Technology to Help Fight Poverty in Asia and the Pacific

08 May 2013 | Frank McCosker, Managing Director, Multilateral and Bilateral Organisations, Public Sector

Regional leaders gathered in Delhi last week for the 46th Annual Meeting of Asian Development Bank (ADB) to discuss how to reduce poverty, increase economic opportunities and promote sustainable growth in Asia Pacific. The focus of the event was ‘empowerment through development’ and together with the ADB we promoted our joint program Apps For Asia which aims to support that by bringing together developers and the application needs of the Asia region.

AppsForAsia is an example of the types of programs we implement with the ADB to jointly identify ways to apply ICT in support of the regional development mandates, and we believe one of the best ways to advance economic development is continuing investment in ICT.

During the event the ADB also launched a new publication ‘Asia: The Road to Becoming a Knowledge Economy’ and the consensus of the panel on the topic was that it comes down to two main criteria – connectivity and content. ICT investment in Asia Pacific is about more than developing cutting edge and globally competitive technology industries – it’s also about unlocking the economic potential of more than 1 billion people in the region who currently lack ICT access.

Microsoft and key partners have been working on a technology called dynamic spectrum access, which allows wireless devices to opportunistically tap into unused radio spectrum. We have focused particularly on TV white spaces, the vastly underutilized portions of spectrum that have traditionally been used for TV broadcast. Not only are we capable of using these frequencies to provide affordable broadband, in many situations they are preferable to traditional Wi-Fi frequencies. Applications include better in-building coverage, hotspot access, mobile traffic offload, and rural broadband access. 

An exciting project through which we’ve begun to address these challenges is in Singapore, where we work in collaboration with other members of the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG). The pilot group is comprised of a wide range of members – public and private, local and international, academic and industry – operating with support from Infocomm Development Authority, the regulator of Singapore. Together, we are conducting pilot projects using white spaces technology with the goal of accelerating the implementation of this technology locally, regionally and globally.

The various pilot projects in Singapore include harnessing white spaces for a smart metering project to allow the National University of Singapore to meter the use of air conditioners and charge residents according to usage, to optimize connectivity and enable smart sensors at the Singapore Island Country Club, and in the Changi district to provide a cheaper and more reliable method than satellite for crews on ships anchored in Singapore to access internet and voice communication services.

These are only a few of many applications for white spaces technology worldwide. Beyond Asia, Microsoft is conducting a project in rural Kenya using white spaces and solar power to bring broadband access to schools and other key locations previously lacking internet – not to mention reliable electricity.

The work by Microsoft and others throughout the world on this issue illustrates the viability and potential of TV white spaces to help connect the next billion people as well as the benefits of innovative and fast-moving approaches to accelerating investments in ICT.

As a global company, Microsoft cares deeply about these issues. We believe in the power of technology – particularly fast and affordable broadband – to improve education, spur economic growth and transform an ever-increasing number of lives. We are committed to doing our part to ensure these changes take place. We commend all participants at the ADB meeting who are dedicated to the challenge of fighting poverty and improving lives in Asia Pacific and we look forward to participating in sustained growth and development throughout the region.

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Frank McCosker
Managing Director, Multilateral and Bilateral Organisations, Public Sector

About the Author

Frank McCosker | Managing Director, Multilateral and Bilateral Organisations, Public Sector

Frank manages Microsoft engagement with multilateral organizations including international financial institutions, intergovernmental organizations and bilateral providers of Official Development Assistance (ODA). Read more