Digital Inclusion Innovation Portal

Innovation in
Affordability & Use

New business models and collaborative solutions across the mobile ecosystem have the potential to drive mobile internet adoption among underserved populations. Here we showcase innovative business models that improve handset affordability, enhance digital skills and help to increase the availability of locally relevant content.

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Affordable Smartphones

Global adoption of smartphones has grown at an extraordinary pace, but the cost of an internet enabled handset remains a critical barrier to using mobile internet for many consumers in emerging markets. Supply chain solutions, innovative financing and other creative initiatives are helping making the cost more affordable for all.

Smart Snehidi

Smart Snehidi

SOLUTION PROVIDER: Vodafone India and Hand in Hand
LOCATION: Tamil Nadu, India



Initiated in 2017, the Smart Snehidi programme seeks to improve access to smartphones among low and middle income female micro-entrepreneurs. The programme is led by Vodafone and Hand in Hand (HiH), a non-profit organization focused on empowering rural & small town women through financial independence. In its general programming, HiH assists women to build microenterprises, access finance through self-help groups (SHGs) (over 1.2 million members enrolled), and to learn digital skills (over 750k women trained). As a partner in Smart Snehidi, HiH facilitates Microfinance loans for smartphone purchase among members of its SHGs and trains women to use these devices in their businesses.

2Loans are offered at an interest rate of 24% per annum. Vodafone works with HiH to ease financial barriers through attractive talk time and data plans. The Smart Snehidi programme is accessible only to members of HiH SHGs who earn at least INR 2000 (or ~USD 31) per month.

Asset financing can broaden access and catalyse smartphone purchases. Prior to the Smart Snehidi programme, women delayed purchase of smartphones or allocated scarce resources to purchasing phones for younger family members, who are believed to be able to utilise the phone better. Providing smartphone asset financing through the Smart Snehidi programme is allowing micro-entrepreneurs to purchase the phone with minimal trade-offs in household expenditure (assuming a certain income threshold). The programme is perceived as highly affordable – an offer not to be refused – and therefore family members encourage women to take up the loan offer.

3Women are more likely to purchase and retain devices when they have a clear use case. Vodafone and HiH have designed the Smart Snehidi programme around a clear use case wherein programme participants can use their smartphones for sourcing supplies for their microenterprises, marketing and sales. By targeting business use cases, the programme mitigates cultural pressures, especially from husbands, that otherwise prevent women from owning phones.

Digital literacy is essential to ensure sustained use. Gendered and generational norms mean that women typically share phones with other members of their households, and they may spend less time with their phones than family members. These norms are often internalised by women themselves who believe that they are not equipped to fully utilise a smartphone. To address this barrier, HiH, as part of the Smart Snehidi program, conducts regular training programs & connects with the women entrepreneurs to ensure that they are able to derive benefit from their purchased Smartphone. Women who realise use cases for themselves are showcased for sharing their experiences and achievements with the broader micro-entrepreneur community.


As of April 2017, the programme has enabled 2,000 women to access smartphones in 3 districts across Tamil Nadu, India, with an ambition of enrolling 50,000 women across 19 districts of Tamil Nadu within the next 3 years.

Currently at a nascent stage, the programme can be rolled out with the help of HiH, which is active across India, as well as other non-profits who complement Vodafone’s core competencies and that can rely on a strong credit history database, customer relationships, and SHG model.

Outside of India, similar programmes could be created around existing microfinance and NGO networks, especially those supporting women-focused saving and lending groups. High quality data about customer payment history is essential.

Visit Hand in Hand’s and Vodafone India’s websites to learn more.



PROVIDER: Google Android and Orange
LOCATION: 14 markets in Africa, Jordan

Google and Orange jointly launched an affordable digital communication package in early 2016, offering a high-quality smartphone at the low-price point of USD 40, bundled with voice, SMS and data. The Pamoja partnership leverages Orange’s mobile networks and Google’s applications to accelerate mobile internet access and enrich the online experience for consumers across Orange’s footprint in Africa and the Middle East. Pamoja has been a collaborative project all way through down to retail level, with Google involved also in the go to market strategy and the project’s consumer education campaign.

