GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion

The GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion was set up to help address the key digital inclusion barriers that are preventing 3.4 billion people from adopting life-enhancing mobile internet services. The fund was launched in April 2020 with support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members.

We received a total of 598 applications from start-ups and SMEs in 44 countries across Africa and Asia. After a rigorous evaluation process followed by selection from an independent panel of industry experts, we are now pleased to announce the nine grantees: Africa 118, Ensibuuko, Knowledge Platform, Navana Tech, ScholarX, The Orenda Project, Vceela, WidEnergy Ltd and Zonful Energy.

We are delighted to be supporting this extraordinary group of organisations that are committed to closing the mobile internet usage gap, and delivering lasting impact to their local societies and economies.

Learn more about each start-up/SME by clicking on their logos below:

Africa 118

 
The problem
Less than 10% of Ethiopian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have a digital presence. There is a lack of efficient and effective solutions for SMEs, and the solutions that do exist are often too complex and expensive. What’s more, many SMEs lack the digital skills and expertise required to build and manage their online presence.
The company

Africa 118 was founded in 2010 to solve a critical information gap: 85% of mobile customers surveyed in a major African city claimed to have difficulty finding accurate information for the local businesses and services they were looking for. Furthermore, less than 5% of the businesses surveyed had any online presence making it difficult for them to be found. Africa 118 has developed world-class solutions for both consumers and local businesses to solve these problems.

The project
Africa 118 will provide an affordable Mobile Digital Starter Pack to Ethiopian SMEs to help them to build a strong digital presence and grow their business. Through this project, Africa 118 aim to connect 10,000 SMEs to the internet, providing them with an online presence on Google and Facebook, as well as eCommerce and mobile payment integration, plus in-person training. At $100 per year, the Mobile Digital Starter Pack is less than half the cost of a comparable solution and 118 Africa will offer the option to pay monthly to make this solution available to as many SMEs as possible.   "For an SME, having an digital presence is as important as having a telephone number. Consumers are looking for businesses online – any business who is missing, risks becoming obsolete. Who, today, could operate without a telephone number?" – Ezana Raswork, Founder and CEO, Africa 118   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

Ensibuuko

Ensibuuko has been awarded a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.  

The problem
Rural customers, particularly women, are often excluded from mainstream financial services. Savings groups tend to rely on paper record-keeping and operate on traditional, non-digital systems that are unconnected to the larger financial ecosystem. Savings groups need to utilise digital solutions to advance the financial inclusion of the communities they serve, but a lack of knowledge about relevant digital products and services and the skills required to use them are major barriers for rural customers to adopt internet services.
The company

Ensibuuko's mission is to drive financial inclusion by growing the developing world's digital financial infrastructure. They deploy technology solutions to community-based savings and loans organisations so they can efficiently reach and serve unbanked and underserved communities in Africa with affordable and relevant financial services.

The project
Ensibuuko aims to promote the adoption of internet-based products and services in rural areas by tackling the barriers of Accessibility and Digital Skills, which are prevalent among rural communities. Ensibuuko will develop a localised version of a digital skills training kit, adapted for rural customers and will leverage its existing network of Digital Field Agents to deliver the training kit to village savings groups in various rural locations of Uganda. As a result, Ensibuuko aims to improve uptake for its own digital app for village savings groups.   "We may never achieve financial inclusion in Africa until we get unbanked communities to go online, plain and simple." – Gerald Otim, Founder and CEO, Ensibuuko   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

Knowledge Platform

Knowledge Platform has been awarded a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.  
The problem
In Pakistan, quality education is only affordable for the middle and upper classes and, as a result, millions of students are out of school. The COVID-19 pandemic has further disrupted education and has created more short-medium term problems. While online learning resources are available, most people in Pakistan cannot afford to buy a smartphone, tablet or the necessary internet to be able to continue an online education.
The company
Knowledge Platform has developed and is continuously improving a highly innovative solution to address Pakistan’s educational crisis. They are currently working with more than 1,000 schools across 120 cities and towns of Pakistan. 400,000+ students and more than 10,000+ teachers are using the educational technology products and solutions developed by Knowledge Platform. Knowledge Platform’s blended learning solution Learn Smart Classroom is being used by more than 1,000 schools (including 79 public schools) and 285,000 students. Knowledge Platform’s Learn Smart Pakistan is a gamified cloud learning platform for students and being used by 125,000 students. Knowledge Platform has developed and is continuously expanding a huge content library that currently has 2,800 animated videos, 600 games/activities, and 40,000 assessment questions covering the entire 1 to 10 grades (Math, Science and English). Using Knowledge Platform’s digital learning platform, students have taken more than 23 million questions across 3,000 skills. Knowledge Platform’s mission is to provide effective, high-quality, low-cost and highly scalable curriculum-linked digital content, learning technologies, performance data and technical support for the entire K-12 education sector in Pakistan.
The project
Knowledge Platform plan to roll out mobile educational devices through micro-financing, with the ultimate goal to introduce one education device per family. They aim to provide access to quality education through a bundled learning app aimed at 5 to 15-year-old children in Pakistan. They will target the Affordability barrier by offering a smartphone/tablet financing scheme to underserved communities, enabling users to pay in instalments. They have also established a partnership with Jazz who will provide mobile internet to Knowledge Platform users at a subsidised rate. “A lack of affordable devices and 3G/4G internet access are barriers to online education. To solve this challenge, we want to launch an educational tablet. Also available on instalments, our educational tablet will come with internet access, personalized learning, digital content, games, assessment, and data.” – Talhah Munir Khan, CEO, Knowledge Platform   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

