The GSM Association (GSMA) has launched a platform which will aggregate data on the mobile communications ecosystem in the developing countries so as to help companies develop services to meet the real needs in particular markets.
Economic development experts see ensuring the availability of data on the mobile communications industry in the emerging world as an effective means of fostering innovation, and so furthering development, in those countries. Accordingly the World Bank launched in 2010 a call for projects creating mobile applications for aggregating and making freely available the development-related data which has been accumulating over the years. Now the GSMA has adopted the same principle with the launch, in conjunction with Omidyar Network, of the Mobile and Development Intelligence (MDI) project, which is intended to provide an open-access portal for mobile data. The GSMA has aggregated data from various sources including the World Bank, the United Nations and other Development organisations. "Open access to high-quality data will improve business decision-making, increase total investment from both the commercial mobile industry and the development sector and amplify economic, environmental and social impact," explained Chris Locke, Managing Director of the GSMA Development Fund.
Focus on mobile healthcare and mobile money data
The MDI portal will provide open access to aggregated data on mobile communications services and their impact on development - mobile healthcare and mobile banking being two key examples. Such data will include the number of connections in a given country, network area coverage, existence of a mobile payments service, plus more general demographic and infrastructure-related data on the rate of electrification, the number of Internet users, etc. The basic aim is to improve understanding of the mobile ecosystem and so foster the development of new services. A company contemplating providing a mobile payments service in a given country might for instance choose instead to launch a mobile healthcare application there if the data reveals such a gap in the market. MDI is already able to provide over 70 metrics on more than 140 developing countries and this capability is set to expand as the project progresses. Anyone wishing to obtain access to the portal is simply asked to create a profile on the site.
Tabulating the information
The MDI portal hosts over 800 profiles of organisations worldwide and lists some 750 products and services, with a strong initial focus on mobile money and mobile health. MDI provides the capability to view, tabulate, graph, map and export datasets organised by country or by category. Raj Gollamudi, Director of Investments at Omidyar Network, which is partnering the GSMA, points out that this “credible and trusted source of market data” should enable “greater collaboration across various sectors” of the mobile communications industry in emerging markets and “drive incremental investments in the most promising opportunities.” Mr Gollamudi eventually sees the MDI “becoming a vibrant community for all players in the ecosystem.”