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Opportunities for Social Innovation Services in Latin America & The Caribbean

Through widespread and rapid adoption, mobile technology is uniquely positioned to drive economic, environmental and social change on a global scale. Mobile-enabled, social innovation services offering users access to services in areas such as employment, health, education and finance will play a significant role in affecting this change.

Harnessing mobile network operator (MNO) assets over and above the vital, basic connectivity they offer – assets such as billing relationships with large subscriber bases, marketing channels and distribution networks – will be key to realising the full potential of mobile for commercial and social impact.

While Latin America and the Caribbean have seen significant economic development over the last couple of decades, many people still lack access to quality essential services. 80% of the population has access to, or individually own, a mobile phone, through which access to financial, utilities, employment, education and other services can be offered to the underserved at scale.

However, 53% of the region is a mobile subscriber, with the vast majority of the unconnected in lower-income segments. This presents a challenge and an opportunity for regional MNOs, as falling average revenue per user (ARPU) and subscriber growth means that they will need to find stronger, more innovative strategies. MNOs are likely to have to rely on future growth being generated by lower-income consumers, and new types of services will be required to acquire these new customers. Crucially though, these low-income customers must see very clearly how paying for mobile services will have a positive benefit on their lives, and therefore be offered genuine value-for-money.

Given the difficulties in discovering commercial opportunities, Latin American and Caribbean MNOs must remain open to innovative opportunities in sectors such as employment, health and financial access, since there remains significant room for MNOs to drive social innovation services.