Microsoft targets TV white spaces to improve education in Africa

Fri, 2014-05-16 06:00 -- Jesse Berst

All Nations University College in GhanaMicrosoft is teaming with Facebook and SpectraLink Wireless to enable low-cost wireless connectivity to university students and faculty in Korforidua, Ghana. It's a component of Microsoft's Afrika Initiative that aims to to empower African students, entrepreneurs, developers, and others with access to technology to help boost the continent's global competitiveness.

It's also one of a number of pilots that Microsoft, a Council Global Partner, is involved in that make use of TV white spaces – the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands generally set aside for television transmissions.

For students and faculty at the universities, access to the network will be coupled with productivity and communications applications as well as Internet-enabled devices. The networks will use TV white space-enabled radios and other wireless technologies to connect campus buildings, as well as off-campus hostels where students live, to ensure they have access to fast broadband.

"TV white spaces technology, when combined with other low-cost wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, offers a substantial opportunity for businesses, consumers and governments around the world to improve the economics of broadband network deployment and service delivery," said Paul Garnett, director in Microsoft's Technology Policy Group. "Through these projects worldwide, we are working with local private- and public-sector partners to enable new consumer experiences, while encouraging governments to make needed legal and regulatory changes to allow this technology to be deployed more broadly."

Microsoft has been doing business in Africa for 20 years and has 22 offices in 19 cities across 14 countries.

According to a press release, Facebook's main involvement in the Korforidua project will be to collaborate with Microsoft and SpectraLink Wireless on joint technology research to better understand how TV white space spectrum and equipment can support wireless Internet users today. These efforts will be led by Facebook's Connectivity Lab team, who are working on new technologies to support Internet.org's mission to make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world not yet connected.

Microsoft has white spaces pilots under way in a number of regions, from Singapore and the Philippines to Glasgow, Scotland. In Latin America, Microsoft is involved in the region's first white spaces pilot in Uruguay, where the company is providing technical support to Plan Ceibal, an initiative supporting the integration of information and communications technologies into the country's public education system.

The Council's Smart Cities Readiness Guide emphasizes the importance of improving educational outcomes through ICT – such as the initiative Microsoft is promoting in Africa and elsewhere. Other examples of the valuable role ICT can play in education:

  • Applying data analytics to test results, attendance and graduation rates can help pinpoint problems and trends.
  • Using smart devices combined with all manner of web apps and social media tools to connect students to teachers, to other students and to diverse learning opportunities in ways never imagined a few short years ago.
  • Enhancing communications technologies to improve access to remote education services to promote learning opportunities for all ages.

With the right deployment of ICT, cities can revolutionize the connection between student and teacher, school and learning. Read more about it in the Readiness Guide (requires a free, one-time registration).

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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