Episode 52: Bringing Broadband to Everyone with Vickie Robinson of Microsoft Airband
Microsoft Airband is a program that is working to bridge the digital divide by bringing high-speed internet to underserved and rural areas in the United States and around the world. Through its work, Microsoft Airband has learned some key lessons on how to drive digital transformation in areas that have been historically underserved by the technology industry.
One of the key lessons that Microsoft Airband has learned is the importance of partnerships. Vicky Robinson, the Vice President of Airband, noted that "you can do more as you get people who are like minded to go about and tackle big problems." Airband has worked with a range of partners, including internet service providers, technology solution providers, hardware providers, and community organizations, to bring high-speed internet to underserved areas. By working with these partners, Airband has used each partner's strengths and ability to create a more effective and sustainable solution. This approach has enabled Airband to reach more communities and make a greater impact.
The second key lesson that Airband has learned is the importance of a hybrid technology approach. Robinson explained that Airband has shifted from a focus on a single technology solution to a hybrid approach that combines fiber and fixed wireless solutions. This approach allows Airband to tailor its solution to the specific needs of each community it serves. For example, in areas where fiber is not practical, Airband can use fixed wireless solutions to provide high-speed internet. This approach has enabled Airband to reach more communities and provide more effective solutions.
A third lesson learned is the importance of addressing access to the internet and technology adoption. Robinson noted that Airband has expanded its focus to include urban centers and the digital divide issues that exist in those areas. In many urban areas, access to the internet is not the primary issue, but rather adoption and usage. Airband is working to understand the factors that contribute to low adoption rates and develop strategies to address those factors. By addressing adoption issues, Airband is working to ensure that the communities it serves can fully benefit from the technology it provides.
A fourth lesson that Airband has learned is the importance of understanding the policy environment. Robinson shared that Airband learned early on that policy changes take time and that any work that requires public policies to be changed or modified will require patience and persistence. Airband has worked with policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels to advocate for policies that support the deployment of high-speed internet in underserved areas. This work has included advocating for changes to regulations that limit the use of TV white spaces and other technologies that can be used to bring internet to underserved areas.
A fifth lesson Airband learned is the importance of focusing on the community's needs. By focusing on the needs of each community it serves, Airband can tailor its solutions to the specific challenges and opportunities in that community. This approach has enabled Airband to create more effective and sustainable solutions that impact the communities it serves more.
In conclusion, Microsoft Airband has learned some key lessons on how to drive digital transformation in underserved and rural areas. These lessons include the importance of partnerships, a hybrid technology approach, addressing adoption issues, understanding the policy environment, and focusing on the needs of the community. By applying these lessons, other organizations can work to bridge the digital divide and ensure that everyone has access to the opportunities and benefits that technology provides.
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