LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 AFRICA, TANZANIA: Some 650,000 mobile-connected pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar home systems have been delivered worldwide, according to the GSMA M4D Utilities programme annual report.
Mobile channels are enabling such intitiatives to flourish, attracting significant investments in the energy sector and also enabling business models to emerge in the water sector, the report said.
The market opportunity for energy, especially PAYG energy, has attracted the attention of investors with nearly $295 million awarded to PAYG energy companies so far, mainly in Africa.
However, levels of private capital into the water and sanitation sectors have been weaker, highlighting the continued critical role of grants in funding innovative business models, where the risk of investing in early stage enterprises remains high.
The report also found that the Internet of Things is key to some off-grid energy models and connected infrastructure is set to change the landscape for centralised and decentralised utility systems, with several pilots already underway.
What’s more, off-grid energy companies, particularly micro-grid providers, may seek to anchor their businesses to powering telecom towers, a viable way to power surrounding businesses and communities.
‘Community Power from Mobile’ models are seeing traction in some markets, but aligning the incentives of all parties remains a challenge, the report observed.
It revealed that service providers have partnered to leverage MNO assets such as mobile payment platforms or sales outlets to enhance their efficiency, extend their reach and offer new services.
Via these partnerships, MNOs benefit from increasing uptake of mobile services and improved brand perception and with the growing appreciation of the opportunity, some are taking the lead in utility services.
Meanwhile, water and sanitation businesses have grown less rapidly than those in the energy sector, but there are signs that information about service delivery and new payment mechanisms are driving new business models and government partnerships.
2 million beneficiaries
The report also said that the GSMA M4D Utilities programme awarded grants to 34 organisations that offer mobile-enabled utility services, directly benefiting almost 2 million people.
The programme has funded projects and studies in 24 global markets, 15 of which are in Africa, resulting in grantees raising £40.5 million in private-sector investments, which the GSMA believes underlines the commercial viability of the projects.
“Billions of people in emerging markets still lack access to essential utility services such as energy, clean drinking water and basic sanitation,” said Mats Granryd, GSMA director general.
“A new wave of innovative mobile technology can improve and increase access to these basic utility services, while at the same time stimulating markets, empowering small businesses and even saving lives. The mobile industry is dedicated to creating commercially sustainable partnerships that can harness these emerging technologies,” he added.