The handset included in the package is the 3G Orange Rise 31 Special Edition, with Google’s OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and features including, 4-inch screen, 8 GB internal memory, 3.0 megapixels camera, 1500mAH battery and dual SIM. It comes pre-loaded with Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps, as well as popular content in sport, music and fashion. The aim is to further tailor the content to each market by developing local services and content over time.

The competitively low pricing of the Pamoja package was made possible through having an Orange branded device, thus forgoing additional margins to cover e.g. marketing and sales expenditures. These costs could be offset through future revenue of new mobile data subscribers. Google’s involvement in the go to market-planning and expenditures helped to drive the cost down even further.

The Pamoja smartphone package is coupled with an educational campaign, which further helps to enhance smartphone uptake among consumers. Outreach activities take place in the markets to educate consumers in basic smartphone skills, and how to operate the Android functions and applications.

Orange and Google’s approach of offering an operator branded smartphone at a low-price point, bundled with content and mobile data and delivered to market with a customer educational element, is a holistic model to maximise uptake, which can be suitable for several emerging markets. In particular as both the selection of the pre-loaded content and handset design can be localised for catering to local demand and language requirements.

To date, the offering has been launched in 14 African markets and Jordan.

For more information, read Orange’s and Google’s Pamoja partnership press release

Top image and video credit: Google and Orange

Copia e-commerce for the BoP

Copia e-commerce for the BoP

PROVIDER: Copia Global

copia-2Copia is a mobile retail platform launched in 2013. It is operational in Kenya and one of the only catalogue/ecommerce models targeting the rural and peri-urban bottom of the pyramid-demographic in Africa. Agents sell by means of a catalogue or tablet through a Copia mobile application and are the ordering and delivery point for customers. Copia has a rapidly growing network of agents in Central Kenya (currently standing at 1,200+).

The platform sells smartphones, feature and basic phones, including devices by Tecno, Samsung and Huawei, as well as Airtel and Safaricom branded phones. Device prices are comparable to those in Nairobi and typically lower than those offered by independent grey market vendors in rural and peri-urban areas. Thereby, the model reduces the direct price paid by customers and eliminates time and transport costs associated with purchasing goods in rural areas.

Copia offers smartphones for rural and peri-urban people at prices comparable to those offered in Nairobi and on Kenya’s e-commerce sites. Copia agents are located in customers’ communities and serve as points for ordering and delivery. Thereby, this proximity reduces lost time and costs of travel that would be incurred by rural people purchasing phones in Nairobi.

Copia also allows customers to save through the agents’ account at no extra charge until copia-3they save enough to purchase the handset, without limits on the savings time or amount. This feature facilitates people to afford smartphones over time, in cases where a lump sum payment is not feasible.

There is opportunity for partnerships between mobile operators and models like Copia’s. In some contexts, operators could fruitfully partner with Copia or a similar agent network, expanding distribution of that operator’s devices. In other contexts, operators themselves may have the best available rural agent networks and could create a system whereby rural agents sell phones on offer, providing a mobile money based layaway plan.

Copia has grown rapidly since its inception in 2013, to over 1,200 agents and 50,000 customers in rural and peri-urban Kenya in 2017.


For more information, please visit Copia’s website

Mobisol affordable smartphone loans

Mobisol affordable smartphone loans

PROVIDER: Mobisol, MTN Rwanda and TECNO Mobile

mobisol-2Established in 2010, Mobisol is a solar energy company that leverages alternative approaches to credit assessment and pay-as-you-go technology to expand access to low income and peri-urban populations in East Africa. Currently operating in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, Mobisol has installed over 78,000 solar home systems (SHSs) in households and businesses with a reach of circa 350,000 customers.

