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Mobile Industry Continues To Close The Digital Divide Accelerating Global Impact Across All SDGs, Says GSMA Report

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By Emmanuel Oluebube, Correspondent UK

For the fifth year in a row the mobile industry has increased its impact across all 17 SDGs enabling essential services for people and businesses. 2019 was the industry’s most impactful year as the industry increased its SDG impact score by 4.7 percentage points. With over half of the world’s population in lockdown this year, the world’s dependence on digital technology to access essential communications has become acutely evident.

The rapid expansion of mobile coverage in recent years resulted in 5.1 billion individuals using a mobile phone and 3.8 billion using mobile internet. Compared to 2015 levels, this represents an increase of 600 million and 1.1 billion people respectively. We are making headway in closing the digital divide through robust investment made by the mobile industry.

Despite these efforts, there is more to do. The UN is calling the next ten years, the Decade of Action. Mobile technology is fast becoming a fundamental part of our lives, yet 600 million people are still without mobile coverage. The usage gap is larger and prevents people from benefitting from the vital services offered by mobile technology. Addressing both is critical as the report highlights that increased adoption and usage of mobile services drives a better and more sustainable future for all. A failure to close the digital divide will not only accentuate the challenges of global inequality but will also likely result in an uneven recovery from the effects of COVID-19.

“Mobile technology remains a critical force in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. We are seeing many examples of this as we work through unprecedented times.” said Director- General of the GSMA. “As an industry, we are uniquely positioned to drive significant economic, social, and environmental gains. We will continue to build a more inclusive world during this Decade of Action by collaborating across the ecosystem to accelerate impact.”

The report emphasises that operators have an opportunity to build on their existing efforts and work with governments and other partners to drive positive, global impact. It also outlines some of the specific calls to action for each SDG, ranging from enhancing digital literacy skills for women and girls to reduce gender inequality to licensing sufficient and affordable spectrum to spur the building of resilient infrastructure.

The mobile industry has been contributing to economic and social development for more than two decades by bringing connectivity to people and enabling essential services like Mobile Money, Digital Identity, Education mHealth and Internet of Things. As we begin the Decade of Action, there has never been a more critical moment to accelerate digitisation.

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