GSMA contest seeking innovations which boost mobile internet usage

The GSMA has opened applications for the Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion. The Innovation Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage among those who have mobile internet coverage but are not using it in countries in Africa and Asia. The Fund is supported by UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), BMZ the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany, the GSMA and its members.

“Today, we understand the value of being connected like never before. “Mobile operators have invested almost $1 trillion in network infrastructure over the past five years, bringing mobile internet coverage to 91 per cent of the world’s population. Despite this, 3.3 billion people are not using mobile internet services,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “Now is the time to find innovative ways to solve this usage gap for the digitally excluded – regardless of who they are or where they are. The Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion will drive partnerships to develop new and innovative ways of increasing use of the mobile internet so that more citizens can fully participate in society and the economy.”

The reach of mobile has expanded significantly in recent years. Currently, mobile broadband networks cover more than 7.1 billion people globally, but 3.3 billion of those already covered are not using mobile internet services. These citizens tend to belong to the most marginalised members of society – disproportionately rural, female and illiterate. Women, for example, are 20 per cent less likely to use mobile internet than men in low- and middle-income countries. The Innovation Fund focusses on addressing this usage gap to ensure underserved citizens can use the mobile internet. As mobile networks have become the primary way of accessing the internet globally, the ability to access and use mobile services is critical to driving economic growth and creating opportunities for citizens and businesses to thrive.

The objective of the Fund is to support solutions that seek to address one or more of the following barriers to mobile internet adoption:

  • Accessibility: Innovations which improve the accessibility and usability of handsets and mobile internet services for citizens who are unable to access them; not including network accessibility, electricity or IDs
  • Affordability: Innovations which improve the affordability of handsets and mobile internet services.
  • Digital skills: Innovations which focus on improving basic digital skills and confidence to access and use mobile internet.
  • Safety and security: Innovations which focus on safety and security of individuals regarding the use of mobile internet; these innovations will not include tackling issues of data privacy and fraud.

The Fund will support start-ups or small to medium enterprises (SMEs) with innovative new products, services or business models which can address key barriers to mobile internet adoption and use, driving digital inclusion for those currently digitally excluded, including women. It will test innovations with the most significant potential for growth and impact in Asia and Africa and provide lessons, and examples on how mobile is driving positive socio-economic change.

The GSMA’s Innovation Fund is accepting applications until May 22, 2020.

The GSMA Innovation Fund supports innovative start-ups or small to medium-sized private sector companies in emerging markets to achieve sustainable growth and improved socio-economic impact. The Fund supports innovation that increases mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved and those who are currently not using mobile internet services. The Fund works with start-ups or SMEs willing and able to work with mobile operators on projects which advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


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