By Emeka Aginam, in Cape Town, South Africa
The chairman of the GSMA, Jon Fredrik Baksass, yesterday unfolded the direction of the mobile operator’s association for the developing markets before international audience at the ongoing GSMA Mobile 360 series Africa holding in Cape Town, South Africa.
Assuring on positioning GSMA works in developing markets, he said that going forward; its Mobile for Development programme would focus its efforts on three key enablers including connectivity, mobile money and identity for the unregistered.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem.
Although mobile broadband networks cover 76 per cent of the world’s population, he said that nearly one quarter of the world’s population still lack access especially in the developing markets where only 30 per cent of the population has mobile internet access.
To address this challenge, he said that there was need to extend network coverage to remote, off-grid locations, which could require public and private collaboration, as well as industry efforts.
Speaking on affordability, he said that there was need to ensure that mobile internet devices and data plans are not subject to restrictive government taxes and fees.
He said that locally-relevant mobile internet content is critical to connectivity while ensuring content is available on as many devices as possible, in the relevant language, relevant to the needs of local users.
While Mobile Money took center stage at the Mobile 360 Africa, with the continent seen as recording r success story for the industry, he told the international audience that in most markets, mobile money usage continues to be dominated by two types of transactions, person-to-person transfer and airtime top-ups.
“Deeper impact on financial inclusion can only be achieved if we develop new use cases that widen the use”, he added.
This is even as the GSMA had received an additional $9.4 million funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard Foundation and Omidyar Network to launch the third phase of the Mobile Money Programme, for a 3-year period to 2018.
To address identity causing more economic harm than good in the developing countries, the GSAM boss said that , “official identity is a prerequisite for social and economic development; the ability to prove that you are the one that you say you are, and have this authenticated when interacting with government or private companies, is critical to accessing services such as healthcare, education, employment and financial services,”