The GSMA, the mobile industry’s trade association, has released the Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT), an open source toolkit for training first time smartphone users. An initiative of their Mobile for Development team, it aims to help the estimated 3.8 billion people not yet connected to the Internet, opening the opportunities of a connected world.

Targeting Digital Skills

In its November 2014 Digital Inclusion report, the GSMA identified 4 key barriers to entry for mobile internet adoption in developing countries:

  • Affordability
  • Network coverage
  • Digital Skills
  • Locally relevant content

From its research and outreach, the GSMA knew that people must know how the mobile Internet can benefit their lives before they want to join it. And, they must also understand how to use it before locally relevant content becomes valuable to them.

Customer Awareness Journey

Customer Awareness Journey, GSMA

With this in mind, the idea of a toolkit to help mobile networks operators, NGOs, development organisations and governments was born.

The MISTT focuses on teaching Internet basics and digital skills training to first time smartphone users with the goal of helping people understand the positive impact that comes with access to the mobile Internet, leading to increased adoption.

For organisations implementing the training, the GSMA designed the toolkit to be adaptable to regional needs and scaleable for widespread implementation.

To start the process of developing the digital skills training, the GSMA identified India as the ideal place for the MISTT pilot, in part because of the increasing availability of inexpensive Android smartphones.

Developing the MISTT

The GSMA together with its market research partners based in London and India, conducted 6 focus groups in India to test and refine their toolkit prototype for the interests and needs of training recipients. The focus groups included men and women, 20 to 50 years of age, from rural, peri-urban and urban locations who used feature phones or smartphones but were either low-level or non-users of the mobile Internet.

With learnings from the focus groups in hand, the prototype toolkit was developed focusing on 3 main components:

  1. What is the mobile Internet?
    Many people interviewed believed that the Internet was only Facebook and failed to understand how it could help them in their daily lives. For instance, a man who ran a store didn’t know he could shop online to improve his stock and provide better options for his community.
  2. Functionality
    Understanding what the icons mean, what actions can be done and where you are taken was vital to overcoming fears or hesitation of using a smartphone. The focus groups proved that once the smartphone is in hand, users become more inquisitive, start experimenting and quickly gain confidence. Starting with teaching participants how to take a selfie and send it to family or a friend far away, demonstrates the immediacy of the mobile Internet.
  3. Local Content
    The majority of content on the Internet is in English. This poses a problem for those whose first (and often only) language is not English and is even more challenging if the person is only partially, or completely, illiterate. This led to choosing WhatsApp, Google and YouTube as the apps included in the MISTT based on voice interfaces and the availability of multilingual content.

GSMA Focus Group

Testing the Prototype

Live testing of the toolkit’s framework and specific training modules began. The GSMA hosted 65 men and women from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and mobile Internet experience in Maharashtra, India. This ‘train the trainer session’ included community workers from NGO partner Digital Empowerment Foundation, as well as trainers from mobile partners Idea Cellular and Telenor India.

Once the trainers were ready, the live testing continued over 2 days with actual training workshops for participants to validate the usefulness of the MISTT and ensure that it met their needs. Small groups of 6, divided by gender with no more than 3 people sharing a smartphone were taken through all of the modules of the toolkit, while trainers encouraged discussion and observed how recipients liked to learn.

What’s in the Toolkit?

The live testing and validation of the content and training approach led the GSMA to further refinements to the MISTT. The kit aims to teach 5 key things:

  1. Basics about what the mobile Internet is and can do
  2. How to use WhatsApp
  3. How to use YouTube
  4. How to use Google
  5. Information about data costs and safety

Two approaches were included in the toolkit, based on who would be implementing training and how much time was available.

  • The ‘Bitesize’ section is meant for mobile network operators to outline the basics of one of the 5 modules to a new client within 2 – 3 minutes.
  • The in-depth section is intended for NGOs who can take 45 to 60 minutes per module for more comprehensive training.

One clear result of the live training test run was the inclusion of additional visuals including step-by-step screenshots and arrows for instructions, icons, and handout pages for training.

MISTT WhatsApp TrainingKeeping the kit as visual as possible helps to overcome literacy constraints that some participants might have. The MISTT is currently available in English and Hindi, however, the GSMA encourages organisations to translate it according to their needs.


Understanding how gender plays a culturally-specific role in India, the toolkit’s posters feature women and men individually, allowing trainers to target participants appropriately.

GSMA hindi woman

GSMA hindi man








Moving Forward

Like Next 3B, the GSMA has demonstrated that creating innovative partnerships between mobile industry players and NGOs who are experienced in community work is a powerful combination. The GSMA, with their partners, have made a valuable contribution to the movement to create real change in the lives of people in developing nations through the mobile Internet and we are excited to see the impact that the MISTT creates.

Download the Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit and the How To Guide, in English or Hindi, here.

Our thanks go to Sarah Crampsie and Madeleine Karlsson from GSMA’s Connected Society Programme who gave their time to assist with this blog post.