The GSMA today announced the launch of the Mobile Enabled Community Services (MECS) programme, which leverages mobile technology and infrastructure to help improve access to basic energy and water services in underserved communities. The new programme is supported by a £4.1million grant from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), which works to alleviate global poverty by delivering UK aid around the world.
Currently 1.3 billion people, nearly 20 per cent of the world’s population, are without access to energy1 and 783 million people, 10 per cent of world’s population, do not have access to ‘improved’ water resources2. This gap is due to challenges such as last mile distribution, operation and maintenance capabilities and costs, and payment ability and collection. MECS will facilitate access to affordable and reliable energy and clean water, which is vital for health and wellbeing and can also help reduce poverty and drive economic growth.
“More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes according to the WHO,” said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Mobile for Development. “Mobile penetration in the developing world has risen exponentially in the last decade; for instance, in Africa, we estimate that mobile will reach 76 per cent of the population by 20143. Through mobile technology, we will be able to support and improve the provision and maintenance of energy and water services, providing a critical resource to underserved communities.”
The DFID grant will back a two-year programme within MECS, which will be implemented by the GSMA’s Mobile for Development division, to support the creation of new, innovative mobile-enabled technologies and business models to improve access to energy and water services. DFID and the GSMA will also launch a Challenge Fund open to the mobile industry, start-ups, academia and the not-for-profit sector, which will provide seed funding to companies for research to identify and develop pioneering solutions to overcome the challenges and obstacles to community service provision.
The UK Minister for International Development, Lynne Featherstone said: “An increasing number of people globally are using mobile phones, giving us new opportunities to help improve people’s lives through technology. The MECS programme will significantly improve people’s ability to access some of the most basic human needs, improving their health and giving them better foundations on which to build their future. That is why we are committed to supporting the development of innovative new technologies that can provide simple and sustainable solutions to development challenges worldwide.”
With its technology and significant size and reach, the mobile industry can help address these challenges and provide an unprecedented opportunity for scale in impacting lives. Mobile technology and infrastructure are already being used to improve access to energy and water through product distribution via existing channels, pay-as-you-go financing via mobile payments, and remote activation, monitoring and data collection.
“The GSMA has proven experience in bringing together mobile operators, energy service companies, community service provider, the development community and other key stakeholders to; foster partnerships; gather and share knowledge. Through the MECS Programme and Challenge Fund the GSMA will help to accelerate the development of commercial mobile services for underserved people in emerging markets,” continued Locke.