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Mobile's positive impact on sustainability

The report, published at the UN General Assembly Week, also notes further commitments and initiatives to be delivered over the coming year

Mobile operators are also deploying solutions to drive greater inclusion in cities
Mobile operators are also deploying solutions to drive greater inclusion in cities

The GSMA’s second annual study, which assesses the mobile industry’s impact in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), finds the industry has increased its impact across all 17 SDGs with one of the areas of greatest improvement being sustainable cities and communities.


The other areas were: industry, innovation and infrastructure; climate action; and good health and wellbeing.


The 2017 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals also noted several commitments and initiatives that the trade body and its members will focus on delivering over the next year, which will reportedly contribute to further success with the SDGs.


“Mobile operators around the world are working to deploy mobile-enabled solutions that drive greater inclusion in cities and remote communities, enable access to essential services such as health and education, create employment opportunities and empower people with the tools to reduce poverty and inequality,” said Mats Granryd, director general, GSMA.


“I am proud of the strong progress that we are making, but we must continue to amplify and accelerate our collective efforts to realise the promise of the sustainable development goals.”


The study identified three key trends that contributed to the positive progress:

  • Better networks: mobile operators have invested heavily in expanding infrastructure and improving quality of service. As of the end of 2016, more than half the world’s population was within reach of a 4G network, while nearly 85 per cent had access to 3G networks. With broader coverage, improved network quality and increased resilience, mobile networks also play a critical role before and during epidemics, conflicts and natural or climate-related disasters, supporting emergency communication and broadcast services and providing accurate and timely information on the movement of affected populations;
  • Greater connectivity: operators continue to connect the unconnected. At the end of 2016, the total number of mobile subscribers reached 4.8 billion and 3.5 billion people used mobile to access the internet. The benefits of this are wide-ranging, with connectivity driving improvements in economic growth through improved productivity, infrastructure development and efficiency. Operators have been particularly proactive in pursuing more innovative solutions to roll out mobile networks in remote areas, making mobile services more affordable to the poorest individuals and driving efforts to accelerate digital inclusion for women;
  • Increased use of mobile: users are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they use mobile devices and are starting to access more advanced mobile-enabled services. In 2016, the number of registered mobile money accounts surpassed half a billion, giving users greater access to financial services that enable them to make investments and manage expenses. Additionally, the number of social media users on mobile reached 2.5 billion, helping promote social and political inclusion and facilitating the development of education networks.

Nonetheless even with this positive momentum, the GSMA cautioned that mobile operators and the broader mobile ecosystem still have much to do towards contributing to achieving the SDGs.


In the report, the GSMA outlined several commitments and initiatives that the industry will be focusing on over the next year to drive further progress against the SDGs, including:

  • Big data for social good: this initiative leverages mobile operators’ big data capabilities to address humanitarian crises, including epidemics and natural disasters;
  • National dialogues for digital impact: this initiative focuses on delivering the SDGs at a local level, through work with key government ministries and leaders of the mobile industry
  • We Care Campaign: in Latin America and the Caribbean, 45 mobile operators in 13 countries have joined forces to ensure that users can enjoy the transformative benefits of mobile technology in a safe and reliable environment;
  • Connected Women Commitment Initiative: this initiative supports mobile operator efforts in low- and middle-income countries to reduce the gender gap in mobile internet and mobile money by 2020;
  • IoT Big Data: the GSMA is working to establish an IoT Big Data Ecosystem to encourage a common approach to data sharing that will help IoT realise its full potential and encourage the development of new projects across transport, the environment and smart cities;
  • GSMA mobile for development initiatives: working with a range of stakeholders, GSMA Mobile for Development is leading a number of projects to drive progress across the SDGs, in areas such as disaster response, mobile money, utilities, agriculture and health, among others;
  • Partnerships for the goals: partnerships with different entities, including the UN, will look at new business models and mechanisms to support the implementation of the SDGs, and engage governments and mobile industry leaders to increase the positive social impact of mobile technologies.

“From services such as mobile money and mobile agriculture, to the Internet of Things and the 5G networks of the future, we’re making a difference to the lives of people around the world and helping to preserve and protect our planet,” added Granryd.


“Of course, this is not something we can accomplish alone as individuals, as companies, even as an industry; we must work together, united, to make the 2030 agenda a reality.”


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