GSMA sets up a digital inclusion fund for Africa and Asia

AFRICAGSMA, a mobile industry group, has announced the launch Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion. The fund is designed to increase mobile internet adoption and usage among those who have coverage but are not using it in countries in Africa and Asia.  

The Innovation Fund is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Germany, the GSMA and its members.  

The fund’s main goal is to find innovative ways to solve the usage gap for the digitally excluded in Africa and Asia.  

“Mobile operators have invested almost US$1 trillion in network infrastructure over the past five years, bringing mobile internet coverage to 91 percent of the world’s population, but 3.3 billion of the 7.1 billion people covered aren’t currently 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.” 

Innovations include those designed to improve the accessibility, usability and affordability of handsets and mobile internet services for citizens who are unable to access them as well as those focusing on improving basic digital skills and confidence to access and use mobile internet. The safety and security of individuals regarding the use of mobile internet is another prime objective. 

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. 

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