By Ferdous Mottakin

Empowering Green Energy and Solutions for Sustainable Growth at SingTel’s Go Green Forum

The SingTel Group met for their first ever Go Green Forum on the 15-16th Nov in Singapore with the objective of empowering green energy and solutions for sustainable growth. The forum was supported by GSMA’s Mobile Energy Efficiency (MEE) and Green Power for Mobile (GPM) programmes. The forum targeted associates of the SingTel Group exclusively: AIS, Telkomsel, Warid, Bharti Airtel, Optus, Globe and Citycell were all in attendance and the GSMA programmes were the only external stakeholders to be present.

The forum discussed the ever-increasing fuel prices and high operational costs as key drivers for going green. MEE recently completed an energy benchmarking study for the SingTel Group and came up with a certain potential cost saving figure. The forum was set to identify an aspiration and to achieve the goal of OPEX saving and energy optimisation. It was noteworthy that each of SingTel’s operating companies have taken significant efforts to do what they can to achieve their target. With the operating companies being so geographically diverse, it was interesting to see how their strategy changed from region to region based on local circumstances.

GPM presented our fuel cell white paper, which was published earlier this year, and shared case studies on two successful projects in Asia and Africa. Since HOMER can be a very useful tool for the operators, we also provided all the attendees with a short training session on the dimensioning process and its usefulness.

A few selected vendors presented their energy management-related solutions and strategies to the group.

The SingTel Group is very keen to take their energy initiatives further and bring a significant amount of efficiency into their networks. Both GSMA’s MEE and GPM programmes will continue to working closely with SingTel to assist them where possible in their target of sustainable growth.

By Fiona Smith

Mobile and agriculture in 2012

It’s been an exciting and busy year for the GSMA mAgri team. As 2012 comes to an end, I’d like to reflect on the progress being made to harness the growth of mobile technology to support farmers across the world.  We wish you all a prosperous, happy and healthy 2013 and look forward to working with you in the New Year!

Four new mAgri services developed with the support of the mFarmer initiative

The mAgri team are delighted to be working with four new Agri VAS service providers in Tanzania, Kenya, India and Mali which will benefit over 2 million small-holder farmers. Tigo in Tanzania and HandyGo in India were the first to launch their services and they have already seen demand from several thousands of customers.  Airtel Kenya and Orange Mali will launch in the New Year. These services enable smallholder farmers to access market, weather and agronomy information via SMS, USSD, IVR and call centres. We’ll be sharing more information on these services in the New Year.

Research, learnings, tools & resources available to support the industry

The GSMA team alongside colleagues at ICT for Ag, e-agriculture and many others have developed a host of tools and resources to support mobile and agriculture service providers. Resources include a market entry toolkit, webinar and focus note on how to design and market Agri VAS for women smallholders, tools to support content management, and blogs sharing lessons on market information systems, weather content and user testing.  Links to all these resources are available on our new mAgri website.

We also produced a robust monitoring, learning and evaluation framework that we use to analyse progress and impact across all mFarmer services. The framework is available to any interested parties who are developing their own Agri VAS.

mAgri metrics, products and services went live on the GSMA’s Mobile and Development Intelligence (MDI) portal. In addition to free datasets that can be downloaded and tabulated, the MDI portal features mobile agriculture products and services across the developing world.

Finally, mobile and agriculture hit the conference scene and learnings were shared at the inaugural mAgri panel seminar at Mobile World Congress, the G8 and a number of regional working groups and events.

Research and development of new innovative mobile agriculture services

There was a significant increase in the number of mobile operators, value added service providers, agriculture research and extension agencies, entrepreneurs, NGOs, donor agencies, academics and governments interested in how mobile can be used to advance agriculture development. Partnerships are being formed to utilise the assets that each organisation brings.

A host of new services are being developed that provide information services, value chain linkages and financial services. The Mobile and Development Intelligence (MDI) portal features over 60 mobile agriculture products and services across the developing world. Please get in touch to add your service to the Mobile for Development portal.

We look forward to a productive 2013!

By Craig Friderichs

The most dramatic mHealth moments of 2012

Yesterday, the Mobile World Live team launched the most dramatic mobile moments of 2012. We thought it only fitting for the GSMA mHealth team to end with a similar, dramatic ending to 2012. We’ve been trawling our websites, talking to people in the know and here is our list of dramatic moments to end another busy year.

In May, the U.S. telecommunications regulator announced plans to set aside spectrum to connect wireless medical devices for more convenient health monitoring or “Medical Body Area Networks”. Two spectrum bands for devices allow for doctors to monitor a patient’s vital signs at home or in hospital via low-cost wearable sensors. We wouldn’t be far off by quoting Neil Armstrong: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Another win for the U.S. was the House and Senate committee members’ agreement to amend legislation that would allow the FDA to go ahead with plans to regulate mobile medical apps. Hopefully this puts to bed the numerous reports and social media discussing how crowded app markets are with potentially harmful products.

The President of Smart Communications was quoted as saying: “… The role of the traditional telecom has become obsolete. In the digital era telecoms need to evolve into multimedia, intelligent companies.” To rebuff that, a number of mobile operators have invested significantly into healthcare: Japan’s Docomo, together with Omron Healthcare, a leading supplier of medical devices and services, invested into a subsidiary to offer a range of mobile enabled products and services. Vodafone is partnering with specialist firm Exco Intouch to launch a service that they say will enable pharmaceutical companies and researchers to better collect data from participants’ mobile phones during clinical trials. U.S. operator Verizon announced an equity investment in Nanthealth, a U.S. firm that is developing health services based on a combination of mobile devices, cloud computing and fibre network technology.

On the evidence front, mHealth’s ability to influence behavioural change seems to be gaining recognition but the jury is still out on the health economics of mHealth. What results can we expect to see in 2013 from the more than 220 [globally] registered RCTs in 2012?

With WellDoc paving the way for reimbursed health services supported by mobile, 2012 saw a handful of other companies successfully entering into agreements with payers and providers.

With a busy year almost behind us, we’re hoping that 2012 has been an incredibly good year for all GSMA partners, friends and colleagues.


