GSMA connects almost 5.4 billion people globally, representing the interests of, and uniting nearly 800 operators, with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The 2030 agenda, and in particular the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are central to the organisation’s strategy.
“We at GSMA connect more than two-thirds of the global population. The 17 SDGs don’t have an 18th goal talking about ICT, which looks bad, but the ICT sector, and maybe even more so - the mobile industry underpin all 17 goals,” said Mats Granryd, director general, GSMA. “We are a purpose-driven industry and the purpose is to connect everyone and everything to a better future and that better future is best described though the UNs 17 SDGs. Mobile has, I believe a critical part to play in achieving those 17 goals.”
There are so many examples of the power of mobile, and how the mobile industry is positively impacting people’s lives and impacting industries so they can be more sustainable in the way that they conduct their business, and how the mobile industry is increasing transparency, so that society will become better.
“We all know that a connected society is a happy thriving society,” said Granryd.
One of GSMAs programmes, GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities, aims to improves access to basic energy, water and sanitation services in underserved communities using mobile technology and infrastructure. Every implementation carried out uses mobility, whether it is voice, SMS, USSD, machine-to-machine, NFC, a mobile operator’s agent network, or tower infrastructure.
“We aim to seize the opportunity, leveraging mobile technology and infrastructure to enhance access to affordable and reliable energy, clean and safe water and sanitation services in underserved communities,” said Granryd.
The 17 SDGs are applicable across both developed and developing markets, for example, in developing nations, several maturing business models combine a variety of mobile channels to deliver essential utility services, particularly mobile money, machine-to-machine communications and mobile services.
“These emerging business models in the mobile industry are a beautiful example of aligning a social purpose—helping to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy)—with an important commercial opportunity,” said Granryd.
In the developing world, mobile money is a huge undertaking that is revolutionising communities and allowing hundreds of people, in particular, women, to become entrepreneurs. There are currently more than 700 million active mobile money accounts in the developing world.
“We are seeing $1 billion in transactions every day on mobile money platforms, so it is truly something that is taking off. Mobile money is a catalyst for people to be able to get out of poverty,” said Granryd.
In 2016, Jordan became the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to have implemented interoperability of mobile money services. The Central Bank of Jordan developed a regulatory framework for mobile money and has begun to develop a national financial inclusion strategy, putting Jordan at the forefront of financial inclusion in the region.
In Tanzania, mobile operator Millicom created Digital Identity. According to Granryd, previously mothers with their newborn had to go to three or four different institutions to register their child’s birth, and it took them up to five days to get their child registered. Because of this many mothers just skipped registering the child’s identity. The child then remained unregistered and had no form of identity, which is detrimental in a digital society. Millicom developed a way of registering newborns digitally, now a mother only has to go to one place to do the registration, and it takes 20 minutes through a mobile device.
“We also have healthcare applications such as mobile health where you will send pregnant women nutrition information, what will happen during the different stages of pregnancy, messages about health warnings, and we send a similar text message to the husband because he wants to be part of this too,” said Granryd.
Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar is a flagship example of how mobile technology can help to make clean energy affordable and create sustainable business models. The model emerged from a convergence of several mobile technologies—mobile payments, M2M connectivity and cloud computing. The PAYG model has the potential to reach unprecedented scale. It has successfully unlocked a large segment of the solar off-grid market by allowing lower income customers to buy solar products on credit or pay small fees for continuous use. GSMA data found that by mid-2017, over 1.6 million PAYG solar units had been sold, and an estimated 8.5 million individuals had benefited from access to clean and reliable energy in their homes.
PAYG solar home systems (SHS) represent 10 to 15% of SHS sold globally today, but account for most of the sector’s recent growth.
The success of PAYG solar in East Africa has encouraged other sectors to replicate the model. Using the same functionalities as PAYG solar systems (mobile payments, M2M and mobile services), new products at an early stage of commercialisation include PAYG cookstoves, solar-powered irrigation, water delivery and sanitation products. In the water sector, for example, CGAP has identified four clear service delivery models based on mobile technology: water bill payments (both pre-paid and post-paid), pay-as-you-drink (public pre-paid water access through water ATMs or pre-paid household meters), digital credit to offset connection costs, and the transfer of government subsidies through various digital channels.
In developed nations, mobility has an equally important role to play, for example, in Norway where mobile applications are used to measure the nutrition levels in fish farms, to make sure the fish are not overfed or underfed. It also monitors water quality in the US.
In another initiative, GSMA is helping Sprint to help one million high school students, who do not have reliable internet access at home, to reach their full potential by Sprint giving them mobile devices and free high-speed internet access. The initiative is called the 1Million project.
“We are also seeing how we can help blind people see with cameras on their glasses that are connected up to a third party that will guide you when you are moving, we are also monitoring the climate change in the Alps,” stated GSMA's Mat Granryd.
Mobile operators can now also send information to small-holding farmers, in the Middle East and globally, on what type of pesticide to use, when to fertilise and what fertiliser to use, when to harvest, weather information, price of produce etc, and GSMA can clearly measure the uplift in their societies.
“It is pretty similar between the developing and developed world – the use of these kinds of applications – but certainly mobile technology is applicable in developed and developing, which I think is pretty cool. I would urge more industries to come together for this– without industries and businesses being engaged, it will never fly,” said Granryd.
With the development of 5G, the ability to connect more, and do more across the globe grows exponentially. From connecting farmer’s crops to measure soil moisture, the number of seeds planted, and the yield from each plant, to helping a woman in a developing nation build a small business, the opportunities and potential for mobility and connectivity is seemingly endless, and each innovation in mobility assists with each and every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.