GSMA Launches Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity in Ghana, Uganda

Part of the organisation's Connected Society programme, the initiative includes grants of up to £300,000 and full support including the identification of commercially-viable sites for deployment and the provision of technical and performance reports.

The GSM Association (GSM) has announced the launch of an Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity, backed by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and with grants of up to £300,000 being made available to companies deploying rural connectivity solutions in Ghana or Uganda.

“Mobile operators are committed to advancing connectivity in rural areas as they work to deliver commercially sustainable solutions to accelerate progress against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” explains John Giusti, chief regulatory officer at the GSMA, of the new initiative. “The Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity will drive partnerships aimed at developing new ways of using mobile technologies to close coverage gaps in rural areas so that more citizens have access to life-enhancing mobile services.

“Deploying infrastructure in remote areas can be twice as expensive as in urban areas, with smaller revenue opportunities. The challenge is not only to bring mobile internet coverage to rural areas, but to do so in a way that ensures long-term commercial sustainability. Innovation and partnership will be essential to addressing this challenge, and the Innovation Fund can play a key role in identifying new ways of using mobile technology to connect the unconnected.”

Projects eligible for funding will, the GSMA explains, be involved in finding innovative ways to deploy mobile broadband networks in rural areas while working in partnership with existing mobile operators Vodafone Ghana and MTN Uganda. Projects must demonstrate a commercially sustainable model which can be scaled up and replicated for use in similar environments, while focusing on at least one of active base station technology, passive infrastructure, energy consumption, backhaul, operation and maintenance, or sustainable business models.

Those selected for the grants will receive both funding and direct advice and guidance from the GSMA, including analytical support for the identification of commercially-viable sites for deployment, alongside full technical and commercial performance reports.

Those interested in finding out more about the programme, or applying themselves, can find details on the official website.