Mobile creating a #BetterFuture: Digital Inclusion for All

Only half of the world has internet access. The social and economic future of the planet requires the other half to be connected too. Mobile is building an inclusive and connected digital future.

The mobile industry already connects over 3.5 billion people to the internet but this is not enough. While the reach of mobile networks has expanded significantly in recent years, there is still a “coverage gap” of 750 million people who live in areas not covered by 3G+ networks. There is also a much bigger “usage gap” with more than 3.3 billion people living in areas covered by 3G+ networks but who are not using mobile internet services, thus indicating that whilst coverage is a necessary criterion, it alone cannot address the problem of digital inclusion.

Aligned to the mobile industry purpose of ‘intelligently connecting everyone and everything to a better future’, mobile operators are driving efforts to accelerate digital inclusion for all, working to connect the unconnected particularly in rural areas, and provide collaborative and innovative solutions aiding accessibility, affordability and delivering services to empower citizens.

Working collaboratively with partners and the public sector, the mobile industry is playing a leading role in reducing inequalities through digital inclusion initiatives across the globe, unlocking the power of connectivity so people, industry and society thrive.

The mobile industry recognises that connectivity is at the heart of digital inclusion. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also reflect a global consensus on the importance of connectivity as a key enabler and critical tool to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. Interestingly, countries with high levels of mobile connectivity have made the most progress in meeting their commitments to the goals.

One of the biggest challenges is bringing mobile coverage to communities in remote rural areas, where the cost of deploying infrastructure can be prohibitive. Mobile operators and their partners are finding ways to plug these coverage gaps, including shared infrastructure and innovative solutions to bring the numerous benefits of digital connectivity to their communities. Operators expanded coverage to an additional 1.1 billion people over the last five years (2015-2019, GSMAi). The percentage of people living outside of a broadband network has more than halved since 2014 (from 24% to 10%)

Connecting the Unconnected

Driving digital inclusion goes beyond the provision of network coverage, with accessibility and affordability as key barriers for potential users. Access to handsets, electricity, ability to buy data services and formal identification to meet SIM registration requirements are fundamental to increasing usage of mobile internet. Addressing these barriers, mobile operators are working with the wider vertical sectors, governments and civil society organisations to enable communities to access affordable mobile internet.

Accessibility & Affordability

The mobile internet can deliver unparalleled value to communities and the global economy through access to life enhancing services and business opportunities. Supporting the development of digital skills, provision of relevant content, and ensuring safety and security are key to advancing an enabling environment that leverages the full power of the mobile internet to connect more citizens.

Empowering Citizens

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