World Telecommunication Day: Celebrating Mobile and the SDGs

Today marks the 48th annual World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD). Established by the United Nations to recognise the creation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), WTISD celebrates the power of telecommunication and ICT and its monumental impact on global societies and economies.

In just three short decades, mobile technology has transformed everyday life for individuals, businesses, governments and societies alike. And, as the first sector to commit to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the mobile industry is working to address some of the world’s biggest challenges. WTISD offers an important opportunity to review the significant progress made to date and to focus on the major milestones ahead.

Fittingly, the ITU has selected ‘Big Data for Big Impact’ as this year’s theme for WTISD. In February of this year, the GSMA announced the Big Data for Social Good initiative to leverage mobile operators’ big data capabilities to address humanitarian crises, including epidemics and natural disasters. The programme launched with 16 of the world’s leading mobile operators who collectively account for over two billion connections across more than 100 countries. While the complexity of anonymising, aggregating and analysing big data has its challenges, the benefits reach far beyond the mobile industry. For instance, when mobile network operators provide key insights from anonymised meta-data, public health organisations can more easily monitor the flow of people to and from impacted areas, and effectively respond to prevent epidemics, slow the spread of disease and better target relief efforts.

But this is only a small part of the integral role mobile plays in delivering on all 17 SDGs. On WITSD, it is impossible to dismiss the way in which mobile has transformed how people live their lives. Mobile operators are delivering innovative solutions and strategies to address today’s biggest global challenges, from machine-to-machine technology that monitors utility usage to save energy and combat climate change, to providing agricultural information for farmers to improve their crops. Initiatives implemented by mobile operators are already proving to empower women through mobile money to run their households, to reconnect refugees with their families and give them a reliable source of digital ID, even to use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to track wildlife or address waste management. The GSMA is proud to note that the industry has already made significant progress, connecting nearly five billion people, over 3.6 billion of whom are in the developing world.

But alongside success, it is essential to be mindful of the challenges ahead. With the rapid evolution of technology, societies must keep pace and adapt. Network infrastructure must have the capacity to handle the masses of mobile traffic and connectivity. Regulatory frameworks must be modernised to account for new technologies and to protect and benefit the people who use them. Spectrum has to be made available and allocated effectively to enable the broadband that connects nearly everything in our lives. Much like big data, these challenges among many others require cross-industry collaboration with a common goal: Connecting everyone and everything to a better future.

With this in mind, the GSMA invites you to take action this World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. Download the SDGs in Action app to find out how you can make an impact on the SDGs and read about what others are doing. Take a look through the GSMA’s inaugural Mobile Industry Impact Report to learn more about how the mobile industry is making a difference in advancing the SDGs around the world. You can also follow the GSMA on Twitter at @GSMA and join the mobile industry on the journey towards achieving the SDGs using #BetterFuture.

Learn more on the ITU’s WTISD event being held on 17 May 2017 in Geneva, where the GSMA’s Jade Nester will be speaking about the mobile industry’s commitment to using Big Data for social-economic impact (both developed and developing) and the privacy considerations needed. You can also follow it on Twitter using #WTISD, or stream the event live.