding that work by helping VA to help bring connectivity to many Veterans living in rural towns and communities. Microsoft and its partners will be working with VA to provide capital, technology expertise, and training resources to bring broadband access to people in these underserved communities. Our hope is that this effort will unlock new economic opportunities, while also enhancing quality of life.


Through the partnership, we’ll help VA identify communities with Veterans in need and work with our internet service provider (ISP) partners across the nation to bring broadband services to those regions. Following our Airband Initiative model, we’ll also provide the Veterans in these newly connected communities with digital skills training so they can take advantage of the tools and services connectivity enables, including critical telehealth services provided by VA.


In the past 22 months, through the Microsoft Airband Initiative, we have seen firsthand just how many communities lack connectivity at broadband speeds and how this can hinder growth and new opportunities. We’ve also seen that partnering with ISPs to serve those most in need is an effective strategy to make progress quickly on this important issue. Our work with VA builds on those lessons and approach, which has resulted in partnerships that will bring connectivity to 1 million unserved rural residents in 16 states to date, with a plan to reach 3 million by 2022…


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