The global mobile industry is demonstrating significant and measurable impact in contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is strengthening its commitment to improving lives around the world, according to a new GSMA study. The 2018 edition of the GSMA’s annual ‘Mobile Industry Impact’ report, published at the UN General Assembly this week, found that the industry has continued to increase its contribution against all 17 Goals since mobile become the first sector in the world to commit to delivery of the SDGs in 2016. This growing impact reflects mobile’s unprecedented global scale, which provides a platform to connect unconnected communities, reduce poverty, improve access to healthcare and education, and drive sustainable economic growth.
“More than two-thirds of the people on the planet are now connected to a mobile network and, for many, mobile is the primary – sometimes only – channel for accessing the internet and life-enhancing services,” commented Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “Today’s report reiterates how the mobile industry is playing a central role in accelerating delivery of the SDGs and leveraging the power of mobile networks and services to transform lives around the world.”
Measuring Mobile’s Impact and Turning Commitment into Action
The Mobile Industry Impact study uses a proprietary methodology to assign an ‘impact score’ to measure the industry’s contribution to each of the 17 Goals. In every case, the scores have improved year-on-year since 2015 as mobile operators worldwide increasingly embed the SDGs into their core values, strategies, policies and services, transforming the industry’s commitment to the SDGs into real-world initiatives that are delivering measurable results.
According to the report, the mobile industry’s greatest impact is currently on SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), a result of near-universal mobile network coverage that is driving new business models in areas such as the sharing economy, mobile savings and credit, and pay-as-you-go solar models to access clean energy. However, since 2015, the industry has increased its impact most substantially against SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being). A key driver of the higher impact on these three Goals relates to the use of mobile phones and networks to provide essential humanitarian assistance during epidemics and natural or climate-related disasters.
The study highlights a number of examples of where exceptional progress has been made over the last three years:
- More than 5 billion people are today connected to a mobile network, equivalent to roughly two-thirds (66 per cent) of the world’s population, up from 4.6 million at the end of 2015, which means that the industry has added more than 400 million unique mobile subscribers over this period.
- Almost 600 million additional people, the vast majority from low- and middle-income countries, have begun using mobile internet services since 2015, bringing the total to 3.3 billion at the end of 2017. By the end of this decade, it is forecast that half of the world’s population will accessing the internet via their phones, up from 36 per cent in 2015.
- More than 250 million people have started to use mobile money since 2015, enabling access to a range of financial services to those who would otherwise be excluded from the banking system and bringing the total number of mobile money accounts to nearly 700 million at the end of 2017.
- There are now more than 750,000 education-related apps available on smartphones, up 62 per cent from 2015, resulting in 1.2 billion people using mobile to improve their education or the education of their children, and also bridging the gender gap in access to education.
- In 2017, signatories to the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter provided essential humanitarian assistance to more than 30 million people during epidemics and natural disasters, for example, in the aftermaths of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the monsoon floods in Nepal.
- Since 2015, more than 1 million households have installed solar home systems using a mobile-enabled pay-as you-go model, bringing them clean and affordable access to electricity.
- Five million more people have begun used mobile-enabled agricultural services supported by the GSMA’s mNutrition Initiative since 2015, giving farmers access to vital information that allows them to improve agricultural productivity and incomes.
“The 2030 deadline to meet the SDGs may seem a distant horizon today, but it is critical that all stakeholders – governments, the mobile industry and other sectors – take concerted and urgent action now to further accelerate progress,” added Granryd. “We must continue to develop initiatives that connect the unconnected and drive mobile internet adoption, while scaling up the mobile-enabled products and services that are providing real-world solutions to developmental challenges.”
The 2018 Mobile Industry Impact Report was authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA. The report provides summaries on mobile’s impact on all 17 SDGs, alongside in-depth analysis on five selected SDGs that showcase innovative case studies of operator initiatives supporting the Goals.
As part of its commitment to the SDGs, the GSMA is working closely with the industry, policymakers, and the international development community to help connect the unconnected and to identify new opportunities to leverage and scale mobile-enabled solutions that improve people’s quality of life. This work is being done through several ongoing GSMA programmes and initiatives, including Mobile for Development, which identifies opportunities and delivers innovations with socioeconomic impact in financial services, health, agriculture, digital identity, energy, water, sanitation, disaster resilience and gender equality; Big Data for Social Good; and We Care.
About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with over 350 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces the industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as the Mobile 360 Series of regional conferences.
For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com. Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.