Measuring mobile’s impact on sustainable development at UNGA

The GSMA was in New York last month to represent the mobile industry at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Over the course of the week the GSMA participated in a wide range of activities with several high-profile partners, providing a platform for dialogue between mobile industry leaders, heads of state, global leaders and governments to further accelerate mobile’s contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Throughout the week we had a highly visible presence at the SDG Media Zone, a unique space at UNGA that allows attendees to participate in live interviews, panel discussions and special events. The Media Zone programme successfully showcased the wide range of initiatives that the global community is working on to support the 2030 Agenda. A round-up of all the activity is available on the UN website.

The GSMA also co-hosted several side events within the UN. On Monday 23 September, GSMA Chair Sunil Bharti Mittal and I participated in the session New Technologies and Mobile Solutions for Development: Business Driving Innovation for Social Good.’ This event brought together global leaders and experts from the public and private sectors to discuss how to maximise innovation to deliver on the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda. Click here for coverage of the event.

The following day, the GSMA hosted a breakfast – under the theme Big Data for Better Lives – to explore how governments around the world can harness the power of big data as a means of tackling a range of global challenges – with a major focus on the GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good (BD4SG) programme. Panellists included operator CEOs, representatives from UN agencies, and senior ministers from Norway, Belgium and Sierra Leone. Click here for coverage of the event.

The GSMA’s Mobile for Development (M4D) team held a separate networking breakfast on the same morning under the theme Transforming Women’s Lives with Mobile. This session focused on how mobile solutions are transforming the lives of women and their families by providing access to energy, water, clean cooking and nutrition information, and driving women’s financial and digital inclusion.

Away from UN HQ, we participated in several other related events in New York, including those held by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, EQUALS, Concordia, One Planet Summit, and the WEF Sustainable Development Impact Summit, among others.

We also used UNGA week to publish the 2018 edition of our ‘Mobile Industry Impact: Sustainable Development Goals’ report, which revealed that the mobile industry is demonstrating significant and measurable impact in contributing to the SDGs.

Based on a proprietary methodology, the study found that the industry’s contribution to each of the 17 SDGs has increased year-on-year over the last three years as mobile operators worldwide increasingly embed the SDGs into their core values, strategies, policies and services, via real-world initiatives. The scores also allow us to see where we are having the greatest impact and where our contribution is growing fastest (see graphic).

Source: GSMA Mobile Industry Impact report, 2018

Click here to download the full report and also have a look at this article I wrote for the World Economic Forum, which highlights some key case studies from the report.

The effective use of mobile big data is a key tactic for delivering many of the SDGs and was therefore a big focus at UNGA. The BD4SG team published a case study on the work being done in India by Airtel and partners in using big data to analyse population movements to identify tuberculous (TB) hotspots. The launch of this study coincided with the UN’s first-ever high-level meeting on how to accelerate efforts to eradicate TB – and surely big data has the potential to part of the solution. Read my recent blog on the issue here.

My key takeaway from UNGA is that our industry is now firmly playing a central role in accelerating delivery of the SDGs, by leveraging the power of mobile networks and services to transform lives around the world. However, while the 2030 deadline to meet the SDGs may seem a distant horizon today, it is critical that all stakeholders – governments, the mobile industry and others – take concerted and urgent action now to further accelerate progress over the coming years.