Mobisol has partnered with MTN Rwanda and TECNO Mobile in a pilot that allows existing customers the option of purchasing a Tecno W2 smartphone. New customers can purchase the smartphone as part of a bundle when buying a SHS. MTN supports acquisition of new customers by providing free data bundles over the period of the loan (18 or 36 months) to customers that are registered on their network through Mobisol. Existing customers that have been with Mobisol for a minimum of 6 months and already own a SHS must meet the criteria which considers past payment behaviour to be eligible for the loan. They are required to pay a down payment of RWF 6,900 (~USD 8) to access the smartphone offering, and then continue with a monthly repayment of RWF 3,550 (~USD 4) for 36 months.  New Mobisol customers that are purchasing the smartphone as part of their SHS pay RWF 2,015 (~USD 2.50) monthly over an 18-month loan term for the smartphone in addition to a new solar system loan.

mobisol-3Mobisol offers smartphone asset financing with flexible payment term. Access to finance is highly constrained in Rwanda, and even if customers could access affordable loans, interest rates would average 17.5%. Mobisol offers an alternative avenue for low income populations and a competitive interest rate, at 15% over three years, for customers looking to access affordable asset financing. In addition, loans are structured in a way that considers seasonal income and allows customers to pay above the minimum required amount when they have higher disposable income. This then provides some level of relief in months when they may earn less.

The schemes further enables lower running cost for consumers. Because customers receive the smartphone with a solar system, the maintenance cost barrier of charging a smartphone is removed. In addition to the handset, MTN is offering a free data bundle (110MB for 6 months, then 10MB for the remaining 30 months, implying an average of 27MB per month for 36 months) to customers who purchase the device, reducing ongoing costs related to data.

Mobile operators can leverage alternative credit scoring to assess credit worthiness and expand customer bases while limiting default risk. Operators can benefit from partnerships with players like Mobisol and others, who have access to customer information, to develop a credit scoring tool. Operators could also develop similar tools for their broader customer base – including on-grid customers – by purchasing data or using information that they already have in-house, such as top-up history and length of SIM ownership

43 customers signed onto the pilot in its first two weeks (between 17 and 31 March 2017). Mobisol Rwanda has installed over 18,900 solar home systems since 2014. Mobisol is a major player in several rural African markets and plans to replicate and scale this pilot to other markets depending on the success of the Rwandan pilot.


For more information, please visit Mobisol Rwanda’s website.

Mobile Data Services

Innovative promotions and data plans are maximizing access to connectivity for low-income users who would otherwise face prohibitive data charges.

Opera Sponsored Web Pass

Opera Sponsored Web Pass

PROVIDER: Opera Software

Launched in early 2014, Opera Software’s Sponsored Web Pass is an offering for mobile PHILIPPINES - ECONOMY - MOBILE PHONEusers to receive data packages to use on any website through the Opera Mini browser for free in exchange for watching advertising. Users can choose from a range of formats of the Web Pass, for example one day of mobile internet, or one hour of Twitter usage, and before launching the Web Pass to access the content, they need to watch a short ad.

Through sponsorship-based business models with advertisers, Sponsored Web Pass has proved to be a way to provide mobile internet to people challenged by the affordability barrier. It is a tool for introducing new users to mobile internet and data packages, at the same time as it benefits operators and advertisers through increased exposure and reduced costs.


Opera’s Sponsored Web Pass is a commercially sustainable way to offer consumers free PHILIPPINES - ECONOMY - MOBILE PHONEaccess to online content without them having to commit to mobile data plans. A common preconception among non-mobile internet users in emerging markets, is that using internet is too expensive. Being unaware of the potential life-enhancing value internet can bring, people can therefore find it challenging to justify the spend on mobile data. With this in mind, the possibility to offer potential users a free taster of internet services through agreeing to view a set of adverts, can be a great tool for bringing more people online in emerging markets.

In addition, the Sponsored Web Pass uses the Opera Mini web browser, which applies a technology that can typically compress mobile data by up to 90%, thereby allowing for more online browsing for the same amount of data. This in turn ensures the maximum amount of value is offered through each Web Pass.

Opera Software has over 130 operator partners signed up for the Web Pass and Sponsored Web Pass. Operators who have launched the Sponsored Web Pass include Telkomsel, Robi, Mobilink and Telenor, among others. Opera Software was awarded a Global Mobile Award of ‘Best Mobile Product, Initiative or Service in Emerging Markets’ in 2015 for their product.


For more information, please visit Opera Software’s website.

