Inclusion, Innovation and Scale: The focus of our new GSMA-DFID partnership

At the recent Mobile 360 Africa in Kigali, we announced a new £38 million partnership between the GSMA and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). The ‘Partnership for Inclusion, Innovation and Scale’ will provide funding for the GSMA’s Mobile for Development work in the areas of rural connectivity, energy, water, sanitation, identity, innovation at scale and the reduction of the mobile gender gap, and will add two new important points of focus – disability and CleanTech.

This landmark partnership is above all a recognition of the joint efforts and success of our strategic partnership since 2016, which has impacted 21 million lives across 39 countries, of which, so importantly, over 70% have been women. Crucially, all 17 SDGs have been positively impacted, with SDG 5 Gender Equality, SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities and SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy at the forefront, reinforcing the joint power and immense potential of the private and public sectors working together in tandem.


Over 4 billion people remain digitally excluded from mobile broadband and women in low- and middle-income countries are 10% less likely to own a mobile phone. This partnership will unearth critical insights on the needs of the underserved, and identify and invest in mobile-enabled innovations and business models which can reach the last mile to drive inclusion, so critical to our world.


New technologies and new business models, such as mobile money and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar energy, have been crucial to delivering socio-economic impact to those most in need, and DFID, by investing early in technology start-ups, has been at the forefront of this innovation, which is at the heart of our work. The partnership will provide risk capital for early stage innovations and encourage replication, including resilience to climate change.


The greatest level of socio-economic impact takes place when an innovation reaches scale, most often facilitated by the private sector. The partnership will ensure that proof-of-concept technologies and proven business models will reach the many, at scale, thereby ensuring a better future for all.

Our teams are proud of our joint achievements to date and re-energised by this new partnership which ensures that we can continue to stimulate digital innovation to deliver both sustainable business and large-scale socio-economic impact for the underserved. Together, with private and public sectors in step, we will continue to reduce inequalities in our world.


This post was written by Magdalena Banasiak and Claire Sibthorpe.

Magdalena Banasiak is the U.K. Department for International Development’s Research and Evidence Division’s senior innovation adviser. Claire Sibthorpe is the Acting Head of Mobile for Development at the GSMA. 

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