Why it matters
SDG 10 focuses on reducing inequality within and among countries. Among 84 countries with available data, income inequality fell in 38 countries between 2010 and 2017 and rose in 25 countries. Despite some positive strides, overall inequality remains high – 43.9% of global wealth is controlled by the richest 0.9%, whereas 56.6% of the world’s population own just under 2% of total wealth. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the most vulnerable hardest.
The industry contribution
Mobile technology contributes to SDG 10 by reducing the cost of remittances and improving the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Mobile money-enabled international remittances have been flourishing, with $7.3 billion processed in 2019, compared to $5.5 billion in 2018, while they are available across 184 unique corridors. Furthermore, the ubiquity of mobile in many countries means that it can facilitate access to financial and other life-changing products and services in many contexts, including for persons with disabilities and those facing humanitarian crises. The world’s poorest 40% by country (This calculation of mobile penetration takes into account the poorest 40% of the population in each country.) have mobile adoption rates of around 60%, an increase of 200 million since 2015. Meanwhile, mobile internet adoption reached 38% among the world’s poorest 40% in 2019, an increase of nearly 361 million since 2015.
Driving socioeconomic inclusion for persons with disabilities and forcibly displaced populations
Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex (See SDG 5 for gender equality), disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic conditions and discrimination than non-disabled persons. This can be exacerbated in humanitarian contexts, where PWDs are often disproportionately impacted by crises. Assistive mobile-enabled technologies and services can increase the capacity of people to live healthier, productive, independent and dignified lives, allowing them to access healthcare, education and labour markets as well as civic life.
In Kenya, PWDs use mobile internet with similar frequency as those without disabilities, while, among smartphone users, PWDs have a higher daily usage of mobile internet at 63% than non-disabled persons at 56%. This highlights the benefits of smartphone features which enable more services than basic phones e.g. IVR for those with hearing impairments or speech-to-text commands for people with visual impairments.
Mobile operators also actively seek to increase the number of employees with disabilities within their workforce. For instance, in Singapore, Singtel is driving an initiative for inclusive workplaces and, through a collaboration with SG Enable, the operator trains and employs several persons with disabilities.
Mobile operators use their technical expertise and infrastructure to increase impact at scale for forcibly displaced persons (FDPs) and their host communities. Some 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2019; 26 million were refugees. At least 93% of refugees worldwide live in areas with 2G or 3G coverage and mobile connectivity and services can provide crucial support to these populations, including the ability to communicate with friends and family, and access to information portals, translation applications and mobile money platforms to receive cash transfers. Operators are also collaborating with humanitarian organisations to improve understanding of people most in need. For instance, Safaricom has partnered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the GSMA to conduct research to better understand how PWDs in humanitarian contexts use mobile and opportunities for mobile-enabled solutions.
Pakistan: bridging communication between PWDs and the general public
There are 9 million deaf people in Pakistan facing communication difficulties, 256 million across Asia and half a billion globally. Communication with the general public is the biggest challenge for the hearing-impaired community. However, traditional solutions in Pakistan are expensive and not widespread: there are only 95 sign language interpreters across the country, of which 22 are certified, and they are only available in (four) metropolitan cities, limiting access for those living in rural areas and other parts of the country. Because of the impact of the disability on communication, the hearing-impaired community is among the most marginalised PWD communities.
Through its innovation incubator programme, Jazz in Pakistan supported the development of DeafTawk, a digital platform that bridges the communication gap between people who are deaf and the general public. The solution, launched in 2018, is a combination of services: online sign language interpretation, sign language training and audio-video translation services.
By providing online sign language services, the cost of the physical interpreter is minimised and the communication gap is reduced. By the end of 2019, DeafTawk had been serving 50,000 users in Pakistan, plus 10,000 users in Singapore. It has also created over 400 jobs for deaf people, including more than 280 direct jobs as sign language interpreters, and facilitated over 700 deaf patients in hospitals. In terms of gender usage, 42% of customers are female and 48% are male.
Source: DeafTawk Annual Report 2019
Reducing migrant remittance transaction and corridor costs
Target 10.C: By 2030, reduce to less than 3% the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5%.
International remittances are a vital source of financial support for migrants and their families. In 2019, remittance flows to LMICs reached $554 billion (though they are estimated to decline by 20% in 2020). While the global average cost of sending remittances lies at around 7%, banks make up the costliest channels for sending remittances at an average cost of 10.9%, significantly higher than the goal of less than 3% by 2030. The widespread uptake of mobile money can be an instrumental tool to help reduce these costs. The average cost of sending remittances through mobile money has not only been declining consistently over the years but as of 2017 was well below the 3% target of SDG 10.C, having reached just 1.7% of a $200 transaction and 2.7% for smaller transactions e.g. $50 (a 40% reduction year-on-year in both cases).
Uganda: mobile money facilitating financial inclusion and international remittances for refugees
The vast majority of refugees in Bidi Bidi settlement, the second-largest refugee settlement in the world, located in north-western Uganda, have arrived since 2016, applying significant pressure on natural resources for the 585,000 people living in host communities. Uganda has one of the most progressive refugee policies in the world, granting refugees freedom of movement, the right to work, access to social services and provision of land. Mobile money has enabled access to financial services for many people across the country and it is the most commonly used financial services system by refugees and host communities in Bidi Bidi. However, refugees face a number of challenges using mobile money in Bidi Bidi, including the taxes imposed by the government in mid-2018, liquidity issues and unreliable network coverage
To overcome issues of unreliable network coverage, Airtel, Africell and MTN have invested significantly to extend coverage in Bidi Bidi settlement, investing initially in temporary Cell on Wheels (COW) and then upgrading to permanent 2G and 3G structures. MTN Uganda is providing services to refugees and deploying mobile-enabled services in Bidi Bidi settlement with several partners, including aYo Insurance, Fenix (ReadyPay) and Rising Capital. Further, in 2018, MTN fulfilled its pledge to donate UGX1 billion to support refugee policies implemented by the Ugandan government over a two-year period.
Most refugees in Bidi Bidi are active mobile phone users, with calls (78%), SMS (57%) and mobile money (44%) the most popular use cases. Half of all mobile money users in Bidi Bidi used it for international remittances – the third highest use case after P2P (83%) and airtime top-ups (63%). Fifty percent for any mobile money use case beyond P2P and airtime top-ups is notable, but it is especially significant given that international remittances are the least-used type of transaction by volume and value globally. Many refugees were also using their mobile money accounts as a means to informally save.
Source: The digital lives of refugees: How displaced populations use mobile phones and what gets in the way, GSMA Mobile for Development, 2019
Maximising impact by 2030
Enablers that could help maximise the mobile industry’s impact on SDG 10 include the following:
- Raising awareness of disability issues by providing training, volunteering and programmes to mentor persons with disabilities.
- Aligning efforts across the ecosystem and engaging, co-designing and innovating together with customers with disabilities, tech startups and the public sector.
- Engaging humanitarian organisations to collaborate with mobile money providers to increase meaningful digital and financial inclusion for FDPs.