Relevant Content

A thriving digital content ecosystem is essential to provide localization of services in the right language and with the right relevance to consumers.



PROVIDER: Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad)

Rawan (8) and Rashed (10) test the five finalist games in the EduApp4Syria competition in August 2016.

Nour (5) and Abdulhamed (9) test the five finalist games in the EduApp4Syria competition in August 2016


EduApp4Syria is a project by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) launched in 2015 aimed at providing an engaging mobile learning tool for the estimated 2.5 million Syrian refugee children who are out of school. Norad initiated the project by leading an international innovation competition together with partners, including Orange and the Inter-Agency Network for Emergency Education (INEE). The competition invited innovators to develop mobile applications that could help Syrian children learn how to read and write, with the intention of creating a game-based learning tool in Arabic to be used as a learning supplement in the home.

2 games were selected the competition winners, Feed the Monster and Antura and the Letters, which were launched in March 2017. Both games are free to download and have no advertisements. The games are also open sourced, in order to enable and encourage further game development.


En’am Ghannam and granddaughter Amani Qarqoura test the EduApp4Syria games in Amman – Photo: Marit Hverven/Norad

EduApp4Syria is a promising approach for providing relevant digital content for underserved populations. Self-learning mobile tools can play a major role in the lives of refugee children unable to attend school, as well as for many other children with limited learning opportunities, and demonstrate a clear productive use case for parents’ motivation to use the mobile internet.

There is opportunity for mobile operators to get involved in the project for instance in the promotion and distribution process, where Orange, Turkcell and Zain are among the operators already collaborating with

Norad. Promoting localised ready-made content for self-learning mobile applications can be a way for operators to enhance their relevance in the market. Norad has developed information material to further facilitate the outreach process for collaborators.

EduApp4Syria has received high ratings from application reviewers for the games, and initial user feedback is positive since the games were launched in Arabic a couple of months back. Seeing the strong interest from organisations and companies to localise the game content, Norad is now looking to increase the games’ reach by making them available in additional languages beyond Arabic.

Antura and the Letters and Feed the Monster can be downloaded via Google Play and App Store

For more information, please visit Norad’s webpage for EduApp4Syria.


Images credit: Norad – Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Flickr account for EduApp4Syria photos.

Curious Learning

Curious Learning

PROVIDER: Curious Learning
LOCATION: Ethiopia, Uganda, India, South Africa, Peru, the United States and Australia.

Curious Learning is a global literacy project, providing an ecosystem to create, distribute and improve free mobile learning software for children. The project was born out of a research programme in 2011, where researchers from Tufts University, Georgia State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology set out to explore whether children without schooling could teach themselves to read through a smartphone or tablet. Conducting research in remote villages with no or limited quality of schools where children received tablets loaded with curated literacy applications, results indicated that over a year, children developed reading readiness equivalent to kindergarten level in the United States.

Building on the positive results of the software based curriculum, Curious Learning have since assembled a team of experts in neuroscience, software design and engineering. Through crowdfunding, they create and curate new open sourced learning applications that are localised and then distributed to low-income parents for free via NGOs, governments and company partners.

Curious Learning targets underserved rural children with localised digital content, which enhances their literacy development as well as equips them and their parents with basic digital skills. The approach offers a channel to reach segments of the population that often have limited access to relevant content, and encourages their continuous and increased use of mobile services.

Offering this ready off the shelf localised content service, Curious Learning provides an opportunity for mobile operators to get involved in the content distribution process, to accelerate digital literacy and drive mobile services and device uptake in their markets.

Curious Learning have localised learning applications into 20 languages, including 15 Indian languages and Swahili and English, with an aim to reach 100 high-impact languages by the end of 2017. Currently, over 80 literacy application are offered, reaching over 4,000 children.

For more information, please visit Curious Learning’s website

Awareness & Skills

Information and digital literacy programmes empower users to fully appreciate the potential of the internet.

