No one government or industry can single-handedly tackle the gravest global challenges. All kinds of expertise need to be tapped, knowledge and insights widely shared, and economies of scale and scope prioritised. Innovation is a must.
To that end, the mobile industry is increasingly working with the public sector and other industries to deliver a robust response to climate change and extreme weather, the healthcare needs of an aging population, inequality and poverty.
Working together, businesses and public agencies can harness the rapid advances in digital technologies to drive progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a roadmap to a better future. For example, the 20 mobile operators participating in the GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good initiative are leveraging the data generated by mobile connectivity to provide insights to help governments and INGOs improve people’s lives in many different ways. Guided by an advisory panel made up of experts from 12 UN agencies and partners, the initiative is steering the use of mobile network data analytics to tackle infectious diseases, coordinate the response to disasters, and curb the harm caused by pollution.
Sustainable business solutions and socio-economic impact
More broadly, several leading foundations and government aid agencies, including Australia, Germany, Sweden, the UK and the US, are helping to fund the GSMA’s Mobile for Development work. Operating at the intersection of the mobile ecosystem and the development sector for the last 10 years, Mobile for Development drives innovation in digital technology to reduce inequalities in our world. Adept at building partnerships between the mobile industry, start-ups, governments, INGOs and tech hubs, Mobile for Development has impacted the lives of over 74 million people.
At the same time, mobile operators are working with governments, regulators and NGOs through the GSMA’s We Care initiative to employ mobile phones and networks to address social problems. Since We Care first launched in Latin America in 2014, it has convened more than 60 mobile operators to support society in numerous ways. In Africa, for example, We Care is supporting child online protection in Kenya, reducing handset theft in Cote d’Ivoire and driving digital inclusion in Rwanda.
Protecting the vulnerable
For young people, mobile technologies are opening up new ways to learn, engage and communicate. But the inexperienced and vulnerable need to be protected against sexual exploitation and other online threats. Together with stakeholders from across the mobile ecosystem, as well as INGOs and government organisations, the GSMA mYouth programme is developing strategies to protect young people and encourage them to use mobile devices and the internet safely and responsibly.
In conjunction with UNICEF, the mobile industry launched mPower Youth to highlight how the industry is supporting the rights of children everywhere. Showcasing operator-led programmes that empower and benefit young people – mPower Youth celebrates how mobile is making a positive contribution to the lives of children. Building on the launch of this initiative, both the GSMA and mPower Youth continue to collaborate, working with industry, policymakers and activists to consider how to harness the power of connectivity to enable young people’s voices to be heard, helping them positively engage with, and shape, the world around them.
Cross-sector partnerships are also playing a key role in tackling persistent gender imbalances. Under the umbrella of EQUALS, the Global Partnership to Bridge the Digital Gender Divide, the GSMA is leading the Access Coalition, which is focused on reducing the gender gap in internet access. The coalition brings together international organisations, the private sector, government agencies, civil society organisations, and academia.
The GSMA’s Director General, Mats Granryd, is personally committed to working with other industries and the public sector to build a better future. Mats is a member of the Nordic CEOs for a Sustainable Future and The B Team, both of which bring together business leaders and experts to accelerate the transformative action needed to build a better tomorrow. Supported by a very diverse group of organisations, the ambitious agenda of The B Team underlines the growing appetite among business leaders to work with governments and INGOs to deliver a sustainable future for our planet and all its inhabitants.