Bringing the mobile and utilities sectors together in Asia

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Heading into our sixth year at the GSMA Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities programme, we’re pushing harder to support partnerships between the mobile industry and utility service partners in Asia. Since the beginning of our programme, we’ve seen more partnerships in Africa than Asia, but now are excited to see more mobile operator – utility provider collaboration in Asia, particularly around on-grid services, such as mobile operator led smart-metering platforms for energy utilities. To nurture and expand such collaborations to other business models, specific to Asia, we are facilitating these conversations at key sector events but also at our own upcoming event. The GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities Programme invites you to join the ‘Asia Industry Forum: Leveraging Mobile Technology to Drive Digital Utilities’, on 24 and 25 January, 2019 at the Taj Samudra in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

This discussion-oriented event is a chance for on- and off-grid utility service providers to meet with mobile operators and mobile money providers in Asia, and discuss their synergies for building businesses that can improve access to essential utility services for low-income customers. The event will feature case studies and best practices from existing partnerships and help new ones to form with networking opportunities and a marketplace of innovative service delivery models. To bring it all to life, we’ll take a field visit to see Dialog Sri Lanka’s smart meter deployment with the Lanka Electricity Company (LECO), a project supported through a M4D Utilities Innovation Fund grant.

Specifically, for mobile operators and mobile money providers, we’ll have a separate roundtable discussion to get to the heart of what the partnership opportunities, benefits and obstacles really are.

Please get in touch right away if you would like to join us at this event by emailing [email protected].

We’ll be bringing to our Asia Industry Forum some of the opportunities and discussions from two recent events we attended – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Citywide Inclusive Sanitation event in Manila and the Sankalp Global Summit in Mumbai.

The Gates’ Foundation hosted their Citywide Inclusive Sanitation partners for a week of workshops in Manila in December. The event aimed to share best practices working across institutional boundaries to achieve sanitation solutions that reach all demographics of urban populations. Organisations there included some supported by both the M4D Utilities programme and the Gates Foundation:

 

The event gave them a chance to share their solutions with other municipalities and sanitation providers who took great interest in replicating these solutions.

The event also marked a significant milestone for the M4D Utilities programme and Loowatt, a grantee of the programme. Loowatt has won a tender to license their portable, waterless toilets for low-income households to Laguna Water, a water and sanitation company in Metro Manila – a first of its kind initiative in Manila! Loowatt will also be able to transfer their learnings from Madagascar using a mobile app for emptying logistics and subscription payment collection via mobile money.

Laguna Water employee demonstrating the Loowatt toilet.

We also saw a strong opportunity for the mobile operators and water and sanitation companies right there in Manila to collaborate. In the Philippines, the private water and sanitation companies (which operate on a concession contract) are owned by the same business groups that own two of the mobile operators, Globe and SMART, as well as their mobile money sister companies, G-cash and PayMaya (MNOs in the Philippines are not authorised to issue mobile money in their own right). Because of the strong private nature of the water and sanitation companies, bill collection is a strong focus, yet the use of mobile money is limited, which leaves the unbanked to carry cash to offices during business hours. Despite some financial regulatory challenges remaining to be addressed, water and sanitation payments could make an important use case for mobile money.

The 10th Sankalp Global Summit focused on bringing scale to social enterprises in agriculture, clean energy, health and sanitation. A key takeaway was the opportunity for deeper partnerships with mobile operators to achieve scale. In energy access, the event featured companies like Logistimo, which use mobile technology for last mile distribution of essential commodities in rural areas – a strong potential for mobile operators to partner in enhancing mobile connectivity to allow for real-time data capture and develop smart solutions for rural customers. With governments increasingly embracing private partnerships and setting ambitious goals around the SDGs, like the Government of India’s target for 30 per cent electric vehicles by 2010, it demands a more detailed look at the role of mobile operators, typically with large customer bases, to work more closely with these innovators to accelerate change by leveraging mobile technology.

The sessions on water and sanitation largely focused on large-scale financing mechanisms needed to grow innovative solutions. Similar to the off-grid solar sector, there was a strong call from donors and NGOs like Water.org for blended finance approaches with patient capital, rather than too much emphasis on equity at early stages.

10th Sankalp Global Summit, Mumbai ‘In Conversation with Mr. Arun Maira, Former Member of the Planning Commission of India and Mr. Ravi Venkatesan, Founder- Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship’

We would like to thank the teams at Sankalp and the Gates Foundation for having us contribute to their respective events.

We’re looking forward to creating a unique space for mobile operators in Asia to discuss partnerships with energy, water and sanitation service providers, and welcome you to join our Asia Industry Forum!

This initiative is currently funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge for Development and
supported by the GSMA and its members.

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