GSMA Innovation Fund for Digital Urban Services

Deadline Date – 02-Jul-2021 Grant Size: $100,000 to $500,000

Applications are now open for the GSMA Innovation Fund for Digital Urban Services to build urban resilience through delivering essential urban services to the underserved.


The objective of the Fund is to extract insights from business models to inform the improvement of essential urban services delivery across energy, water, sanitation, plastics and waste management. Grants will be utilised to test digital innovations, enable scale, and provide essential services to underserved populations across all four sectors. The grant projects must seek to demonstrate:

  • How innovative digital technology, including mobile, can support delivery of urban services to underserved populations;
  • What business models and partnerships are required for innovative digital solutions to be adopted at scale;
  • What are the social, commercial and environmental/climate impacts delivering urban services to underserved populations; and
  • What role mobile operators and other technology companies can play in these business models, and how they can make their role commercially sustainable.


These organisations should be leveraging digital technology to deliver urban services with socio-economic, commercial and environmental impact in the following sectors:

  • Plastic and Waste Management;
  • Water;
  • Energy; and
  • Sanitation.

Funding Information

  • Successful projects for The GSMA Innovation Fund for Digital Urban Services will receive an equity-free grant of between £100,000 and £250,000 to scale their innovation over a 15- to 18-month period. 
  • Applicants are expected to submit and justify their budget for the project to be funded, as well as their reasons for the funding amount requested. The amount requested can be any amount between GBP 100,000 and GBP 250,000.

Grants will NOT be awarded to the following organisations, although partnerships with these entities as part of the application are strongly encouraged:

  • Governments, government-owned agencies (or appointed government agencies);
  • Mobile Network Operators;
  • University or academic organisations; and
  • Start-up accelerators and incubators.

Geographic Areas

  • The Fund is open to applicants whose projects are implemented in countries that are eligible to receive official development assistance (see OECD DAC) in the following regions:
    • Africa;
    • South or South East Asia.
  • However, some exceptions apply, projects in the following countries are NOT eligible for funding: Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Republic of Guinea-Bissau, Somalia and South Sudan.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible to apply, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Have active users and commercial revenue (revenue generated from any products or services offered by the organisation) in at least one eligible low- or middle-income market.
  • Commit to providing 25% to 50% matching funding depending on the total grant amount requested.
  • Ensure the proposed grant project is implemented in an urban area as defined by the World Bank.
  • Be an entity registered and operating in the country of project implementation (whether domestic or foreign owned or a joint venture). In cases where responsibility for service delivery lies with a downstream partner, rather than the applicant, for example service delivery by a local government, it may be acceptable for the applicant to be registered in a country other than that of project implementation.
  • Be fully compliant with relevant business licensing, taxation, employee and other regulations in all applicable countries of grant project operation.
  • Be registered and have a bank account in the country where they will receive the grant money (if not the same as the project implementation country).
  • To be eligible, applicants must be an eligible entity and will need to demonstrate that a majority of their income is derived from commercial activities. Early stage companies who have not reached this threshold will need to demonstrate a reliable path to sustainability via commercial activities that generate revenue to be considered.
  • Only one organisation can apply for funding and become a grantee. An applicant can have downstream partners who have a role in the project as per the GSMA’s Downstream Partner Guidelines. In case government entities are grant project partners, they cannot be a sub-recipient of the grant.
  • They particularly encourage the following applicants to apply:
    • Female founders and applicants with good representation of women at all levels of the organisation.
    • Local entrepreneurs and applicants with good representation of local talent at all levels of the organization.
    • Applicants who proactively demonstrate their solution disproportionately and actively reaches more female users.
    • Applicants who have a clear understanding of the environmental/climate impact of their operations and have proactively taken steps to set targets to reduce or systematically measure these impacts.
  • All applicants need to consider:
    • The Fund will not support the development or prototyping of any new hardware solutions. Where there is a proposal to use existing hardware solutions (e.g. meters) as part of the project, applicants must be able to clearly demonstrate that all required approvals for wide scale importation and use of the hardware exist prior to grant execution. Applicants may be required to respond to additional GSMA compliance requests, including disclosing relevant supply chains.
    • Having a clear and measurable social or economic impact to demonstrate how they are positively contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Applicants must ensure that their proposal clearly links to increased usage of digital enabled urban service solutions and positive impact for the underserved.
    • Being able to demonstrate the potential and appetite to form strategic partnerships with mobile operators and/or technology organisations.
    • Having a plan for long-term sustainability beyond the lifespan of the grant (such as through user uptake, business model, financial viability, follow-on funding etc.) and demonstrate there is further potential for scale or replication.
    • Organisations piloting with government clients must have an MoU that demonstrates political will and capacity to commit to the project, prior to the final submission of the proposal to the fund panel, although this can be in progress during the application process.
    • Organisations selling a service to a government during the grant must have a commercial agreement, prior to final submission of the proposal to the fund panel, although this can be in progress during the application.
    • Preference will be given to applicants (organisations) that have not received prior UK aid grant funding through the GSMA. Applicants that have received grant funding from the GSMA in the past will need to demonstrate why they require an additional grant.

Eligible Countries: Algeria Angola Bangladesh Benin Bhutan Botswana Brunei Burkina Faso Cameroon Cape Verde Comoros Congo (Brazzaville) Congo DR Cote DIvoire (Ivory Coast) Djibouti Egypt Ethiopia Gabon Gambia Ghana Guinea India Indonesia Kenya Laos Lesotho Liberia Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Morocco Mozambique Burma(Myanmar) Namibia Nepal Niger Nigeria Pakistan Philippines Reunion Rwanda Saint Helena Sao Tome And Principe Senegal Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore South Africa Sri Lanka Sudan Swaziland Tanzania Thailand Togo Tunisia Uganda Viet Nam Western Sahara Zambia Zimbabwe

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