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Connect everyone and everything to a better future

Globally almost 4.8 billion men and women subscribe to a mobile service – almost two-thirds of the world’s population – and this is expected to reach 5.6 billion people in 2020.

The mobile industry is also connecting billions of people to the internet; mobile is the dominant platform for internet access in many parts of the world, given the lack of alternative infrastructure. By the end of the decade, just under 60 per cent of the global population will be on the mobile internet, but this also means that 40 per cent of the world still will not have access.

We must change this and it’s something our industry is very focused on, to extend network coverage to rural areas, improve affordability of mobile services, deliver locally relevant content, and increase digital skills and literacy.

But it’s not just about connectivity, though that is a very important first step; it’s about what this connectivity enables. It really is about connecting everyone and everything to a better future.

As an industry, we have an opportunity to leverage the mobile networks we have built and the services we deliver to help achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). With a far-reaching and ambitious agenda, the goals truly define what this “better future” will be.

In February 2016, the mobile industry became the first sector to commit to the SDGs. In September, at the UN General Assembly week, we published the 2016 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals, which provides an assessment of the mobile industry’s current impact in achieving the SDGs and outlines future actions that will expand and strengthen impact.

This first-of-its-kind report offers critical insights into the transformative impact of the mobile industry on individuals, societies and economies around the world, in developed and developing markets. Further, it establishes a benchmark through which we will measure the industry’s progress in contributing to the SDGs by 2030 and serves as a blueprint for other industries as they commit to achieving the goals.

We have an opportunity to leverage the mobile networks we have built and the services we deliver to help achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals

The report finds that the mobile industry impacts all 17 goals to varying degrees, with the greatest effect being felt
on SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 13 (climate action). Mobile operators and players across the ecosystem are already delivering a vast range of programmes and initiatives that contribute to achieving the SDGs.

SDG 1 (no poverty): Today more than 400 million people have access to financial services via their phone, with mobile money services available in more than 90 countries. The mobile industry is committed to continue to develop new mobile money products, such as international remittances, for developing world consumers who need them most.

SDG 5 (gender equality): The mobile industry is focused on increasing women’s access to and use of mobile services in low and middle-income countries around the world. Since its launch in February, 18 operators representing more than 90 million customers have joined the Connected Women Commitment Initiative to close the gender gap in mobile internet and mobile money services.

SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth): The mobile industry is a major contributor to the world’s economy. The mobile ecosystem added $3.1 trillion in economic value to the global economy in 2015, equivalent to 4.2 per cent of GDP, a figure predicted to rise to $3.7 trillion by 2020. The industry also directly and indirectly supported 32 million jobs in 2015 and contributed $430 billion to public funding in the form of various types of taxation.

SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities): The mobile industry is committed to leveraging technology and expertise to ensure that communication is possible in disasters and humanitarian crises, such as reconnecting families displaced by conflict in Syria or supporting the response following the recent devastating earthquake in Italy. Endorsed by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the GSMA’s Humanitarian Connectivity Charter now has 103 mobile network operators across 76 countries, committed to ensuring network resilience and supporting subscribers during times of crisis.

The GSMA study also identified three primary ways the mobile industry can accelerate progress on SDGs: expand the global mobile network footprint and connect subscribers to voice and data services; enhance the quality of connectivity and ease of access, and innovate mobile-enabled services to meet sustainable development needs; and contribute to sustainable development policy alongside governments and agencies. The 2016 Mobile Industry Impact Report forms a baseline to measure the industry’s progress against the SDGs, and we’ll publish updates on an annual basis.

In addition to publishing the report, we have partnered with the United Nations and Project Everyone to develop and launch the official SDGs in Action mobile app, creating a community for industry, governments and individual citizens to work together in delivering the SDGs. Users can get details on each of the 17 goals, including the associated SDG targets, as well as explanatory videos, case studies and data, and suggestions on how people can take action to help achieve them. The app also enables individuals to highlight the activities they are undertaking in support of the SDGs and to invite their social networks to get involved.

Mobile networks are transforming the world as we know it and are a revolutionary force in overturning the status quo. They are also essential in achieving the SDGs, whether it’s ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all, achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls, making cities and settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, or helping to combat climate change and its impacts. Working together as an industry, with other sectors, governments and key stakeholders, I do believe we can make a real difference in people’s lives.