Organisational design to win in mobile money- 9th MMU Working Group

By Mary Roach

Capturing mobile ubiquity: Our top 5 pictures from our travels in 2012

It’s hard to envision mobile ubiquity: how do you convert the growth projections of the mobile industry in emerging markets into something tangible?  We spend quite a bit of time travelling to the edge of the mobile network to see first-hand what it means for mobile to be the prevalent infrastructure in these areas.

Below are our favourite pictures from our travels in 2012.

Women collecting water at dusk in Senegal, about 50km from Tambacounda.

A sorry state of sanitation near Kaolack in Senegal.

Mobile subscribers place their phones on 6 foot high sticks to capture mobile signals in Sofala, Mozambique.

An OMC Power employee completes a daily delivery of charged lanterns to customer households in Uttar Pradesh, India.

In a Nicaraguan village that just received mobile signal, a phone charging business emerges at US$0.20 per charge.


Tigo Cash in DRC – Je te cash TV ad

By Fionan McGrath

Creating Awareness and Understanding of Mobile Money in DRC

Marketing mobile money presents many challenges to mobile operators who are used to marketing airtime. The customer journey from unawareness to regular use presents many obstacles not least because there can be a complete lack of knowledge of the service and its various benefits or simply misconceptions about both. As a result, operators need to choose their marketing strategies very carefully in order to firstly develop awareness and to secondly educate customers. MMU’s previous publication, “Driving Customer Usage of Mobile Money for the Unbanked,” explains the entire customer journey; however, in this blog, I’ll only revisit the first two steps.

Tigo Cash recently launched in the DRC and as mobile money is only in its infancy in this country, Tigo could not rely on the market’s prior awareness or understanding [1]. Tigo needed to start from the beginning and to develop awareness and build understanding, they relied on an effective and localized Above-The-Line (ATL) strategy. It is important to remember that ATL communications is just one of many effective tools available to operators and this must be coupled with equally effective Below-The-Line campaigns

Developing Awareness

The target market was selected on the basis of being both early adopters and easily addressable – young urban students – and then the mobile money service was positioned accordingly. Tigo needed to drive the Tigo Cash message to their target population. To do this, they used a teaser advertisement to create a buzz and generate interest. The advertisement excited their target market by saying “It’s coming soon” and introducing the “Ca$h-Moi” or “Ca$h Me” tagline. The format used also provided an introduction to the colour, styling and branding to be used by the service. While this teaser strategy is often used for pre-product launches, what Tigo Cash DRC did next was more insightful from a market analysis and segmentation perspective.

Building Understanding

The communication strategy to build understanding of the service involved recruiting JB Mpiana, one of the DRC’s best-selling artists. JB and Tigo created a new song and video explaining the Tigo Cash Service and how it operates. JB delivers a catchy tune and sings about tapping the USSD string used to access the service, *123#, and the simplicity, speed and security of the service. The backing vocalists sing a harmony slogan of “Tigo Cash” and the lyrics explains some situations where Tigo Cash can be used.  In this way, the main objectives of an ATL campaign are met; the service is introduced, explained and the primary benefits are presented.

JB then performed a free concert in Kinshasa at the launch of the Tigo Cash Service. Jonathan Johannesen from Tigo Cash, DRC saw the numbers of registered users rise by 50% in the week following the release of the song and the free concert. Heavy daily circulation on the national radio channels has also helped to build awareness.

Customer Journey Remains Incomplete

As an example of market analysis and marketing communications, the start exhibited by Tigo DRC has been very encouraging. They used simple messaging and a popular cultural icon to develop awareness and build understanding. While Tigo Cash in the DRC is a young service, there is huge potential in the market and Jonathan has exciting plans – which I hope to revisit – to continue to bring his subscribers through the customer journey.


[1] There are two other mobile money services in the DRC: Airtel Money from Bharti Airtel and M-Pesa from Vodacom

By Julia Burchell

Design Challenge closes; thanks to all who got involved!

Last Friday saw the deadline for entries to the GSMA Design Challenge, sponsored by Qtel and in partnership with USAID and AusAID. We were absolutely thrilled with your response! Thank you to all who submitted.

Thanks also to all those who supported us by sharing news of the Challenge to their networks. Special mention goes to Developer Tech, Fierce Wireless, Mobile Entertainment and WIP Connector.

The next wave of the mobile revolution will be powered by smartphones. Key to ensuring that resource-poor women won’t be left behind as this happens is considering their unique mobile needs at the design stage. We’re delighted that so many of you agree and hope that this Design Challenge is just a step on the way to a greater focus on resource-poor women’s mobile user experience.

We’ll be back in the New Year to share updates from the selection panel, as they get to work on the difficult task of deciding the winners, to be announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2013. In the meantime, wishing you all the best from the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge team!

By Kyla Reid

Mobile and Humanitarian 101: Key Themes from the GSMA Disaster Response and CDAC Network Webinar

On 20th November 2012, the GSMA Disaster Response Programme, in partnership with the CDAC Network, hosted a webinar titled “Back to the Basics: Mobile and Humanitarian 101.”  The objective of this event was to bring together experts in the use of mobile communications in humanitarian situations to share their field experiences, and to reflect on the challenges and opportunities inherent in bridging these stakeholder groups together in their work to support disaster-affected communities.

Panellists included Imogen Wall, Coordinator of Community Communications at UN OCHA, Oisin Walton, Manager for the Vodafone Instant Network Roll-out Programme, and Nicholas Wasunna from World Vision Kenya.

This short report provides an overview of remarks from the speakers, as well as key themes that emerged from the session. It accompanies the slides and audio clips from the event.

Introductory Remarks

Kyla Reid, Head of GSMA Disaster Response, introduced the webinar with a brief introduction from the mobile perspective. She made two key points:

  • Mobile is increasingly becoming recognised as a critical tool in disaster preparedness and response. However, there are recurring challenges including coordination, a lack of mutual understanding between the different stakeholders groups, and a lack of sophisticated, predictable partnerships that need to be addressed to maximise the potential for mobile in this space.
  • The GSMA and its members have seen a growing interest in mobile use by the humanitarian sector. There is the beginning of a move to recognise mobile communications as a basic humanitarian need and mobile infrastructure as a component of emergency infrastructure. This necessitates that mobile operators and partners in the humanitarian sector identify ways of working together more effectively, and recognise the capacity and role that each plays.

