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What is the GSMA Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation?
Blog...What is the GSMA Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation?

What is the GSMA Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation?

Ecology News
arid dry land with dead tree
In this article we’ll discuss what the Fund aims to achieve and how successful it has been in achieving these targets so far.
Ecology News
arid dry land with dead tree

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the world today, and its effects are becoming more severe and more frequently felt: weather events are becoming increasingly extreme and harder to predict, sea levels are rising, and the biodiversity of our planet is under threat. What's more, is that it's the most vulnerable communities who suffer the most.

Digital technology, and in particular mobile technology, might not be the most obvious tool when it comes to the fight against climate change, but it can be incredibly helpful in creating more resilience and a more sustainable future for the communities that are worst affected.

The GSMA has recognized this opportunity, and in 2021 at COP16, they announced the launch of the GSMA Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation. The fund aims to accelerate the scaling of mobile and digital innovation to help the world's most vulnerable communities build resilience to the effects of climate change. 

👉 In this article we'll discuss what the Fund aims to achieve and how successful it has been in achieving these targets so far.

What is the GSMA?

According to the GSMA's website “the GSMA is a global organization unifying the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop and deliver innovation foundational to positive business environments and societal change." Their vision is to "unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry, and society thrive."

Representing mobile operators and organisations in the broader mobile ecosystem and adjacent industries, and focus on three broad pillars of activity:

  1. Connectivity for good - Utilising its global expertise, GSMA works with its members, governments, and the general public to advance policy, promote digital innovation, reduce global inequalities, and tackle some of our biggest threats and challenges such as digital inclusion, climate change, and sustainability.
  2. Industry services and solutions - GSMA projects and work groups promote industry focus on areas including 5G, Mobile IoT, fraud, and security. GSMA technical services also offer the resources and tools needed to help achieve even more secure and efficient mobile experiences for users.
  3. Outreach - GSMA outreach forms the world's largest platform that provides breaking news, mobile industry insights, and exceptional levels of analysis from industry experts.
person holding mobile phone

GSMA, climate change and sustainability

GSMA is committed to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to tackle some of the world's biggest challenges, including climate change. The GSMA addresses all 17 SDGs through its Mobile for Development team, which drives innovation in digital technology with the aim of reducing global inequalities. 

The GSMA represents the mobile industry to governments and institutions, advocating for policy and regulatory positions that benefit its members.

Additionally, the GSMA is working towards achieving sustainability within its very own operations and is focusing on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals as a way of achieving this. 

When it comes to climate change specifically (one of the UN SDGs), the GSMA has stated that it recognizes that climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity and that it is striving to advance the use of mobile technology and other digital tools to make a positive impact. One of the most significant steps it has taken in this regard is the creation of the Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation.

Youtube screenshot

GSMA’s Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation

In 2021, at COP 26 in Glasgow, the GSMA in partnership with the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Side) announced the launch of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation. 

The GSMA states that the fund is designed to “help accelerate the testing, adoption, and scalability of digital innovations that enable the world's most vulnerable populations to adapt, anticipate, and absorb the negative impacts of climate change, or strengthen biodiversity.”

How does the GSMA Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation work?

The fund is used to finance start-ups, SMEs (small and medium enterprises), and social enterprises, leveraging digital technology to provide climate resilience and adaptation solutions to low-income vulnerable populations. Areas of focus include Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean islands, Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala, Albania, and Moldova. 

The GSMA receives applications from enterprises, and awards funding to successful applicants of values between £100,000 and £250,000 over 15 to 18-month periods. In addition to the financial support the GSMA also offers technical assistance such as mentoring advice, networking and showcasing opportunities, the facilitation of partnerships, and support for monitoring and evaluation. 

It welcomes applications from enterprises that address the following questions: 

  • How can innovative digital technology increase the capacity of low-income and vulnerable communities to adapt, anticipate, or absorb climate-related shocks or stresses?
  • What business models and partnerships are required for innovative digital solutions to be adopted sustainably and at scale?
  • What additional socio-economic, commercial, and environmental/climate impact can be achieved by using digital solutions to build climate resilience and adaptation solutions?
  • What role can mobile operators and other technology companies play in these business models and how they can make their role commercially sustainable? 
dollar bills

How successful was the first round of GSMA funding?

After the creation of the GSMA Fund, it received 524 applications from 70 countries, mainly based in Africa and Asia, and 90% of these were from local organizations. 👉 The GSMA has a preference for supporting locally led initiatives and believes that where local communities are rooted in the solution, successful design, and roll-out of the project is more likely to be achieved. 

Another interesting reflection from the first funding rounds is that the vast majority of enterprises who submitted applications are from the agricultural sector (46%). This probably reflects the strong awareness of the link between agricultural practices and climate change. However, it also represents an opportunity for growth when it comes to other sectors that may currently be underserved by digital innovation when it comes to climate change solutions. 

The GSMA provided support to the successful applicants by: 

  • Facilitating partnerships with mobile operators and public sector organizations;
  • Providing technical assistance on how to more effectively reach and serve climate-vulnerable communities via digital technologies; 
  • The provision of detailed data, tools, templates, expert analysis, and specialist support on how to track socio-economic and climate impacts, and additionally, on how to promote product improvement;
  • Assistance with scalability and sustainability planning; 
  • Opportunities to increase their visibility in order to attract new investors and partners - this is achieved through GSMA events and publications. 
busy city with people walking around

How can digital technology help to mitigate and adapt to climate change?

