Five African startups are among those to have received grant capital from the GSMA as part of its Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is backing startups in Africa and Asia that help to increase mobile internet adoption and usage.
The GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion is the latest such fund run by the GSMA, after other focused offerings in 2019 and 2018.
Supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the GSMA and its members, 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, affordability, digital skills, and safety and security.
Offering grants of between GBP100,000 (US$137,000) and GBP250,000 (US$344,000), its goal is to support startups 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.
Having received a total of 598 applications from startups and SMEs in 44 countries across Africa and Asia, and put those through a rigorous evaluation process followed by selection from an independent panel of industry experts, nine grantees have now been announced.
They include five from Africa: Ethiopia’s Africa 118, Nigeria’s ScholarX, Uganda’s Ensibuuko, Zambia’s WidEnergy, and Zimbabwe’s Zonful Energy. Also selected was India’s Navana Tech, and three Pakistani companies – Vceela, The Orenda Project and Knowledge Platform.
“Today, we understand the value of being connected like never before. Mobile operators have invested almost US$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 at the 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.”