Rachel Houghton, Global Coordinator of the CDAC Network, spoke from the humanitarian perspective. She began by providing a brief overview of what communications with disaster affected communities entails, primarily for the benefit of colleagues from mobile operators who were on the call. She made the following points:

  • Communications with affected communities is fundamental; survival in an emergency depends on timely access to information. In addition, affected communities have the right to voice their needs, ideas and feedback and be in active dialogue with aid providers. However, recognition of information as aid and two-way communications is still in nascent stages in the humanitarian sector.
  • The CDAC Network was established in response to this communication ‘gap’. It is a unique, cross-sector collaboration between humanitarian and media development organisations, and is increasingly engaging with technology and telecoms providers. Focus on collaboration is key: Technology and media, including mobile, offer efficient and effective means of enabling communication between crisis responders and those affected. There has been historically limited collaboration between humanitarian and telecoms operators and this exacerbates many of the challenges in emergency response.
  • The main question is how to best leverage technology, incl mobile, in the service of aid communities in crisis. There are many opportunities to integrate mobile more extensively, including:
  • Increasing recognition of the need to provide life-saving messages and communicate more effectively in humanitarian response
  • The attendant desire in humanitarian organisations to experiment with different technologies, including mobile, across the project cycle, and the increasing use of mobile to actually deliver services
  • The fact that there is no cheaper, faster way to communicate than via SMS, and that it is a critical technology for hard to access areas
  • Huge appetite in humanitarian organisations to engage with different technologies and learn new skills and a genuine appetite for collaboration with mobile operators

Speaker Reflections

Nick Wasunna, Head of Operations at World Vision Kenya, was the first speaker. Overall he noted that mobile can be an effective medium to engage beneficiaries, and there is an opportunity to capitalise on this and other kinds of technology and infrastructure available to aid agencies to improve their capacity to respond, and to enhance their accountability. He then went on to make the following points:

  • World Vision Kenya has rolled out a programme using Frontline SMS coupled with the distribution of 75 Nokia handsets and solar charges to Relief Committees in communities in order send out SMS feedback forms through the Kenyan Safaricom network.
  • Challenges experienced included variable signal strength and resistance by the community to complete the SMS forms, as they indicated a preference to provide feedback directly by phone or to a person rather than through a mobile form.
  • Humanitarian organisations have much to offer mobile operators, including information about mobile usage in remote and rural areas. Effective partnerships could result in the expansion of mobile products and services, such as mobile cash transfer systems. Where there is poor or no mobile coverage, multi-sector stakeholders need to come together to find a solution to provide mobile access, even if a business case is not obvious at the start. Government also needs to be involved.

Imogen Wall, Coordinator of Community Communications at UN OCHA, made the following points:

  • There is a huge demand for communication, and experiences from disasters as distinct as the Haiti earthquake to Hurricane Sandy demonstrate that mobile connectivity is becoming seen as a humanitarian need in its own right. Recent research by the iHub in Nairobi, Kenya, found that the poorest of the poor in eastern Africa valued their mobile phones so much that they would go without food and other essentials just so that they could have enough credit to make calls.
  • In the early hours and days of a response, people want connectivity to talk to each other, not humanitarian responders. This makes the need to get networks up and supporting mobile systems really critical.
  • People also use social media via their phones, and this is as important as the ability to make calls.
  • This reality requires a conceptual shift within the humanitarian system, and the need for more sophisticated partnerships with mobile operators to better meet needs of people on the ground.
  • In many instances, mobile operators are already acting as humanitarian responders in various capacities and are engaged with the communities they serve. The spectrum of mobile solutions that could be integrated into the humanitarian sector (for example: mobile money, mapping big data and displacement patters) and much of this innovation is coming from the mobile industry and the private sector.
  • Within the humanitarian sector there is a need for increased capacity to engage and coordinate with the private sector to develop the level of partnerships required to meet the demand for information and services delivered through mobile that disaster-affected communities want.
  • In order to facilitate this collaboration and coordination the different sectors needs to understand how each other work much better, including an understanding of the different strengths and weaknesses. Partnership needs to be built on mutual recognition of each other’s value.

Oisin Walton, Programme Manager for the Instant Network Roll-out, Vodafone Foundation, spoke last. He began by providing a brief history of The Vodafone Foundation’s involvement in emergency response over the past 10 years, including through a partnership with Telecoms Sans Frontiers. The Foundation wanted to explore what services it could provide to humanitarian actors- so they worked with TSF to gain input and emerged with the Instant Network- a robust, lightweight and rapidly deployable mobile base station which is supported by an extensive volunteer training programme. As part of their preparedness work, Vodafone and TSF undertake joint trainings for mobile operators where they provide an introduction to humanitarian aid and principles, and also talk about technical needs within H organisations. They also run joint simulation exercises.

The Instant Network can be used in disaster scenarios where the core network has been affected and requires repairs, or where there is an absence of mobile coverage. An example of deployment of the Instant Network is in Kaikor, Kenya. This was at the request of the Kenya Red Cross to support their relief activities in this drought-prone area. The Instant Network connected with the Safaricom network to enable 260,000 calls for relief agencies and the community.

However, it is not just about providing mobile connectivity. There is a comprehensive package of services that mobile operators can develop and deliver in partnership with humanitarian actors. In order to capitalise on this, an increase in collaboration between mobile and humanitarian innovation centres is required. This needs to include discussions that identify and prioritise needs  in the humanitarian sector in order to prevent reinventing the wheel; needs and capacities must be aligned and we need to ensure that solutions are demand driven and fit for purpose.


By Mobile for Development

Mobile telephony and taxation in Latin America

This latest tax report explores the economic impact of mobile telephony and mobile-specific taxation in nine Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay. It shows that the mobile industry contributed an estimated $177 billion USD to the economy, representing 3.5 per cent of GDP.

However, despite these positive socio-economic contributions, mobile consumers and operators in Latin America face a significant taxation burden. The report highlights a number of cases where mobile telephony is taxed more heavily than other sectors of the economy; for example, Brazil and Colombia impose higher sales taxes upon mobile consumers compared to other sectors, and consumer taxes account for more than a third of call charges in Brazil. Additionally, operators in some countries are subject to license fees, turnover taxes and other government-mandated fees such as property taxes. In 2011, the mobile operators and the ecosystem in Latin America paid almost $54 billion USD to national governments in taxes and regulatory fees, an increase of 30 per cent compared to $42 billion USD in 2008. The study shows that the penetration and usage of mobile services in Ecuador and Uruguay dramatically increased following the removal of mobile-specific taxes in 2007 and 2008. Conversely, in Mexico and Panama, where taxation has recently increased, penetration and usage have both contracted.