Navana Tech

Navana Tech has been awarded a grant as part of the
GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.  
The problem
Smartphone apps are text-dependent, primarily in English, resulting in accessibility and usability challenges for low-literate, vernacular speaking internet users.​ Challenges are amplified in apps where money is involved, such as e-commerce and financial services, and are perceived as high risk by vernacular-speaking users. Because of this, there is a noticeable difference in app drop-off and user retention rates between urban and rural users.
The company

Navana Tech is a B2B SaaS company that develops text-independent, image-based and voice assisted technology for low literate users around the world.

The project
Navana Tech plans to develop a new conversational AI voice bot, enabling digital actions through two-way conversations in 5 Indian languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Assamese, Punjabi). The voice bot will be integrated into financial services and e-commerce apps making them far more widely accessible for those who would previously have been unable to use them due to the language barrier or a lack of digital skills. The AI voice bot will help users to build confidence in using mobile apps by offering it in their local language with no typing or reading requirements.   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

ScholarX

ScholarX has been awarded a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.  

The problem

A lack of digital skills is a key barrier to mobile internet adoption in Africa. The youth of Africa who are unable to use mobile internet are missing out on important opportunities, including being able to access online educational resources.

The company
ScholarX is an EdTech start-up that focuses on democratising access to education for African youth, by connecting them with funding sources that enable them to get a quality education.
The project
ScholarX aims to develop and launch a new digital skills learning app called LearnAM which will provide basic digital skills to the underserved. The app will be available in local Nigerian languages and will teach users skills such as opening an email account, creating an online presence for their business, and using Google to search for basic information. The app will be developed on the KaiOS platform which means it will be accessible via affordable, internet-enabled feature phones. Through this project, ScholarX will also provide a Pay-As-You-Go smartphone with locking technology which will enable customers to pay in installments for 6 months. “ScholarX is thankful to The GSMA Innovation Fund; as we are now able to embark on our quest to connect millions of unconnected youth in Africa to the Internet, while also helping them acquire valuable skills for the new Digital Economy.” – Bola Lawal, Co-founder and CEO, ScholarX   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

The Orenda Project

The Orenda Project has been awarded a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.  

The problem
Pakistan has the second highest number or out-of-school children in the world. This figure currently stands at 22.3 million. Both enrollment and performance decrease as children move from the primary grades towards the higher secondary grades.
The company
The Orenda Project’s mission is to use technology to bridge the digital divide between private and public schools in Pakistan by providing engaging, high quality digital education to the masses. For the past four years, Orenda has brought the national curriculum to life, through animated videos and interactive quizzes via its digital platform Taleemabad. The app has found its way to over 700,000 children all across Pakistan, from Kashmir in the north to Gwadar in the south and contains animated videos and interactive quizzes for K to 5 grades.
The project
The Orenda Project aims to increase the education opportunities for children living outside the major cities of Pakistan by expanding both the curriculum and reach of the Taleemabad app to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. They plan to achieve this by developing the app for KaiOS phones, thus tackling the affordability and accessibility barriers. The Orenda Project also plans to launch their B2B solution for low-cost schools by developing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to further improve accessibility for the underserved segment. "Our goal over the next five years is to become a household name - an education company that gives your child multiple avenues to get an education, and ultimately ensures that learning never stops." – Haroon Yasin, CEO, The Orenda Project   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

Vceela

Vceela has been awarded a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.  

The problem

The artisan and creative sector makes up 15% of the total workforce in Pakistan, making this sector the second largest employer in the country. More than 85% of artisans are not connected digitally which unfortunately makes them more vulnerable to exploitation from middlemen.

