The GSMA is now accepting applications for the Innovation Fund for Mobile Internet Adoption and Digital Inclusion. The Fund is intended to promote internet usage in Asia and Africa, where people in many countries are not online even though there is reliable internet coverage in their area.
In that regard, the organization notes that there is a major discrepancy between the availability of internet access and the number of people using it. According to the GSMA, 3.3 billion people are not currently taking advantage of mobile internet services despite the fact that mobile internet coverage now reaches 91 percent of the world’s population. That coverage reflects the $1 trillion that mobile operators have invested in infrastructure in the past five years.
“Now is the time to find innovative ways to solve this usage gap for the digitally excluded – regardless of who or where they are,” said GSMA Chief Regulatory Officer John Giusti. “The Innovation Fund will drive partnerships to develop new and innovative ways of increasing use of the mobile internet so that more citizens can fully participate in society and the economy.”
To that end, the Fund was set up to support solutions that can address one of the four major barriers to internet adoption. It will back projects that can make mobile devices more affordable, or projects that can make them more accessible and more user-friendly. It will also back education initiatives to help make people more comfortable with the technology. The funds themselves are earmarked for startups and small to medium enterprises.
The GSMA noted that marginalized individuals are less likely to be online. That includes women and those in rural areas, with women in low and middle income countries being 20 percent less likely to use the internet than men in the same areas.
The Innovation Fund is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, in addition to the GSMA and its members. Interested parties have until May 22 to submit their application.
The GSMA recently committed with its host partners to extend MWC Barcelona through to 2024.