Internet Saathi

Internet Saathi

PROVIDER: Tata Trusts & Google
LOCATION: Rural India

Internet Saathi aims to promote mobile digital literacy in rural villages across India where internet-saathi-2available network connectivity remains greatly underused. It was founded in 2015 by Tata Trust in partnership with Google India and is part of India’s Initiative “Mission 2020: Lakhpati Kisans -Smart Villages” that aims to improve quality of life and reduce poverty in over 100,000 village households.

Under the program, Tata Trusts provides digital skills training for women who live in rural villages. After the training, the women travel out on bicycles to pass their learnings to other rural communities, armed with a tablet and/or smartphone. The programme includes an internet awareness module and “hands-on” training aimed at teaching individuals, especially women, how to use the Internet to search for relevant content and become more connected online.

Internet Saathi improves levels of digital literacy and awareness, which are critical drivers of mobile internet adoption. Many of these individuals do not currently own a mobile phone, but learning how to use online services prepares them for future internet use. Women in rural India, who are less likely to use the internet than men, can also feel more comfortable learning from other women in their own language. Once the rollout of the Internet Saathi training has come to an end, the trained women will be able to continue educating their peers using their own phrases and terms that people in their community understand.

This method of teaching is ideal for rural areas as the bicycle “Saathis” have a high level of mobility, although this initiative will be just as effective where bicycles are not a viable option due to limited financing available, or similar. Trainers would still be able to access local villages through other means of transport, making Internet Saathi flexible, adaptable and replicable within emerging markets.

As of March 2017, the programme has trained over 18,000 “Saathis” who have subsequently trained 2.5 million women in 60,000 villages across 10 states. In Jharkhand alone, the programme has reached more than 102,000 individuals, 66,000 of which are women as of January 2017. The programme is rapidly expanding, with the potential for the “Saathis” to begin teaching financial skills.


For more information, please visit the dedicated Internet Saathi webpage of Google.


Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT)

Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT)

IMPLEMENTATION STATUS: Available online resource
LOCATION: Global (India, Rwanda)

The Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT) is an easy-to-use teaching guide, mistt-2developed by the GSMA’s Connected Society programme to introduce people with little or no mobile internet skills to the mobile internet on an entry-level smartphone. The toolkit is used by mobile operators, NGOs, development organisations and governments to raise individuals’ awareness of the internet. The approach is based around three services: WhatsApp, YouTube and Google, with information about safety and cost embedded throughout. These sessions can be tailored to suit the organisation and its trainees’ time availability, with 2-3 minutes “bitesize” and 45-60 minutes “in-depth” lesson guides.

Initially developed in Maharashtra State in India, the toolkit has relevance for people in the rest of India and underserved areas in developing world markets, particularly when used in conjunction with the “How To Guide”, which explains how mobile operators, organisations and governments can easily design a localised toolkit and develop sessions that are tailored to their audiences.

PowerPoint PresentationIndividuals who lack digital skills are unable to access the wide range of benefits and services that the internet offers. The tools and research provided by MISTT, which are laid out using simple language, icons and colour coordination to make the toolkit easier to understand, equip trainees with the basic skills needed to use the mobile internet more effectively. Also, the ability to adapt the toolkit through language, symbols and duration makes it accessible to many emerging markets and populations.

MISTT can be taught without strong internet access, which is ideal for actors in any market with limited 3-4G network coverage who want to equip their customer base with digital skills to prepare them for using the mobile internet when it is more readily available. This means that even individuals, who are without mobile internet access currently, can develop an understanding of the internet before gaining access.

Created in 2016, MISTT is an open, adaptable resource, which has gained interest from the mobile industry, governments and development communities. The GSMA has been monitoring two pilot programmes implementing MISTT in Rwanda and India. A pilot in Rwanda with Tigo began in May 2017, and is training agents from 100 retail locations from across the country. It will run for three months ending in late July 2017. In India, Telenor ran MISTT sessions during three months in 2016 at four of their retail locations with a further 10 stores running a slightly adapted version of MISTT for 3 months, training 7-10% of customers who entered these retail stores. Telenor were happy with the increase of brand awareness and felt that it will yield long-term commercial impact.

The GSMA are interested to hear from actors who wish to implement MISTT into their operations. Please get in touch at

For more information, please visit the MISTT microsite