Why it matters
SDG 17 strives to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development. Effective collaboration between public and private sectors is needed to drive significant improvements to the SDGs. In 2019, $554 billion in remittance flows went to LMICs, overtaking foreign direct investment flows and exceeding official aid by more than three times. However, they are expected to decline by around 20% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The industry contribution
Effective collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as collaboration between different industries and sectors, drives significant improvements in the mobile industry’s contribution to the SDGs.
Strengthening domestic resource mobilisation
Target 17.1: Strengthen domestic resource mobilisation, including through international support to developing countries, to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection.
Target 17.3: Mobilise additional financial resources for developing countries from multiple sources.
The mobile ecosystem makes a significant contribution to the funding of the public sector through general taxation. In most countries, this includes value-added tax or sales tax, corporation tax, income tax, and social security from the contributions of firms and employees. In 2019, the industry contributed almost half a trillion dollars to the funding of the public sector through general taxation.
Mobile technology also enables governments to strengthen their domestic capacities and ability to provide financial resources. For instance, the digitisation of public revenue collection, such as taxes, school fees and traffic fines, mobilises countries and strengthens their economies, increasing resources for governments while creating transparent and auditable records of public funds. In Rwanda, a public and private partnership led to the creation of a centralised e-payment platform, which offers over 89 services online and has served over 4 million users.
Additionally, government authorities that use mobile money can reach a wider population and reduce the administrative burden and cost of handling cash. For example, in Senegal, the Customs School noted a 50% increase in registrations after digitising registration payments for its entrance exam. This was likely due to new candidates from non-urban areas who could avoid transportation costs by using a digital platform.
Kenya: increasing domestic revenue and tax collection capacity
In 2013, the Kenyan government set out the presidential directive on digital payments to enhance security and improve enforcement of revenue collection. As government payments were initially made largely in cash, government payment and service delivery were highly interdependent. Additionally, information on government services and payments were not readily available, leaving citizens vulnerable to fraud.
A taskforce within the national treasury implemented a government service and payment gateway known as eCitizen, which became the most successful e-government service and payment gateway in Sub-Saharan Africa. eCitizen allows individuals to access, apply and pay for over 300 government services.
After migrating its services to the platform eCitizen, the Kenyan National Transportation Safety Authority almost doubled its revenue collection in nine months, from $1.1 million to $2 million per month. Half a million monthly transactions on the platform have been made between the roughly 4 million registered users, 90% of which are made through mobile money.
Partnerships to boost impact
Target 17.8: Fully operationalise the technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries by 2017 and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology.
The importance of technology and internet access is reflected in target 17.8, which is measured based on the proportion of individuals in each country using the internet. Access to the internet and innovative services enabled by mobile connectivity are contributing to the fulfilment of all the SDGs.
In many countries, mobile provides the primary – sometimes the only – platform to access the internet. Globally, there were 3.8 billion unique mobile internet subscribers in 2019 (almost half the world’s population). Mobile accounted for 87% of broadband connections in developing countries. Across 15 LMICs surveyed by GSMA Intelligence in 2019, an average of 67% of those using the internet accessed it exclusively via a mobile phone.
Many of the industry’s current impacts, however, could not be achieved without multi-stakeholder partnerships – for example, the provision of mobile-enabled financial services and the support of populations affected by disasters. The mobile industry and the GSMA realise the importance of collaboration in addressing the most pressing global issues, as evidenced by the GSMA’s participation – and in some cases leadership – in several multi-stakeholder partnerships (for further information, see 2019 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals, GSMA, 2019)
For instance, the GSMA National Dialogues initiative convenes key government ministries and leaders of the mobile industry to explore ways in which mobile can act as a positive force for societal change. Similarly, EQUALS is a multi-stakeholder partnership, co-founded by the GSMA, UN Women, ITU, ITC and UN University in 2016, which brings together international organisations, the private sector, governments, non-governmental organisations, regulatory agencies and academic institutions with a common goal to bridge the gender digital divide. Meanwhile, in partnership with UN agencies, international organisations and mobile operators, the Big Data for Social Good initiative leverages mobile operators’ big data capabilities to enable governments to respond effectively and efficiently to many of the world’s most pressing health, humanitarian and environmental issues.
Maximising impact by 2030
Enablers that could help maximise the mobile industry’s impact on SDG 17 include the following:
- Developing new and effective partnerships and enhancing existing collaborations to achieve the maximum impact possible across all SDGs.
- Connecting the unconnected, which remains a significant challenge to unleash the full potential of mobile technologies.
- Scaling IoT and other emerging technologies, which will require collaboration and investment from both the private and public sectors.