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VAS Vendors: The M4D Partners You Did Not Know You Were Missing

By Guest Writer on July 22, 2015


Imagine gaining 200K subscribers in two weeks in Zimbabwe or reaching 11 million subscribers in Bihar, India through a mobile for development program. Either would be a crowning achievement in international development, and both are possible by working with Value Added Service (VAS) vendors. Yet most development organizations don’t even know what VAS vendors are, much less their significance in M4D programs.

RSVP now for an upcoming Technology Salon DC on How to Work with VAS Vendors for M4D Impact.

What Are Value Added Services (VAS)?

In the mobile industry, VAS are services offered in addition to mobile network operators’ (MNOs) core services of voice, SMS and data. Most M4D services would be generally considered VAS by the mobile industry. ‘VAS vendor’ is a catch-all term, which includes any third party organisation or supplier with whom MNOs work to create, integrate, launch and maintain the VAS offered to their subscribers. VAS vendors often have close relationships with all of the MNOs in their countries of operation and are behind some of the most viral mobile services in the world’s toughest markets.

However, the development sector rarely partners with them. Until now, mutual knowledge gaps and unclear partnership guidelines have kept M4D actors and VAS vendors from exploiting the enormous potential their collaboration could have for the social impact, scale and sustainability the M4D sector seeks to achieve.

Role of VAS Vendors in Mobile for Development


Therefore, GSMA Mobile for Development Impact and DAI have partnered to produce, “The Role of VAS Vendors in Mobile for Development”, a new report that seeks to shed light on this important pathway for impact. The report articulates why VAS vendors are important in the M4D value chain, shares the mutual benefits of closer collaboration between the development community and VAS vendors, and offers actionable guidelines to support better working relationships between these groups.

For those less familiar with who and what VAS vendors are, the report outlines great resources to get started today working VAS vendors, including:

  • A background guide to VAS.
  • Links to a list of VAS vendors.
  • Considerations for selecting a VAS vendor.

Our research found that leaning on a partner VAS vendor’s strong operator relationships, existing infrastructure, and understanding of the local mobile ecosystem is a smart way for development actors to hedge risk, while also creating a pathway for commercial sustainability.

With the increased sector-wide focus on market driven solutions, private sector partnerships and localized content, we all should be looking to partner with local private sector companies who have the nuanced market knowledge necessary for user-focused localized content production.

VAS vendors are a key part of the commercial mobile ecosystem worldwide: MNOs use VAS vendors to deliver the majority of their VAS. We hope this report is a first step toward making them a key part of the M4D ecosystem as well.

If you’ve read this far, you really should RSVP now for How to Work with VAS Vendors for M4D Impact.

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One Comment to “VAS Vendors: The M4D Partners You Did Not Know You Were Missing”

  1. Mireille Nsimire says:

    Toltaly agree with you on the fact that , the M4D services would be generally considered VAS by the mobile industry. This was the approach we’d used to convince to convince Airtel one Network to implement our Innovative mobile finance services for farmers developed by The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
    However another way to convince the Mobile operator, his to design your own application ( I mean the development organizations) need to develop first the application which will be implement under VAS in different Mobil industry.
    I trust that the saloon will be a great opportunity to pursue further exchange about the topic.
    Mireille Nsimire
    ICT Specialist-International Institute of Tropical Agriculture/ http://www.iita.org