The company
Vceela is a social enterprise which strives to empower artists and artisans. Vceela aims to connect unconnected artisans to local and international markets, helping them to grow sustainable businesses through skill development, design consultation, viable partnerships and market access.
The project
Through this project, Vceela plan to scale their existing solution in order to reach 50,000 artisans who will all be trained to use mobile services. Vceela's mobile technology will enable artisans to build their own digital presence and to gain access to the global market, helping to bridge the digital gap that often leaves artisans vulnerable to exploitation. Through this technology, they will be able to more easily source raw material, market and sell their products, collect payments and receive microfinance. The project will have a particular focus on disadvantaged groups including women and persons with disabilities. "Millions of digitally unconnected artisans don't get the fair share of their creations as they are stuck in a centuries old exploitative system run by middlemen. Vceela creates an ecosystem which connects these unconnected artisans directly to the global market." – Akeel Khalid, Founder and CEO, Vceela   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

WidEnergy Africa Ltd

WidEnergy Africa Ltd has been awarded a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.  

The problem

In Zambia, the main barriers to mobile internet usage are a lack of digital skills, and the accessibility and affordability of smartphones and data. Certain groups in Zambia are being left behind when it comes to smartphone adoption. Among rural and peri-urban populations, mobile internet adoption levels stood at 10% in mid-2019, which is considerably lower than the national average of 24%. There is also a mobile gender gap, particularly in rural areas, which must also be addressed.

The company
WidEnergy Africa is a women-led company, registered in Zambia. Their mission is to provide last-mile delivery of clean, reliable and affordable energy and connectivity solutions and to empower African women in last mile distribution of climate resilient solutions, in the area of households energy and  mobile connectivity.
The project
WidEnergy Africa aims to provide rural communities in Zambia with 20 community-based distribution hubs for Pay-As-You-Go smartphones which will be pre-loaded with starting bundles. These hubs will be a one-stop shop for community energy, water and connectivity. WidEnergy Africa also plans to implement community-based digital inclusion hubs which will provide digital skills training to help customers learn how to use the internet and access essential digital services.​ Free trainings will be organised monthly, with a particular focus on underserved groups such as women and persons with disabilities.  "At WidEnergy Africa, we believe in gender equality. We strongly believe that our new partnership with the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion will allow us to reduce inequalities within our off grid rural communities. I am glad, and look forward to this important step in connecting the underserved and the many Zambians to whom internet was up until now, a thing out of their reach." – Liliane Munezero Ndabaneze, CEO, Women's Initiative for Delivering Clean Energy to Africa (WidEnergy Africa Ltd.)   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

Zonful Energy

Zonful Energy has been awarded a grant as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fȕr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the GSMA and its members. The Fund aims to increase mobile internet adoption and usage for the underserved not currently able to use mobile internet services.
 
The problem
In Zimbabwe, only 56.5% of the population are internet users. This means that 43.5%, or 7.6 million people, do not currently use the internet.
The company
Zonful Energy is a for profit social enterprise that sells modular de-centralised and scalable solar energy systems on Pay As You Go model to rural, urban and peri-urban off-grid consumers in Zimbabwe. The solar energy systems consist of solar panels, batteries and a broad range of appliances including lights, radios, televisions and many more others for productive use.
The project
By procuring, marketing and distributing low-cost smartphones and data bundles with 24 month data plans from Econet, Zonful Energy aims to reduce the usage gap in Zimbabwe through an affordable Pay As You Go model. The affordable smartphones and data bundles will be available on this PAYG system to both customers and non-customers of Zonful's Solar Home System. This project will also tackle the Digital Skills barrier by teaching customers how to use mobile internet through the GSMA Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT), in collaboration with Econet. "With this project we are going to help our remote rural customers finance their purchase of smartphones in an affordable way commonly known as Pay As You Go. In the process we will be making sure that no-one is left out of the digitalization process especially in these global trying times of COVID-19 pandemic." – William Ponela, CEO and Founder, Zonful Energy   [button text="Back to Grantees" link="https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-innovation-fund-mobile-internet-adoption" colour="blue" newtab="no"]

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THIS INITIATIVE IS CURRENTLY FUNDED BY THE UK FOREIGN, COMMONWEALTH & DEVELOPMENT OFFICE (FCDO), AND SUPPORTED BY THE DEUTSCHE GESELLSCHAFT FÜR INTERNATIONALE ZUSAMMENARBEIT (GIZ) GMBH, THE GSMA AND ITS MEMBERS.