By Guest Blogger

New CHMI report highlights trends and challenges in mHealth

The following is a guest post by Trevor Lewis, who works on the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), an initiative of the Results for Development Institute.

In many emerging economies, the world’s poor seek healthcare in a marketplace that bears little resemblance to a coherent system. Unsure of where to seek proper treatment or unable to pay, patients often go to a doctor of suspect quality, self-diagnose and medicate, or skip treatment altogether.

To tackle these deeply ingrained problems in health systems, innovators around the world are experimenting with new solutions that help consumers to access appropriate treatment. Earlier this year, Safaricom and ‘Call-a-Doc’ partnered in Kenya to launch Daktari 1525, a hotline service providing phone-based health consultations from registered medical doctors. The service offers information and advice, as well as facility referrals for appropriate diagnoses or prescriptions. Daktari 1525 represents just one of many solutions being employed to create more informed consumers in the health market.

In Highlights: 2012, the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) identifies a number of these new trends in solutions that are being applied to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of healthcare for the poorest and most vulnerable. Although also looking at innovations outside of mHealth, the report shows that innovators are increasingly experimenting with information technology to achieve these goals.

Some mHealth highlights from the report include:

  • The identification of 5 key mHealth interventions that are working to improve maternal and child health, including Changamka Microhealth Ltd., which uses mobile money systems in Kenya to help women steadily save money to pay for quality antenatal, maternity, and postnatal health services.
  • An analysis of over 170 eHealth programs (including many mHealth programs), which surfaced some of the key goals of eHealth deployments, such as extending geographic access to healthcare (e.g. through telemedicine systems or call centers).
  • A number of barriers that remain to effectively using information technology to improve health care. Among other barriers, program managers who were interviewed identified end-user acceptance of a given technology as a key challenge to successful implementation.
  • Details on CHMI’s Reported Results Initiative, which collects clear, quantifiable, and self-reported measures of program performance across several key dimensions such as affordability, efficiency, clinical quality, and health outcomes. MedicallHome, which offers hotline-based health services to over five million subscribers in Mexico, reports that by referring patients to the appropriate level of care, the company saves patients US$19.7 million each year.

Learn more about new practices in health markets around the world in Highlights: 2012.  Visit to download the report and see photos of more than 15 of the world’s most innovative health models.

By Julia Burchell

Often, money talks before the user can: The economics of obtaining a phone

The GSMA mWomen Design Challenge aims to improve the smartphone user experience for resource-poor women. Now, ‘resource-poor’ can mean many things, but in the context of our programme, it refers to those in low-income households, who may be functionally and/or technically illiterate, living in remote areas or with limited mobility, or those who are lacking in empowerment. This lack of resources has an important bearing on how women engage with mobile technology and therefore, how innovators can improve the user experience of smartphones. Today, I’ll focus on the economics of obtaining a phone and discuss how cost constraints affect how our target users interact with their phones.

When you are struggling to afford the basics, such as nutritious food, school fees and healthcare, a new mobile phone is not an option. So many women buy second-hand phones, or in those cultures where it’s inappropriate for a woman to interact with men outside her family, a male relative purchases it for her.

In most developing world markets, users pre-pay for airtime on a SIM card rather than committing to a regular contract. This is topped-up with credit using the codes from scratch cards that are sold by street vendors. Typically people will add between USD $0.20 and $0.40 worth of airtime, though vouchers with higher denominations are available.

A typical resource-poor user can spend as much as US$2 per week on a phone. Whereas a woman may be able to afford the handset, or be given one by a relative, she may struggle to meet the airtime and charging costs. In some cases, women need to walk or travel long distances to top-up their service as well as charge their phones if they live off-grid. This increases the time and total cost of using a phone. Often living on incomes of less than US$2 per day, many resource-poor women are therefore very conservative in how they use their phones.

Cost-saving measures include sharing devices between several people, often in the same household. Sometimes families will share a device and each person will have their own SIM card; in other cases, everyone shares the same SIM. In many countries, people have multiple SIM cards that can be used on a single phone, often in order to take advantage of in-network tariffs or other deals from multiple mobile operators. In some cases, multiple SIMs enhance privacy on a shared phone, or are used to enjoy the prestige of more elite service while using the lower-cost service for day-to-day use.

“Flashing” or “beeping” is another common cost-saving practice, whereby people initiate phone calls which the recipient does not answer. The free call serves as a signal to return the call or to pass along a pre-agreed message (e.g. ‘I am on my way home’).

Therefore, to improve the resource-poor women’s smartphone user experience, it’s vital we consider these cost constraints and common phone practices. And that is why we’ve asked innovators to tackle these tasks when entering our Design Challenge. Helping women monitor their airtime, data usage and power consumption and enabling them to share a phone whilst keeping their profile private will help them to access more of the information and services that can enhance their lives.

Learn more about the Challenge and the design brief here.

By Julia Burchell

Mobile financial services: how to meet women’s needs?

Resource-poor people in the developing world face a number of challenges when it comes to managing their finances: incomes are low, irregular and unpredictable and formal financial tools hard to access. Women in particular face an additional burden as they often have primary responsibility for managing the household budget. For example, male focus group participants in our Striving & Surviving study found that their wives were the ‘finance ministers’ within the family. Due to broad-based gender disparities in these countries, women execute this role with even less access than their male counterparts to income-generating opportunities and money management tools.

Therefore, to better understand how mobile financial services could meet women’s needs for safe, convenient financial management tools, the GSMA mWomen Programme has partnered with Visa Inc. and Bankable Frontier Associates to conduct research in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania.  It will be launched at Mobile World Congress 2013. In the meantime, you can learn more about the challenges women face in managing their money and how the research aims to clarify the opportunity for mobile operators, financial institutions and others seeking to deploy mobile financial services.

Read more here

By Natalia Pshenichnaya

The role of financial services within mobile agriculture: who is going to meet smallholders’ demand for finance?

