Leveraging mobile technology to meet humanitarian needs through strategic partnerships

Partnerships between the mobile industry and the humanitarian sector have been increasing remarkably since the onset of Covid-19, with more humanitarian organisations adopting digital solutions to deliver assistance. The GSMA Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation (M4H) programme has increasingly enabled co-creation of mobile based solutions between (Mobile Network Operators) MNOs and humanitarian organisations for sustainable delivery of humanitarian assistance as opposed to bespoke one-time context-specific solutions. 

Successful co-created mobile-enabled humanitarian solutions include the use of Voice ID for pre and post-distribution verification of Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) in Somaliland. At a co-creation workshop convened by the M4H programme in February 2019 in Hargeisa, Somaliland – CARE Somalia highlighted two key challenges in recipient verification. The first was getting prompt feedback from recipients as confirmation and proof of payment. The second was logistical challenges in reaching every single recipient following disbursement – especially in remote areas – to confirm via signature or thumbprint that cash assistance was received. CARE Somalia and Telesom worked with M4H to develop and deploy Voice Identification technology to solve these challenges. As of July 2022, the solution has impacted 216,780 people with over USD $5M dispersed through CVA in Somaliland alone. This technology is now being replicated in two other regions in Somalia (Puntland and South Central).

In Burundi, through research on user journeys, M4H supported Concern Worldwide in understanding clients’ experiences of its mobile money-enabled humanitarian CVA. This helped address gaps and pain-points that were identified throughout the process. M4H is also working with Sasai Fintech (a subsidiary of Econet Wireless), to create long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships with World Vision BurundiSaCoDéPathfinder, and the World Food Programme, among others, to support them to adopt mobile-enabled technology in their humanitarian projects across social protection, financial inclusion, and education.

In Kenya, M4H is supporting MNOs to work with humanitarian organisations on several humanitarian issues including disaster preparedness and response, climate change, social protection, and education. This includes responding to the Northern Kenya drought emergency, through a partnership catalysed by M4H between Safaricom and CARE International Kenya. Humanitarian cash disbursement has been provided to 65,986 drought affected families.

Through efforts to drive sustainable, long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships between MNOs and humanitarian organisations, we have identified the following fundamental considerations for synergistic and effective collaboration:

  • Foster a co-creation approach to product development with a focus on user experience to drive adoption
  • Review the customer value proposition and product offering based on data; hastening digital literacy to catalyse the uptake of digital solutions 
  • Optimize MNOs and humanitarian organisations’ business models through a win-win approach

Mobile-based solutions are among the critical ingredients for accelerating the delivery and impact of digital humanitarian assistance. M4H will continue to work with the mobile industry and the humanitarian sector to establish long-term, sustainable, and mutually beneficial partnerships that will drive the adoption of mobile-enabled solutions for humanitarian assistance. 

This initiative is currently funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and supported by the GSMA and its members.
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