Using mobile phone networks to create access to water, power and sanitation
Client name: Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA) & UK Department for International Development (DFID)
Scope of work: GSMA Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities Innovation Fund
Duration: 2013 – 2017
The Coffey-managed GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities Innovation Fund is investing in new business models, and the latest in mobile network technology, to provide essential energy, water and sanitation services to the world’s poor.
Many underserviced communities around the globe have limited access to basic energy, water and sanitation services. Mobile has the potential to greatly improve access to utilities through innovations in the application of mobile technology, infrastructure and distribution channels.
Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA), the private sector body representing mobile technology operators worldwide, needed a partner to manage an innovation grant fund to support organisations to pilot and scale up business models for improving access to energy, water and sanitation. The funds would also provide seed funding for research and development of innovations that help communities access power, water and sanitation.
Coffey was chosen to manage more than £5.6 million of grant funds through the UK Department for International Development (DFID)-funded Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities program.
The GSMA grants support organisations that can deliver new applications of mobile technology to improve access to power, water and sanitation services in underserved areas. Coffey manages and authorises disbursing of the innovation grant funds on behalf of the GSMA, using its expertise in grant management.
Coffey designed grant criteria, and developed management procedures and a competitive selection process for the distribution of grants in line with the objectives of the GSMA. Assessing proposals to determine eligibility against Innovation Grant Fund criteria, we give recommendations to an independent GSMA panel which makes a final funding decision. Once a grant is awarded, we work with grantees to ensure compliance with the grant agreement terms and project plans and report the collected data to the GSMA.
Funds have been distributed to be invested in a range of innovative projects to improve access to energy, power and water utilities, including:
Mobile infrastructure – funds are assisting mobile operators that use telecom towers in off-grid environments to provide a power supply for rural electrification efforts.
Mobile operator’s distribution and mobile money agent networks – funds support technology that utilises the existing distribution reach and brand of mobile operators to reach underserved customers. This includes using mobile distribution networks to provide customers with new power, energy and water utilities.
Machine-to-machine connectivity – innovation funds are used to enable the remote monitoring and pay-as-you-go capacity of decentralised utility systems. This allows businesses to remotely control and maintain infrastructure and payment systems.
Mobile payments – investment has also been made in projects that provide flexible, convenient and secure mobile-enabled payment solutions to low income populations. These innovations leverage the existing mobile payment networks to allow underserved communities to pay for utilities and other rental services in a simple manner, similar to topping up their phone’s airtime credit.
Mobile services – grants have been awarded to organisations that are using mobile information technologies to collect and disseminate critical information on utility services and supply chain management. This includes new uses of voice, SMS, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and mobile phone applications to assist businesses and entrepreneurs to communicate and collect data on utility services.
Other innovations supported by the GSMA program include investments into research and production of new mobile technologies to monitor water quality, new methods of biogas power generation and lease-to-own products to enable power of lights, phone, radios and other appliances.