Let aside for a moment the opportunity for the mobile operators and service providers within Agri VAS, we need to be frank about the limitations of information services. Will a mobile information service alone ever create impact noticeable at the level of international commodity exchange? Are we oblivious enough to hope for the 20% or 50% increase in agricultural production at the national level as a result of agricultural tips broadcasted through SMS or even more user-friendly outbound voice messaging service?

Let’s put it this way: will the farmer follow the advice of planting a new variety of seeds if she doesn’t have money to buy this new variety? Will a farmer living on 1 dollar a day get a new irrigation system to secure the water supply on her farm if there is no lease available for this equipment? For the information to be actionable and actually make a difference, there needs to be a supporting environment available, including access to capital, infrastructure, inputs, services and markets. And although we can’t expect mobile technology to offset the lack of all of those important factors, we can still look at the ways it can enable access to some.

Let’s look at the opportunity for mobile financial services for farmers and possible ways to introduce them to the mobile agriculture services portfolio. A recent report from Dalberg has estimated the global demand for finance from small-holders at $450 billion, with only 2% of that demand currently met – mostly through financial products designed for farmers that are organised in groups (cooperatives and other farming organisations). The report estimates that there are 450 million small-holders globally, with majority of them working in Asia (360 million) and Africa (50 million). Considering that 90% of all small-holder farmers in the world are actually not organised in groups like cooperatives, there couldn’t be a better demonstrated need for financial products designed for individual farmers.

Two suggested pathways to unlocking the financing for agricultural sector are particularly relevant for the mobile sector and providers of mAgri services, as they can be designed and streamlined as mobile agricultural financial services. The first option is to work with existing out-grower schemes, often owned by large multi-nationals that have powerful incentives to secure the supply from farmers. These out-grower schemes could use an existing contract with the farmer as collateral, allowing to distribute risk between the farmer, the bank and the buyer (in this manner Nestle already finances their 32,000 dairy farmers).

The second promising way to enter the market is by financing directly to farmers. Challenging as it might seem from a first glance, direct financing via mobile has some significant upsides – a dramatic decrease in transaction and distribution costs, as well as a large amount of customers that allows banks to diversify the risk. Some obvious challenges for this pathway are: lack of MFI products tailored to agricultural sector with its seasonal cashflows [1], and low financial literacy of the customer base. There is however a great opportunity to analyse the data on mobile money transactions as well as usage of information services to profile the customers according to their associated risk; the latter would only be possible in the partnership between a mobile service provider that is already delivering Agri VAS and a bank.

Both pathways to introduce mobile agricultural financial services would require an existing mobile money platform and a bank, or a consortium of banks, with financial products for the agricultural sector; if agricultural extension information is provided as a supporting tool to the farmer, the risk of this financial service decreases, resulting in a lower interest rate. Financial literacy training could as well become a part of the extension information package.

The win-win outcomes of the game benefit all of the stakeholders in the chain: a farmer gets access to a package of information and financial services, with his SIM-card becoming a tool and a means to entrepreneurial success, meaning that the mobile operator fully benefits from the synergy between Agricultural VAS and mobile money platform. For the bank, agricultural mobile financial services allow to enter a new market segment, while lowering transaction costs without increasing the risks that are mitigated by collateral or careful automated profiling of the customers and supporting information services.

Starting from early 2013, we will be closely monitoring the development in this area of mobile financial services for the agricultural sector, extracting best practices and sharing the insights. Stay tuned!


[1] Examples of MFIs with products tailored to agricultural sector: Juhudi Kilimo, One Acre Fund, Opportunity International and others.

By Abirami Birrell

Protected: GPM Indonesia Working Group – December 2012

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By Guest Blogger

FloodFinder app: Real-time flood data using mobile phones in Thailand

A few months ago I was asked to become involved with an interesting competition run by USAID in Thailand called “Students for Solutions”. The competition challenged universities and colleges in Thailand to create mobile-based applications that could help in the areas of deforestation, human trafficking and Disaster Response. The winners of the competition were team “Optimo”, five computer engineering students from King Mongkuts University of Technology, Thonburi. They developed an innovative solution using a smartphone to measure the flood levels. We wanted to ask team Optimo to describe their award-winning solution. Below is a guest post written by the team.

–Justin Waller

For many years our region, Southeast Asia, has faced numerous flood disasters. Seven countries experienced flooding in 2011 resulting in the loss of lives and assets. One hundred twenty four people died and 137,000 homes were flooded in Vietnam.  In Cambodia, 250 people died and 196,600 houses were flooded, not including 600 more houses that were completely wiped out by the water. Our home country Thailand also faced a huge flood last year. Seven hundred thirty people died and 766,267 houses were flooded. This fact demonstrates that whenever there is a flood in Southeast Asia, it can bring about a massive loss.

We wanted to help reduce this loss if possible and our team began discussion with many victims, experts and people working in this field. From these discussions and our own experiences, we learned that a major problem is that currently most people have little, up to date and accurate information. They didn’t know what was actually going on in with the flood levels in other areas so it was hard for them to decide what action to take, for instance, whether to evacuate or to increase food stocks. Thus it was hard to prepare themselves, their families and their homes.

We originally thought that such information would be available on the internet, but although some data was available, it was very hard to find specific data for the required locations. In addition even if the required level data could be found, there seemed to be no guarantee as to the integrity of the source of the data, its accuracy, or if it was up to date.

For a solution to the problem we looked at harnessing the power of current mobile phones. Phones that contain high resolution cameras, high speed internet via Wi-Fi and mobile broadband, and the ability to determine location using the GPS.

We created our application, FloodFinder, to use these functions so that the public could measure the water level at their current location and then easily share that information with others, thus enabling the public to get accurate, up to date water level information on which to base their decisions.

Our application was designed to be easy to use and has three main functions:

  • Measuring function, which will automatically gather information about the current water level by processing photos taken by the phone’s camera.
  • Sharing function, which will upload a geotagged water level measurement to a central server
  • Searching function, which will allow users to query and display, on a map or in list form, water level information from the server filtering by location and time

Users can measure the water level by just taking a single photo. The application then automatically calculates the water level at that location. This is calculated by taking a photo of the water level against a known reference object, in this case a post box.

