Digital Inclusion: GSMA Mobile Meetings Series – 29 September 2015, Brussels
The recent migration challenges faced by Europe and the new United Nations sustainable development goals both highlight the urgent need to connect underserved populations. Marking 2015 European Year for Development, the Mobile Meetings Series breakfast meeting on September 29th focused on “the integral role of mobile in the promotion of societal development”. It brought together representatives of the EU institutions, international stakeholders and industry to discuss how digital inclusion can support economic development in underserved populations globally.
To make connectivity more accessible, various challenges need to be addressed. Participants at the event, which was hosted by the Brussels office of the GSMA, agreed that the availability of locally-relevant content is imperative. Providing local language content, which reflects local cultures, will raise awareness of the benefits the Internet can bring for both personal and societal prosperity. While the ultimate goal is to facilitate local entrepreneurship, first and foremost, citizens have to appreciate and understand the value of mobile services. Moreover, digital literacy skills need to be widespread to enable the use of mobile technologies across sectors.
Participants at the event also discussed the importance of industry promoting projects that benefit society as a whole, as well as being commercially viable. Participants cited projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America which, taking account of local customs, languages, and needs, have been able to increase the use of mobile technologies by women, farmers and rural residents in the health, energy, banking and education sectors.
To drive the infrastructure investment required to meet the new sustainable development goals set by the United Nations, commercially-viable business models will need to be supplemented by public-private partnerships. As the public finance goals for development have not been met, the funds available are unlikely to be enough to support the connectivity requirements of the developing world. Therefore, governments will need to partner with industry in innovative ways to deliver inclusive, societal goods (as opposed to just infrastructure).
Overall, the participants agreed that, by working together, the entire mobile ecosystem could bring enormous benefits to underserved populations. In fact, some attendees suggested that connectivity should be a part of all development policies in the future given that it improves efficiency, drives economic growth and most importantly, societal inclusion.
Learn more about GSMA’s Digital Inclusion programme and view this video, which demonstrates the enormous advances made by mobile operators in providing connectivity and mobile Internet across the globe. It also explains how the industry will connect the next two billion people by 2020.