The GSMA has today announced the winners of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion grant. The fund which was launched in April last year was created to open up opportunities for innovative start-ups and SMEs to address the key barriers of accessibility, affordability, digital skills, and safety and security that prevent many from connecting to mobile internet.
According to the GSMA, a total of 598 applications were received from start-ups and SMEs in 44 countries. Out of this number, 100 were shortlisted for the final stage, and after a rigorous evaluation process, 9 grantees were selected for the fund. 5 of the nine selected startups were from Africa while the remaining four are in Asia. They include:
- Africa 118 (Ethiopia) Digital marketing service provider for African SMEs
- Ensibuuko (Uganda) Technology solutions provider to community-based savings and loans organizations
- Knowledge Platform (Pakistan) Digital learning provider
- Navana Tech (India) Conversational AI provider for low-literate, vernacular speaking, mobile-first internet users
- ScholarX (Nigeria) Digital learning provider
- The Orenda Project (Pakistan) Digital learning provider
- Vceela (Pakistan) Online platform for artisans in Pakistan
- WidEnergy Africa Ltd (Zambia) One stop shop for community energy, water, and connectivity
- Zonful Energy (Zimbabwe) Pay-As-You-Go solar energy systems provider
Each of these companies will be awarded an equity-free grant of between £100,000 to £250,000 as part of the GSMA Innovation Fund. The fund is provided by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the GSMA, and its members.
The GSMA will be working with each of the startups to provide tools, templates, and specialist advisory support to help improve the offering and evidence outcomes of the startups; support with scalability and sustainability planning; and provide technical assistance on topics such as digital skills training, how to reach more female customers, addressing handset affordability, etc.
Although access to mobile internet is driving digital inclusion, there is still a ‘usage gap’ with over 3.4 billion people who are still unable to use mobile internet services. The GSMA Innovation Fund is supporting innovative solutions that are trying to address these barriers.