Photo above provided courtesy of KopaGas.
Launched in 2013, the Mobile for Development Utilities Innovation Fund has competitively awarded grants to 53 organisations across four continents, amounting to £9.4 million to date. These innovations have impacted over 4.5 million beneficiaries around the world helping improve access to energy, water and sanitation using mobile technology. Our grants have contributed to an additional $275 million raised by grantees from the private sector, highlighting the market potential for mobile-enabled utility services to generate greater social and commercial impact.
In February and July 2017, we re-opened calls for applications for round three of our Innovation Fund. This phase was our most competitive to date, with an overwhelming 488 applicants, a 124 per cent increase since our last round of funding in 2015. Our latest cohort of 12 grantees reflects some exciting new trends in mobile-enabled energy, water and sanitation services. For the first time we have, an equal split between energy and WASH (water and sanitation) grants with the business models showing clear signs of maturity and potential for growth. The current cohort will also generate insights and learnings across emerging thematic areas:
1. Mobile network operators leading energy innovations in new geographies:
- Afghan Wireless Communication Company has partnered with d.light to provide pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar home systems to residents of Afghanistan on a lease-to-own model using mobile money.
- Jazz, one of Pakistan’s leading telecom providers, along with K-Electric, is looking to address issues related to power theft and non-transparency of billing in Pakistan by rolling out network and household smart metering with GSM machine-to-machine communication.
2. Leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) technology to enable remote monitoring and control of solutions for business and operational efficiencies:
- Safe Water Network, in partnership with MTN Ghana will launch mobile money enabled water ATMs and household meters using remote machine-to-machine connectivity to monitor operational information.
- Simgas Kenya will pilot a Remote Monitoring and Control system on their bio-digesters for smallerholder farmers to produce cooking gas. The smart meters will monitor and control performance of biogas digesters in real-time.
- SolarWorks will test machine-learning optimisation on their solar home systems in Mozambique. The tool combines weather forecasting data and user data to make Solar Home Systems self-learning and minimise system downtime.
- CityTaps will continue as a market validation grantee in Niger to deploye their CTSuite service with Orange and the SEEN (water utility) which provides a mobile money-enabled smart-meter solution and subscriber management tools.
- Container Based Sanitation Alliance will develop a mobile and web based platform to support the efficient delivery of household sanitation services across container based sanitation companies in Madagascar, Haiti, Kenya and Peru.
3. Pioneering Mobile payments for utilities in new geographies:
- Smarter Grid International, in partnership with Airtel Nigeria, will launch mobile payments for PAYG solar home systems in Nigeria.
- Electric Vine Industries in partnership with Telkomsel, will integrate mobile money into their backend platform and launch a device-leasing program to provide income generation opportunities.
- Uduma S.A.S. will install e-water pumps that utilitse a mobile-based cashless payment facility to bring efficiencies in water pump operations and maintenance in Mali.
4. Pushing the boundaries with Innovative business models:
- KopaGas, following its seed grant from 2015, is partnering with Airtel to expand its mobile money enabled PAYG LPG model in Tanzania to test a cashback incentive programme and integrate B2B distribution partners for increased efficiencies and scale.
- Electricité de Madagascar, in collaboration with Telma (telecom provider) and Sagemcom (technology partner), will construct solar hybrid mini-grids in off-grid villages served by nearby Telma base stations that act as the anchor client for the model. The mini-grids will use smart-metering and mobile payments.
Our grantee catalogue provides an overview of our current portfolio. We are excited to support this new cohort of grantees trialling innovative models by helping them achieve scale and realise their full potential.
For more information on our full portfolio of grants, see our Innovation Fund map.
This initiative is currently funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge for Development and
supported by the GSMA and its members.