The growing impact of mobile on the Sustainable Development Goals
At Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, the mobile industry became the first sector to commit as a whole to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a universal plan unanimously adopted in 2015 by all 193 countries in the United Nations General Assembly to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Two years into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the mobile industry is having an important impact, demonstrated by its growing contribution across all 17 SDGs.4 The greatest upward movements between 2015 and 2016 were in SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being, SDG 11 –Sustainable Cities and Communities, and SDG 13 – Climate Action. Of these, two (SDG 13 and 11) are also the SDGs to which the industry is contributing the most (2016 score), along with SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
While operators contribute to each SDG in different ways, three major underlying trends explain much of the improvement in the industry’s impact across all the SDGs between 2015 and 2016:
Mobile operators have invested heavily in mobile broadband network infrastructure. Between 2015 and 2016, 4G population coverage grew from 48% to 66% of the world’s population. Including 3G, mobile broadband network coverage reached 83% (2016). In addition to providing wider access to mobile and mobile broadband services, improved network quality and resilience play a critical role before and during epidemics, conflicts and natural or climate-related disasters. They support emergency communication and broadcast services and provide accurate and timely information on the movement of affected populations.
Operators continue to connect the unconnected and drive development in the cellular M2M space. The economic and social benefits of this are wide-ranging, with connectivity driving improvements in economic growth through improved productivity, infrastructure development and efficiency. Operators have been particularly proactive in pursuing more innovative solutions to roll out mobile networks in remote areas; making mobile services more affordable to the poorest individuals; and driving efforts to accelerate digital inclusion for women.
Doing more with mobile
Connected consumers are increasingly engaged in the digital world and consume a range of mobile-enabled services for education, agriculture, health, finance and utilities. Looking at the drivers of SDG score improvement between 2015 and 2016, in 2016 more than 100 million new mobile money accounts were registered to reach a total of more than 0.5 billion, allowing users to access financial services that enable them to make investments and manage expenses. There were also 500 million new users of social media on mobile to reach a total of 2.5 billion, helping promote social and political inclusion and facilitating the development of education networks.