Using a common reference object provides an easy way for the user to measure the water height, as there are no other instruments needed and they do not even have to touch the water to measure its height. Once the level has been calculated, the application will show the result to the user and ask whether the user wants to share this water level or not. If the user chooses to share it then the application will send the result to the server, but if not, the result will be deleted.

The main advantage of FloodFinder is that all of the water level data gathered by the application is guaranteed to have a consistent accuracy. We achieve this accuracy because all of the water level data comes from an automatic measurement [1]. FloodFinder also promotes user participation at a local level, where information on the ground may be more accurate and up to date than other sources. Therefore using this application people can easily find real time flood information, anywhere and anytime that will help them to prepare themselves for flooding in advance.

Mobile phone penetration in South East Asia is very high and if this application is freely available, people will be able to access an accurate source of water level data anywhere and anytime they need it. We hope that by using FloodFinder as a reliable information source, people will be able to prepare themselves more effectively for the incoming floods and thereby reduce losses in our region. This is why our team developed this application, to help improve preparedness and save people’s lives.

Many thanks to: Team Optimo from King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi and to Teresa Leonardo from USAID.

[1] Optimo claim the current accuracy is within 10cm.

By Luka

Pakistan – Branchless Banking Accounts:

Institutions are subject to detailed requirements regarding logging of financial transactions and client profiling.

By Luka

Mexico – Transactions through Agents:

Institutions must generate and retain detailed electronic records enabling reconstruction of the transaction and its participants.

By Luka

Namibia – E-Money Accounts:

E-money issuers must follow BIS principles regarding electronic banking risk management, including Appendix on sound practices with respect to audit trails.

By Luka

Philippines – E-Money Accounts:

E-money issuers must maintain complete records and be able to monitor transactions.

By Luka

South Africa – Low-Value Accounts

No specific references in E-Money Position Paper or Guidance Note on Outsourcing.

By Julia Burchell

Mobile financial services: how to meet women’s needs?

Resource-poor people in the developing world face a number of challenges when it comes to managing their finances: incomes are low, irregular and unpredictable and formal financial tools hard to access. Women in particular face an additional burden as they often have primary responsibility for managing the household budget. For example, male focus group participants in our Striving & Surviving study found that their wives were the ‘finance ministers’ within the family. Due to broad-based gender disparities in these countries, women execute this role with even less access than their male counterparts to income-generating opportunities and money management tools.

Therefore, to better understand how mobile financial services could meet women’s needs for safe, convenient financial management tools, the GSMA mWomen Programme has partnered with Visa Inc. and Bankable Frontier Associates to conduct research in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. It will be launched at Mobile World Congress 2013. In the meantime, you can learn more about the challenges women face in managing their money and how the research aims to clarify the opportunity for mobile operators, financial institutions and others seeking to deploy mobile financial services.

Read more here.

By Janet Shulist

Post-Sandy Energy Blues: An Everyday Reality for Off-Grid Mobile Users in Emerging Markets

Although no longer a hurricane when it reached the northeast coast of the United States late last October, Superstorm Sandy still packed a huge wallop—causing flooding and evacuation of many New York and New Jersey neighbourhoods. CNN reported New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying Sandy had caused an extraordinary amount of water in lower Manhattan, as well as downed trees and widespread power outages across the city.

In a post published just as Sandy made landfall along the southern US coast, our Disaster Response team outlined the preparations that US mobile operators were making to help mitigate the impact on networks, including portable generators for back-up power supply  and installing high capacity batteries. Despite these efforts, power outages and flooding disrupted some telecom services in the Northeastern states, affecting coverage for cellphones, television, home telephones and internet services.

For those who still had mobile coverage, the power outages meant mobile phone data plans became  important lifelines to stay informed about Sandy, with many relying on Twitter for announcements and updates in their area. This contrast of using mobile data during the power outages posed an interesting exchange at the time on Twitter, with the below tweet from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

This prompted Richenda Van Leeuwen, the Executive Director for the UN Foundation’s Energy and Climate, Energy Access Initiative, to respond with the below tweet:

As power outages continued in the days post-Sandy, a challenge grew for those using their devices to stay connected when battery levels died. This meant many people were left searching for creative ways to charge their devices around New York City. One Manhattan-based clean tech writer got lucky with her Nokero SunRay Pro Power solar panel, allowing her to charge her phone and later explaining that, “…only one of them would generate enough charge through my window on an overcast day to charge my phone, and that device was the Nokero Pro Power Panel. Nokero had graciously sent me the power panel the year before as a product sample, and I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t happened to have this nifty little gadget in my house.”

Nokero, along with other off-grid product companies such as Barefoot Power Ltd., Fenix International and Azuri Technologies, manufactures and distributes affordable, sustainable and safe solar-based technology including lights and battery chargers. These companies provide solar-powered light and charging products for those highlighted by Van Leeuwen in her tweet, the other 1.3 billion people in emerging markets without access to the electricity grid. With the majority living in Sub-Saharan Africa and underdeveloped parts of Asia, this lack of electricity is an everyday reality. As mobile has outpaced the grid, those with mobiles have the added challenge of finding a charging source, which often means walking for miles to the nearest charging kiosk and paying for the service. For example, the CPM team was recently in Mozambique, where 97% of rural households do not have grid power and where in some towns, kiosks and barbers make good business at about US$0.30 per phone charge. As well as staying connected to family and friends, fully-charged devices allow people to access and use valuable life-enhancing services, such as mobile money, health and agricultural information.

As the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All draws to a close, perhaps the post-Sandy experiences of those in the Northeastern states who were trying to use their mobile phones without grid power will help to shine a light on the 1.3 billion people currently living without access to electricity, many with mobile phones themselves.

Photo: Top left, from New York

By Luka


Individual E-Money Accounts:
Single transaction limit (P2P): $470.
Daily limit: $470.
Monthly limit: $2,350.
Annual limit: $11,750.

By Luka


Anonymous Mobile Phone-Enabled Micro Payment Accounts: $26

By Luka


Level 0 Accounts:
Single transaction limit (P2P): none.
Daily limit: $160.
Monthly limit: $260
Annual limit: $1,270.
Level 1 Accounts:
Single transaction limit (P2P): none.
Daily limit: $260.
Monthly limit: $630
Annual limit: $5,300.

