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GSMA Launches New Round of Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities Innovation Grant Funding

Andrew Burger's picture
Man Friday Energy Ventures

I've worked a pretty diverse range of jobs around the world over the years. I feel fortunate to have found vital, satisfying work, and a career reporting, editing and researching developments in...

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Wireless network operators are leveraging mobile e-payments platforms to get into the business of delivering sustainable electricity, water and sanitation services to underserved rural and remote communities across the developing world. 

Market leading telecoms groups, such as South Africa’s MTN, are key, early contributors to the booming market for mobile “pay as you go” household solar PV and community microgrids in Sub-Saharan Africa. The market has also taken root and is growing fast in India and other South and Southeast Asian countries, and it’s beginning to gain traction in Latin America. 

Looking to add to the gains made to date, global mobile telecoms industry association GSMA has opened its Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities Innovation Fund to new applications. M4D provides grant funding for qualified, selected applicants to test and scale use of mobile communications to provide or expand access to clean energy, water and sanitation services. 

Mobile Payments and Household Solar

First launched in Kenya (Safaricom’s M-Pesa), there are more than 500 million registered mobile money account holders in 92 countries and counting today, GSMA highlights in its recently released “State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money” market research report.

Launched in June 2013 with support from the UK government, M4D Utilities estimates trials of the 34 sustainable energy organizations it has helped fund via two competitive grant processes to date are delivering direct benefits to more than 2.3 million people living in underserved communities worldwide. 

Capitalizing on their M4D Utilities Innovation grants, recipients have raised an additional US$174 million from private sector investors, GSMA highlights.

Spurring Mobile Pay-Go Solar Growth

With the launch of its third funding round M4D Utilities aims to continue gathering data and information to resolve three key questions regarding development and use of sustainable energy services that make use of mobile e-payments solutions and wireless networks: 

  • How can mobile support utility services?
  • For a mobile-enabled solution to be adopted at scale, what building blocks are needed?
  • What are the social and commercial impacts of delivering community services to underserved mobile subscribers?

Two types of M4D Utilities Innovation grants are available to mobile telecoms operators, supporting technology solutions providers and those who propose to provide energy, water or sanitation products or services in developing countries, preferably those not providing mobile “pay as you go” energy services in East Africa. 

  • Seed Grants of as much as GBP 150,000 with a minimum 1/3 investor match to support innovative business models that trial use of mobile telecoms networks as a significant element of an energy, water or sanitation service to underserved communities; 
  • Market Validation Grants of as much as GBP300,000 with a minimum 100% investor match to increase or improve access to utility services in underserved communities at scale through partnerships with mobile network operators or urban/peri-urban utility service providers. 

The window for Phase 1 of the latest round of M4D Utilities grant proposals closes April 16. Applications and additional information is available on the M4D section of GSMA’s website.

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