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Improving access to water and energy in poor communities in Latin America with mobile technology

Mar 26, 2015

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, recently approved a technical cooperation grant of US$1.2 million for a project to be implemented by the GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation that will leverage mobile technology and infrastructure in order to expand access to clean energy and water for poor and underserved communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Additionally, the project will seek to increase the number of service providers (energy services companies, MSMEs, NGOs and community organizations) and the number of mobile operators adopting new technologies based on mobile systems to improve access to clean energy and water.

There are approximately 32 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean without access to commercial electricity grids and 34 million people without access to safe drinking water. Low incomes, limited access to financial services, and geographic dispersion are among the main challenges to closing these access gaps. While universal energy and water services remain elusive, some 11 million people in Latin America live off-grid, but have mobile phone subscriptions. This means that many Latin Americans have a phone before they have a place to charge it.

A MIF-GSMA report showed that the wide adoption of mobile services provides an untapped opportunity to develop and improve clean energy and water for underserved populations at a scale never seen before.

Mobile technology infrastructure can support new solutions for clean energy and water access, such as smart metering and monitoring of solar home systems and piped water services, mobile payments for affordable, clean energy and water products and services, and mini-grid systems where the mobile tower acts as the anchor load for the energy system. The approved project will launch a business model competition to encourage local entrepreneurs and small businesses to team up with mobile operators to road test new models for using mobile technology to improve access to and quality of clean energy and water services for poor and underserved populations in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

The project will leverage the MIF’s NEXSO platform to attract a critical mass of innovative applications and create the first dedicated database and community of stakeholders related to mobile applications for clean energy and water services, and will select and finance three to five proposals from the competition. This project will stimulate important alliances among mobile operators, service and product providers, NGOs, and local communities. Furthermore, it will generate important knowledge and lessons on using mobile technology to improve access to high-quality, clean energy and water services.

About the MIF

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, supports private sector-led development benefiting low-income populations and the poor—their businesses, their farms, and their households. The aim is to give them tools to boost their incomes: access to markets and the skills to compete in those markets, access to finance, and access to basic services, including green technology. A core MIF mission is to act as a development laboratory—experimenting, pioneering, and taking risks to build and support successful micro, small and medium business models. More information can be found at

About the GSMA Foundation

The GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation is a non-profit organization affiliated with the mobile operator industry association GSMA. Since 2006, the GSMA Foundation has partnered with 35 mobile operators, rolling out 53 services, impacting tens of millions of people across 30 countries. The GSMA Foundation works across a spectrum of sectors via specific programs plus the open data platform Mobile for Development Intelligence. GSMA has presence in the region with teams based in Chile, Argentina and most recently in Brazil. Learn more at


NEXSO is an online platform where social innovators, entrepreneurs and investors promote their development solutions and get support opportunities to improve their social impact in Latin America and the Caribbean. NEXSO is an initiative of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the IDB Group. Learn more at
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