By Luka


E-Money Accounts:
Single transaction limit (P2P): none.
Daily limit: none.
Monthly limit: $2,430
Annual limit: none.

By Luka

South Africa

Low-Value Accounts:
Single transaction limit (P2P): none.
Daily limit: $580.
Monthly limit: $2,900.
Annual limit: none.

By Luka


Level 0 Accounts: $1,060. Level 1 Accounts: No limit.

By Guest Blogger

Why We Prefer Plain Mobile Phones: Simplicity Is Key!

This is a Guest Blog from Text to Change (TTC) Programme Manager, Arjen Swank (@arjenswank). It originally appeared on the Text to Change blog, and you can read it in its entirety here.

The ICT4D sector is developing and evolving in a rapid pace and ICT and mobile tools are increasingly interweaving and interacting. This not only makes it difficult to define the M4D sector, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to understand what programs exactly to pick up as Text to Change and what is better left to our ICT expert partners.

Technology VS context

Text to Change realizes that technology required for manufacturing smartphones is becoming cheaper, increasing accessibility and use of smartphones in a rapid pace for Africa. With the launch of Chinese manufactured 100$ smartphones in Africa, many will argue that smartphone adoption will only take little time, even in developing countries. However many technological and contextual hurdles have to be overcome before smartphones and tablets alike will be widespread adopted across the developing world. How can supply of electricity required for working with advances technologies be guaranteed in countries where the only reliable power outlet is a several kilometres walk, if any is available? Also, when will people at the BoP, earning 2$ or less per day, be able to afford expensive smartphones and the corresponding subscription fees? In an average TTC program, 85% of the time required for implementation is spent setting the context and adapting from a general setting to local factors. 15% of time is required for technical set up and the choice of appropriate technology. In the context of development work, most time and energy should be focused on adaptation to local context, because the technology will always be there to support your goal and can be tailor-made to fit your preferences.

Why Text to Change prefers simple mobile phones

TTC tries to overcome constraints as failing internet connectivity and network coverage, (technical) illiteracy, expensive irreparable equipment and subscriptions, lack of reliable power sources and lack of mobile technological infrastructure and capacity, by focusing on plain and simple mobile solutions. TTC applies basic mobile technologies as SMS text messaging and Voice response systems to ensure effectiveness and full involvement of beneficiaries in aid programs. Employing basic and feature phones for interactive, toll-free campaigns assures that individuals can participate regardless of phone brand, type, network coverage or location. Simple and plain solutions have proven over more advanced technologies in previous campaigns, especially in low-tech environments. In the future more programs will move towards employing more advanced mobile technology solutions, and Text to Change is preparing itself for this moment. Still, until mobile internet and general mobile networks increase to more widespread coverage and subscription fees descend; awareness and information dissemination and data gathering can best be performed employing simple, plain and workable mobile solutions. Text to Change has many ideas for employing new technologies that combine old, proven solutions to complex problems. Currently we are performing tests with a New York University designed open source GSM network , which could change the communication opportunities and behaviours of many in closed and small-scale communities throughout the developing world. This solution combines the power of open source technology with easy, ready available tools like SMS text messaging and Voice calling. The development of Formhub and ODK is another great example of combining best of options to find a solution to complex problems with tools already available on the market.

In current M4D and ICT4D programs, the key to workability, effectivity and positive results is simplicity and straightforward solutions. Text to Change will always try to implement simple solutions even to the most complex problems, in order to have mobile technology engage, connect and interact people throughout all levels of society.

Photo: Text to Change

By Luka

Sri Lanka

According to the regulations, there are no pre-set limits; rather, each service’s limits must be approved by the Central Bank. In the case of Dialog, these are the approved limits:
Basic Account: $40 P2P; $40 Utilities.
Power Account: $40 P2P; $200 Utilities.

By Yasmina McCarty

M-Shwari: Mobile Money Savings & Loans

Safaricom and Commercial Bank of Africa launched M-Shwari last week, a credit and savings product for M-PESA customers. Customers can apply for a quick approval loan, open a bank account and move funds from the wallet over to an interest bearing bank account.

Looking closer at the credit side of M-Shwari, this is not the first telco-bank partnership to offer short term credit. Airtel teamed up with Faulu Microfinance in May to offer Kopa Chapaa, a 10 day loan up to 10,000 Kenya Shillings. And previously, there was of course M-Kesho from Safaricom and Equity Bank.

We wrote about airtime based credit scoring in March and had contributing posts from Experian MicroAnalytics and Cignifi who both work in this area. With the vast majority of mobile subscribers in emerging markets using pre-paid SIMs, there is incredibly rich data available on airtime purchase and usage behaviours. Couple that with the poor quality of information available at credit bureaus, and airtime based credit scoring is an attractive approach to targeting and risk profiling for credit products.

What does the launch of M-Shwari mean for mobile money? A few thoughts:

  • The design of this product suggests telcos may be waking up to the value of their data. Telcos frequently monetise their own data for internal use to design smarter talk time promotions or offer better segmented VAS.  But M-Shwari shows how telco data can be leveraged as an asset to generate external sources of revenues.
  • This credit and savings product is being offered through a telco- bank partnership rather than by the telco alone. Telcos don’t engage in direct lending or financial intermediation; rather they are focused on the high volume transaction-fee part of mobile financial services.
  • Finally, it is encouraging to see mobile money customers can now earn interest; this benefit has been withheld for too long. Safaricom says 70,000 accounts were opened on the first day alone. But will this vanilla savings offering hold enough appeal to mobilise savings deposits?  One can envision mobile money savings products which better leverage the power of mobile i.e. programmed savings, innovative mobile savings reminders, progress trackers, rewards, etc.

What’s your take on M-Shwari?  What does the launch of this new product mean to you?  Is this a game changer for financial inclusion?  What do you expect the uptake to be of M-Shwari? Share your thoughts with the MMU readers.

By Luka

Sri Lanka

According to the regulations, there are no pre-set limits; rather, each service’s limits must be approved by the Central Bank.

By Luka


None specified, although providers may wish to establish limits for accounts opened with only a ‘referee letter’ to fulfill the identification requirements.

By Luka


None specified, although providers may wish to establish limits for accounts opened with only a ‘referee letter’ to fulfill the identification requirements.

