The power of mobile operator APIs in emerging markets

Mobile operator APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) have unlocked powerful use cases in emerging markets, allowing deeper proliferation of valuable mobile solutions. In an earlier publication in July 2016 (APIs: A bridge between mobile operators and start-ups in emerging markets) we shared findings on how these APIs work and how mobile operators are opening them to third parties across emerging markets. We are now releasing a video that illustrates how start-ups in emerging markets are harnessing the power of APIs to reach customers and create socio-economic impact.

Four start-ups using mobile operator APIs in emerging markets

We have selected four start-ups that have two things in common. Their services are accessible to all mobile phone users whether or not they have a smartphone and they are powered by mobile operator APIs. Globe Telecom, Orange, Dialog and Safaricom respectively are enabling these start-ups to reach their target users.

  • Bustayo (Philippines) lets users book and pay for intercity bus tickets
  • GiftedMom (Cameroon) enables expectant mothers to receive relevant maternal information and check-up notifications
  • Offerhut (Sri Lanka) grants users access to curated and localised merchant offers
  • Eneza Education (Kenya) allows students to receive bite-sized school lessons

More mobile operators are committing to open their APIs and make them accessible to start-ups

Following the publication of the insight mentioned above, the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator team has reached out to mobile operators in emerging markets to encourage them to adopt start-up friendly APIs strategies.

In response to that call, we are glad to announce that Orange Middle East Africa, Dialog Axiata (Sri Lanka), Telenor (Pakistan) and Etisalat (Nigeria) have committed to further open up their APIs and make them increasingly accessible to start-ups.

Here are some examples of how these four mobile operators are turning their commitment into actions:

  • In July 2016, Orange Middle East Africa launched #303# My Store, a pan-African platform allowing start-ups – through an USSD API – to distribute their USSD services across all devices (smartphones and feature phones). The platform is now live in Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Senegal.
  • In August 2016, with the aim to increase the relevance of the Dialog Ideamart platform to start-ups in Sri Lanka, Hutchinson Telecommunications Lanka signed a partnership with Dialog, allowing the 5,000 Ideamart application developers to gain access to Hutch’s network infrastructure through APIs. In doing so, Dialog Ideamart has been able to expand its applications and services to Hutch’s subscriber base.
  • In September 2016, Telenor Pakistan’s in-house accelerator programme (Velocity) announced the selection of its second cohort of eight local start-ups. This programme, among its other benefits, allows enrolled start-ups to gain access to Telenor’s customers through network APIs (for example Easy Paisa, Telenor Pakistan’s mobile money service).
  • In January 2017, Etisalat Nigeria shared its plans to launch an API developer platform which will include documentation, agreements, legal information and billing process for start-ups to access Etisalat Nigeria’s APIs (including SMS and USSD APIs).

The GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator programme will continue to support emerging markets mobile operators in adopting start-up friendly APIs strategies.