Blue screen, red text GIF reads: We provide grant funding between £100,000 and £250,000
Blue screen, red text GIF reads: We provide grant funding between £100,000 and £250,000
GSMA Innovation Fund for Assistive Tech is open for applications now.

On 7th September, the GSMA Innovation Fund for Assistive Tech launched thanks to our partners and donor, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). The GSMA will be one of the few programmes providing both mentorship and grant funding of GBP 100,000 to GBP 250,000 (read more about other opportunities here).

To be eligible innovators must be tackling one of the GSMA’s 5 primary barriers to digital inclusion for persons with disabilities. Here’s a bit more information about the barriers and what they mean:

1. Access

Access — increasing accessibility and usability of handsets and mobile services for persons with disabilities.

Simple everyday tasks can be painfully time-consuming or impossible when services aren’t accessible. Making services more accessible is not always straight forward. For example, voice command allows people with visual impairments to navigate and operate a phone. Most of these solutions have been designed for English speaking users, so algorithms may not necessarily work for other languages or local dialects. …


The events of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated connectivity is a fundamental human right. Never before has it been so important for people across the world to receive daily health information, call for assistance or access education online.

During the past nine months there has been a global acceleration of systems and services which have had to become ‘digital by default’. Some countries, like Estonia have seen relative success, while others are leaving behind citizens who can’t always access vital government services.

Oftentimes, in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs), these inequalities are significantly exacerbated for citizens most in need of assistance. Generalising, this is particularly true for persons with disabilities as well as IDPs and refugees. Without innovation and investment those who are typically marginalised by society risk being completely excluded as COVID-19 accelerates the digitisation of society. …


This blog post was co-authored by Rhys Williams (Assistive Tech (AT) Impact Fund and Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub), and is a collaboration between ARTILAB Foundation, AT Impact Fund, GSMA Assistive Tech and Innovate Now. Innovate Now and the AT Impact Fund have been launched out of the UK Aid funded AT2030 programme led by the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub.

ARTILAB Foundation, AT Impact Fund, GSMA Assistive Tech, Innovate Now, together are catalysing the emergence of the assistive technology innovation ecosystem in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Together the ambition is to lift the lid on this exciting emerging tech sector, support its growth and demonstrate global leadership on assistive technology. In this article you will learn more about assistive technology (AT) and these four initiatives supporting the ecosystem. …


Digital Assistive Tech (digital AT), according to the GSMA, are “frontier technologies and applications of ICTs that support persons with disabilities to live independently and fully participate in society. These include digital technologies that do not require a mobile phone as well as those that rely on mobile.”

Digital AT is vital because the events of 2020 have demonstrated ever more clearly that being digitally connected is critical, sometimes just for survival.

As COVID-19 cases continue to peak and trough on global charts, access to daily health information is paramount. …


Lumkani is one of the first projects to receive funding in Round 1, via the GSMA’s Disaster Response Innovation Fund. The Lumkani team seek to address the challenge of fires in urban informal settlements and townships in South Africa and across the globe. The challenge is a big one; over the past decade an estimated 250,000+ South African residents have been displaced from their homes through fire outbreaks. These events are especially devastating during the dry and winter seasons experienced in the country.

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Lumkani have rolled out IoT heat detection devices which mitigate fire risk inside homes and neighbourhoods in South Africa’s most vulnerable settlements through a networked alarm. The fire devices give autonomous, real-time monitoring and two-way SMS alerts to residents allowing the verification of fire events instantly. …


June 2019 | Rosie Afia

It is true that “pure” market first solutions or Silicon Valley-style innovation is rarely appropriate in refugee contexts, and the “fail fast” attitude is often at odds with the humanitarian principal of ‘do no harm’.

However, business and humanitarian principles are not irreconcilable and one does not always have to take precedent at the cost of the other. It is possible to innovate ethically although it takes time and investment. …


Late 2018, I visited 6 refugee settlements across Uganda and Zambia in search of innovative businesses serving people of concern / refugees though digital technology. Here are a few reflections from my visits:

1. Opportunities for Mobile Money in humanitarian contexts are prolific — and we’re still at the start.

The potential for humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVAs) to have meaningful impact through mobile money continues to be a vision worth pursuing.

However, according to our discussions with applicants, significant challenges remain for organisations aiming to disburse aid via mobile money in East Africa.

Examples include:

  • Lengthy contracting processes on both sides (humanitarian organisations and private sector players, like mobile operators)
  • Challenges in finding and engaging with “the right contact” within a private sector…

About

Rosie Afia Ford

Digital Innovation. Humanitarian Optimist. Advocate for Inclusion and Adventure Nomad.

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