By Mobile for Development

GSMA mHealth Infographic: MDG 6 – How mHealth is Supporting the Combat of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

This infographic highlights the How mHealth is Supporting the Combat of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Download here

By Luka


No specific provisions, although as noted earlier, certain low-value accounts do not require production of identification or proof of address.

By Luka


Regulations note that ‘only the most basic’ CDD may be required for low-value accounts, and that CDD requirements should not lead to exclusion of financially or socially disadvantaged customers.  However, reductions in CDD are not specified.

By Luka


Regulations call for financial service providers to ensure that CDD requirements do not limit access for financially and/or socially disadvantaged clients.  However, reduced due diligence requirements are limited in nature and only permit providers to wait up to 90 days before verifying certain information.

By Luka

South Africa

For certain low-value accounts, banks do not need to obtain and verify a customer’s residential address or tax identification number, nor do they need to keep records of the client’s identity document.

By Luka


CDD requirements are lower for low-value accounts, but all clients must have a national ID card.

By Luka


Regulations provide for simplified CDD for low-value accounts for microentrepreneurs and rural clients, although identification and verification of name, address, and occupation are still required.

By Luka


For very low-value accounts (such as mobile phone-enabled micro payments), providers may open accounts without authenticating the information (so a client without identification could open such an account).

By Luka

South Africa

No specific provisions, although as noted earlier, for certain low-value accounts and transactions, banks are not required to: (i) obtain and verify a client’s residential address and tax identification number; or (ii) keep records of the client’s identity document.

By Luka


Clients lacking formal documentation can use a ‘referee letter’ from a variety of sources, such as local government officials, religious leaders, and employers.

By Luka


A wide variety of identification documents are accepted, including documents from social service agencies or local government units, voting cards, police clearances, and more.

By Luka


Rather than specifying particular documents, Namibia allows providers to accept ‘any other reliable document, data or information that reasonably serves to verify’ the required information.

By Satish Kumar

Green Power Adoption for Telecoms in Africa: Need for a Long Term Strategic View

The business case for green power in telecoms is an established fact and proven technology choices have given way to the possibility that commercial adoption is a reality. Some countries including China and India have seen an accelerated adoption of green power in telecoms and achieved scale, however it is still far from mainstream adoption.

The case for green power adoption in Africa’s telecom industry is more challenging, not so much due to technical barriers, but due to the operational barriers. Despite the good potential for green power, especially for solar, adoption is still very much in its initial stages. A quick view at the field level operations and its imminent intricacies gives an idea of the handicapped adoption of green power in telecoms.

The MNOs and tower companies are constantly on the lookout for partners and long term operational support to enable successful adoption of green power at a scale. The industry is still to see a proven model for energy provision through the ESCO model: an energy outsourcing model bringing in a third party energy service company (ESCO).

In the past, energy provision to the telecom infrastructure has been short-sighted owing to its exponential growth focusing on service expansion and coverage. With increased competition and demand for quality services at reduced prices, the focus on cost of operations should move from short term quick fixes to a long term strategic view in order to sustain margins and market share.

Energy remains a key contributor to the costs of operating mission critical telecom assets. The MNOs and tower companies need to look at green power as a strategic step towards OPEX reduction and sustainable energy provision with positive environmental impacts. The key is in implementation of green power strategy and monitoring with fool proof operational processes to sustain and realise investment benefits.

The Green Power for Mobile (GPM) programme, with its renewed focus for Africa, is keen to assist MNOs, TowerCos and other stakeholders in the industry through its expertise in technology, business model development and end-end technical assistance. Nigeria is one of key focus markets for GPM, along with Ghana in West Africa, with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda being other key focus markets in East Africa.

By Mojca Cargo

New infographic on MDG 6: How mHealth is Supporting the Combat of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

The GSMA mHealth team has published an infographic that presents Global Overview of mHealth services with a deep dive in mHealth services in Africa addressing Millennium Development Goal 6 and showcasing three mHealth services in Africa addressing MDG6.  If interested in other mHealth services, have a look at mHealth Tracker.

Millennium Development Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

There are three years to go to achieve MDG6! So many things are happening in working to address the goal, and yet more people than ever live with HIV. In 2011, 34.2 million people were living with HIV/AIDS and 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related causes.

I had interesting conversation with a group of young people few weeks ago in South Africa, a country where the percentage of HIV infected is among the highest in the world. Six of us, originally from South Africa, Nigeria, Colombia, Germany, Slovenia and USA, started discussing why men in South Africa don’t use condoms. It was shocking to hear how many do not use protection. Why? Is it a problem in awareness? Ignorance? A lack of responsibility? Or is it a lack of caring about the long term, when you are not sure whether you will still be alive next month?

With most of HIV infected people based in the rural areas, my concern is that this lack of caring is actually one of the main reasons for high number of HIV infected people. Do awareness campaigns help? Various mHealth services are focusing on prevention and promotion and with it trying to impact participation. The YoungAfricaLive service has reached over 1,262,000 people. Mother2Mother, through its Mentor Mothers service, is reaching 300,000 women living with HIV. There are 64 mHealth services in Africa addressing HIV/AIDS, but great impact is yet to be seen.

Click here to view infographic in a separate window and please share!

We hope this infographic highlights how mHealth services are supporting the combat of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. We invite you to share this infographic, and if you have any comments, email

By Julia Burchell

CGAP Call for Proposals for Applied Product Innovation Work

Are you a branchless banking provider interested in better understanding your low-income customers and developing innovative financial products that truly meet their needs? If so, you might be interested in applying to take part in CGAP’s next round of Applied Product Innovation (API) projects.

Despite an increasing interest by many providers to offer products and services to low-income or unbanked customers, very few providers have an in-depth understanding of how low-income customers use money and financial products, and what sort of products these customers need. The need to design high-quality products and services for low-income customers is significant, but converting customer insights into desirable and financially viable products has proved challenging. In its API projects, CGAP is applying a range of client-centric tools to source customer insights, develop innovative product concepts and rapidly test these concepts through prototyping.

We are now searching for the right partners for collaboration on a few product innovation projects in 2013. The winning proposals will be selected based on the openness of the providers to bring to market innovative financial services as well as how best they can contribute to CGAP’s learning agenda on this topic. Please submit your application by December 14, 2012.

For more information, please visit