Europe and the mobile industry are boosting the digitalisation of the developing world

Several key events will take place this spring in Brussels to highlight the importance of digital policies for developing nations. The GSMA is very active in this field with its own Mobile for Development Programme that has been running since 2006.

In April, the GSMA participated in a European Parliament hearing, organised by the EPP on the topic “Digitalisation for Development: reducing inequalities through technology”. Commissioner Gabriel opened the session. The President of the GSMA Foundation, Lawrence Yanovitch, focused his speech on the Mobile for Development Programme that trials, demonstrates and proves the power of mobile.

This work is badly needed, because 2.5 billion people in the world are still not connected online. The GSMA makes continuing efforts to close this connectivity gap, for instance by testing affordable base stations in rural areas where currently no 3G signal is available. The host of the EPP hearing, MEP Bogdan Wenta, is preparing an initiative report on the European Commission’s new Digital 4 Development (D4D) strategy.

The Commission published this strategy in 2017, aiming to mainstream digital technologies and services into EU development policy. Following an explicit request by EU Member States who endorsed the strategy, and also after the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum that took place in Abidjan in November 2017, the Commission held a first multi-stakeholder event on 24 April in Brussels.

The GSMA and many other players in the digital field participated in this event, that touched upon four priorities of D4D: increasing connectivity, boosting digital skills, stimulate job creation and promote digital as an enabler for transformation (such as e-government). Through the new European External Investment Plan, hundreds of millions of euros will be dedicated to digitalisation projects across Africa and Asia.

The next high-level event for the digital development community will be the upcoming European Development Days (5-6 June, Brussels) with the timely topic of ‘Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development.’ The GSMA will take part in a couple of panels and present our own Connected Women Programme as part of Mobile for Development. As in the world women are structurally left behind, this GSMA programme aims to accelerate their digital and financial inclusion. Gender equality is also one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that should be reached by 2030.