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Mobilising positive change for millions around the world – our latest investment in Viamo

Posted 17th September 2021

GIF is excited to announce a $1.5 million investment in Viamo, a social enterprise that improves access to information, education and vital services by making it accessible for governments, multilateral agencies, and civil society organisations to communicate with disconnected stakeholders through innovative mobile technology in local languages.

With more than three billion people without internet access, around half of the world’s population lack a vital communication channel. This leaves many organisations struggling to engage with unconnected essential audiences as they cannot always disseminate important information – including public health messaging related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using any mobile phone, Viamo’s platform provides mass communication solutions that can instantly reach across distance, language and literacy barriers to deliver life enhancing, and in some cases, life-saving information targeted to vulnerable populations in emerging markets – a mother can receive maternal health information from a local clinic; a policy-maker can study the supply chain and efficacy of vaccinations; urban planners can monitor water usage and distribution to better map service delivery throughout a community.

The company has built a range of mobile and web tools to help organisations design, implement and measure mobile engagement campaigns that reach previously ‘media-dark communities’, including its flagship Interactive Voice Response (IVR) which has proven to be a powerful tool to reach those on the other side of the digital divide, often without smartphones or with low levels of literacy. The IVR tool does not require people to read or write, to speak English, to own a smartphone or to download an application.

As part of Viamo’s COVID-19 response work, the company has:

  • Run IVR information services in 20 countries, reaching more than 20 million listeners with more than 80 million key messages
  • Carried out targeted surveys to understand the impact of COVID-19 on food security, mental health and violence, school disruptions, and other areas
  • Created programmes for the remote training of healthcare workers

Viamo works with its partners to ensure strong outreach is carried out for hard to reach groups, such as women and girls, and has delivered messaging targeted towards women covering  nutrition, and maternal and child health.

Viamo has also supported climate mitigation efforts around the globe with mobile solutions that include global health and agriculture training, climate-smart curricula, and environmental disaster assistance. These interventions have increased the adoption of sustainable and profitable agronomic practices.

The Viamo team intend to develop their work to track the effectiveness of messaging and continue to build evidence around engagement. As such, Viamo closely monitors user engagement and is innovating new methods to induce action. This is an area in which GIF is excited to share behavioural expertise and knowledge to generate greater impact to our target market.

So far the company has partnered with more than 300 enterprise clients operating in more than 30 countries across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. 28 million people have been reached in the last 18 months alone and Viamo’s ambition is to reach one billion people in the next 10 years.

GIF Investment Director Avinash Mishra said: “GIF’s target beneficiaries are often excluded from the information economy and valuable life-improving information on account of lack of access to traditional media, internet enabled devices and literacy constraints. From accurate public health messaging, especially in current times, to remote education and training, Viamo’s platform and services ensure vital information reaches isolated populations and empowers them to make informed decisions and improve their lives. We are delighted to partner with Viamo as they continue their mission to better connect individuals and organisations in emerging markets.”

Viamo CEO David McAfee said: “Where technology infrastructure is poor but the need for incoming information is high, Viamo has deployed  our mobile platform solutions to meet the needs of disconnected citizens. We have operated on the frontlines of Information and Communications Technology for Development for nearly 10 years.  More than 30 million people used our platform last year to access life enhancing and sometimes even life saving information, during the COVID-19 pandemic.  And the vast majority did so using their own simple mobile phones.. In this next chapter and at a crucial time in our history, we are delighted to receive the support of GIF and their vision to support social innovation to resolve critical and unique development challenges. We look forward to growing towards our goal of reaching 100 million users by 2024 together.”

For GIF this investment is made under ADVANCE, our partnership with Unilever which provides a way to unlock private sector investment needed to scale new business models for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which present new market opportunities and new jobs. Unilever hopes to harness Viamo’s method of mass community engagement as an important tool to help deliver their development programmes and amplify the impact of their products.

GIF is leading Viamo’s $5 million Series A round, which will drive the expansion of the depth and breadth of its operations in current and new markets, alongside co-investors Export Development Canada, SaskWorks Venture Fund and existing investor VestedWorld. GIFs experience and portfolio in applied behavioural economics and nudges, as well as social franchising models, provides strong support to Viamo in further translating information sharing into tangible positive behaviours and outcomes.