LONDON, March 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The GSMA today announced the launch of the Mobile Enabled Community Services (MECS) programme, which leverages mobile technology and infrastructure to help improve access to basic energy and water services in underserved communities. The new programme is supported by a £4.1million grant from the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID), which works to alleviate global poverty by delivering UK aid around the world. Currently 1.3 billion people, nearly 20 per cent of the world's population, are without access to energy 1 and 783 million people, 10 per cent of world's population, do not have access to 'improved' water resources 2. This gap is due to challenges such as last mile distribution, operation and maintenance capabilities and costs, and payment ability and collection. MECS will facilitate access to affordable and reliable energy and clean water, which is vital for health and wellbeing and can also help reduce poverty and drive economic growth. "More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes according to the WHO," said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Mobile for Development. "Mobile penetration in the developing world has risen exponentially in the last decade; for instance, in Africa, we estimate that mobile will reach 76 per cent of the population by 2014. Through mobile technology, we will be able to support and improve the provision and maintenance of energy and water services, providing a critical resource to underserved communities." The DFID grant will back a two-year programme within MECS, which will be implemented by the GSMA's Mobile for Development division, to support the creation of new, innovative mobile-enabled technologies and business models to improve access to energy and water services. DFID and the GSMA will also launch a Challenge Fund open to the mobile industry, start-ups, academia and the not-for-profit sector, which will provide seed funding to companies for research to identify and develop pioneering solutions to overcome the challenges and obstacles to community service provision.