March 9, 2017 Society

The Mobile for Development Utilities Innovation Fund is opening for applications

Are you an Innovator interested in leveraging mobile to improve access to basic utilities? Are you a Mobile Operator or Utility Service Provider seeking to develop innovative mobile tools?

M4D Utilities is opening another round of innovation funding to support mobile-enabled utility services.

Of the 1.2 million people who lack basic energy access around the world, 772 million are covered by mobile networks. Similar figures exist for water and sanitation, as 289 million of those lacking access to drinking water, and 2.4 billion people without improved sanitation facilities are covered by mobile networks. The challenges to providing universal access to utility services include last mile distribution, affordability, maintenance, and payment collection.

Mobile channels have the potential to overcome these challenges and help reach underserved populations, and therefore can be crucial to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6 and 7, which call for water, sanitation and energy for all. Find out more about the transformational power of mobile in the utilities sector in our video.

The GSMA M4D Utilities Innovation Fund awards grants to mobile operators, innovators and service providers to trial or scale commercially sustainable solutions that leverage mobile to directly improve access to basic utilities for underserved consumers. These grants have so far been competitively awarded to 34 organisations across four continents, amounting to £5.6 million, supporting a wide variety of projects across the three utility sectors. The innovative models supported by the fund have impacted the lives of over 2.3 million users globally to date. A catalogue of current grantees can be found here. These include:

Water: Wonderkid Multimedia

Wonderkid Multimedia received a grant to customise and deploy their Integrated Mobile Utility Management solution to four water utilities in Kenya, helping the utility providers to digitise their services. This ICT platform uses mobile services to support mobile meter reading, self-meter reading and complaint management, which overall improves efficiency and maintenance so that utilities can provide a better level of service to their customers.

Sanitation: Sanergy

Sanergy, in partnership with SweetSense, received a grant to develop and test the use of sensors to determine the fill levels of Fresh Life Toilets, waterless toilets designed for informal settlements. Using machine-to-machine technology, the sensors relay occupancy data used, with other parameters, to predict when waste collection is needed, record when collectors visit latrines and when Fresh Life Operators request services. Sanergy hopes the technology will optimise waste collection routes to reduce operating costs, thus ultimately increasing the availability of toilets for users

Energy: Gham Power

In partnership with Ncell, Gham power has installed solar micro-grids in remote districts in Nepal to provide energy to new mobile towers, households and businesses, bringing energy access and mobile connectivity to remote communities in Nepal. Customers make use of a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) using mobile money to purchase electricity, making the service extremely affordable and with no upfront costs.


M4D supports two types of Grants:

Seed Grants (up to £150,000): The primary aim of these grants is to support the trial of products/services that use mobile to enable sustainable access to energy, water or sanitation.

Market Validation Grants (up to £300,000): The primary aim is to support partnerships with mobile network operators or urban utility service providers to support scaling or replication of an existing service that increases or improves access to sustainable energy, water and sanitation services to underserved consumers. The service will already have demonstrated early success and have active users in at least one market.

For further information, visit our fund website.

Arianna Freschi

Knowledge Manager, M4D Utilities
Arianna joined M4D Utilities in November 2016. As Knowledge Manager, she works to ensure the programme’s knowledge and insights are disseminated effectively, by supporting the production of content and by organising Working Groups and stakeholder-c... Read full biography