Mobile and digital technology is a key component of the fight against climate change. Mobile operators across the board and other players within the mobile ecosystem are delivering a huge variety of initiatives and programs that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and that also help to increase resilience to climate change. Let’s take a closer look at how digital technology is being utilized to achieve these goals:

Increased access to financial services

Access to mobile money and banking alongside financial services and marketplaces can be used to help vulnerable communities better adapt to the financial risks and shocks that come from climate change. For example, mobile-enabled insurance products can give business owners access to insurance that protects them from the increased risks of climate change.

The enablement effect

Advances in mobile technologies have the potential to bring energy efficiencies in other industries - something that is termed the enablement effect. For example, mobile comms technology can help to reduce transport emissions by facilitating the use of electric car charging points which increases the uptake of electric vehicles. Telematics (the combination of telecommunications and informatics) can help optimize transport routes resulting in fuel efficiencies. 

Another example of efficiencies created by mobile technology can be seen in the manufacturing industry. Mobile technology for storage and inventory management can decrease the levels of inventory needed and therefore decrease energy use for lighting and cooling.

Big data

Big data can help sectors such as manufacturing, transport, agriculture, building, and the energy industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use resources more efficiently.

One example of how big data is being put to use in the climate context can be found in Sao Paulo, where data is being used to track human movement, helping to predict pollution problems days before they occur, allowing cities to take action to protect human health and encouraging traffic to use alternative routes.

Optimized waste management

Digital solutions can enable more effective waste management, by improving the different processes throughout the value chain (from collection through to processing and recycling). Digital solutions can stimulate innovation and streamline operations.

Sustainable behaviours

Personal smartphone usage also contributes to emissions reductions by encouraging behaviors such as reduced travel for commuting, the uptake of mobile shopping and banking, the facilitation of easier use of public transport, etc. This all contributes to reducing energy usage and therefore emissions.

The IoT

The IoT (Internet of Things) is a network of internet-connected objects that are able to collect and exchange data using sensor technologies. It holds great potential when it comes to monitoring and reducing energy emissions. Improved connectivity, more responsive sensors and the ability to more rapidly process data have the potential to create energy efficiencies across a huge variety of industries. 

For example, as networks become more efficient they'll be able to more accurately monitor and manage energy usage, lighting, air conditioning, and other operations so that they can be utilized more efficiently. Devices within the network will be able to make decisions autonomously based on real-time information.

Early warning systems

More accurate real-time data plays an important role in providing early warnings for climate-related disasters such as heat waves or flooding. This can facilitate actions that prevent the worst effects of these events, for example, evacuation or other measures to prepare the affected area. 

An effective public warning system forms part of the early warning system by alerting the affected population to imminent danger. Cell broadcast systems allow for fast and reliable warning messages to be sent out to personal devices thereby alerting the public.

Post-disaster resilience

Digital technology isn't just useful to warn communities about an imminent climate-related threat, it can also help to deal with the fall-out. For example, technology can help to gather accurate information about the situation quickly. It can also be used to facilitate digital volunteerism - ie. where volunteers can help out without actually being on the ground in the affected area.

Smart farming

Smart farming utilizes technology such as drones, satellites, and sensors to collect and share data on crops, livestock, and other agricultural activities. It can help farmers to optimize their production processes and can also support them as they adapt to the changing climate.

African farmer ploughing dry land

Examples of projects funded by the GSMA Fund

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of projects that the GSMA Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation has supported:

Aquareach - Kenya

Climate change is causing increased fluctuations in water temperatures, which is making it difficult for fish farmers to know how much they need to feed their fish stock. Some species of fish only eat when the water is within a certain temperature range, which means that fish farmers have to manually check the water temperatures - something that's time-consuming and not particularly accurate, resulting in smaller fish stocks and longer production cycles. 

Aquareach leverages mobile technology to address this challenge. The GSMA Fund provided financing to expand its outreach, as well as assistance to enhance its mobile application.

lake in Kenya with flamingos

BaKhabar Kissan - Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change. It lacks weather data stations which leaves farming communities particularly vulnerable as they’re unable to anticipate weather changes. 

BaKhabar Kissan aims to solve this issue by giving farmers access to more accurate weather information, agricultural experts, and information on the most effective methods of farming, all accessible through SMS, call, and WhatsApp.

flooded field

Komunidad - Philippines

The Philippines is experiencing worsening cyclones thanks to climate change, which presents a threat to the population and also results in significant damage to communities and infrastructure. 

Komunidad uses a data-driven approach to integrate early warning systems, environmental intelligence, and mobile warning systems to better prepare local communities.

Lightening and stormy sky

What’s next for the GSMA Fund?

Since its creation in 2021, the GSMA Fund has been able to support a number of businesses and start-ups across the world to build climate change resilience in vulnerable communities. 

In February 2023, the GSMA announced its intentions to continue this good work. At the Mobile World Congress that took place in Barcelona, the GSMA revealed the launch of the GSMA Innovation Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation 2.0. 

This is the second round of funding and new applicants are invited to submit their applications to receive grants and support as they work to mobilize digital innovation that helps vulnerable populations adapt, anticipate, and absorb the negative impacts of climate change. 

What about Greenly? 

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If you’d like to learn more about a specific industry, Greenly can help by providing an in-depth industry study, created by our climate scientists.

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