Women fetching water near Tambacounda, Eastern Senegal

M4D: Addressing The Infrastructure Access Gap

By Michael Nique, Innovation Manager, GSMA Mobile 4 Development

M4D: Addressing The Infrastructure Access Gap

Women fetching water near Tambacounda, Eastern Senegal

The GSMA and DFID announced on the 20th of October that an additional £6 million in funding has been provided by DFID to extend the GSMA’s work to improve energy, water and sanitation, as part of its newly branded Mobile for Development Utilities programme. The programme builds on the early success of the first phase of the programme under the Mobile Enabled Community Services (MECS) banner, through which 13 grants were awarded across 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Developing Asia.

Addressing The Infrastructure Access Gap

Currently 1.3 billion people, nearly 20 per cent of the world’s population, are without access to energy[1], 768 million people, 10 per cent of world’s population, do not have access to ‘improved’ water resources[2] and 2.5 billion people, nearly 35 per cent of the world’s population, lack access to improved sanitation.[3] These gaps are due to challenges such as last mile distribution, operation and maintenance capabilities and costs, and payment ability and collection. Furthermore, increasing urbanisation, ageing infrastructure, and lack of investment are resulting in millions of people, who are considered to have access, living with increasingly less reliable services.

The GSMA’s Mobile for Development Utilities programme is focused on looking at how mobile technology can be used to facilitate access to affordable and reliable energy, water and sanitation, which are vital for health and wellbeing, and can also help reduce poverty and drive economic growth. A lack of access to such services often disproportionately impacts the economic opportunities, health and safety of girls and women. M4D Utilities seeks to identify and support innovative mobile-enabled solutions that will improve the lives of many, but especially this group of society.

The Funding: Types and Timeline

The additional funding will support the creation of new, innovative mobile-enabled technologies and business models to improve access to energy, water and sanitation, through additional research, knowledge sharing and innovation grants, which will provide seed funding to the mobile industry, start-ups, utilities, academia and the not-for-profit sector to develop and pilot solutions to overcome the challenges and obstacles to utility service provision.

Under this new phase, the M4D Utilities Innovation Fund will provide up to an additional £3.2M in grants:

  • Seed grants (up to £150k)
  • Market validation grants (up to £300k)
  • Utilities partnership grants (up to £200k)

First round of concept notes are due by December 7th. A second round will be held with deadline on March 29th, 2015. More information on how to apply here.

With its technology and significant size and reach, the mobile industry can help address these challenges and provide an unprecedented opportunity for scale in impacting lives. Mobile technology and infrastructure are already being used to improve access to energy and water through product distribution via existing channels, pay-as-you-go financing via mobile payments, and remote activation, monitoring and data collection.

For more information go to www.gsma.com/m4dutilities

[1] International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2011


[3] Ibid

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