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2018 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals

"Countries with high levels of mobile connectivity have made the most progress in meeting their SDG commitments – put simply, quality of life improves as people gain access to mobile technology."

This GSMA annual report assesses the progress of the mobile sector’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It describes progress of mobile operators with aligning their activities with the SDGs and integrating them into their core values, strategies, policies, and services. According to examples in the Executive summary: almost 600 million people have connected to the mobile internet; more than 250 million people have started to use mobile money; more than 1 million households have installed solar home systems using a mobile-enabled pay-as-you-go model; and; 5 million more people have used mobile-enabled agricultural services, making the biggest impact on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Education, SDG 4 is being impacted by the use of mobiles by 1.2 billion people to improve their education or that of their children. "Importantly, women are more likely than men to use mobile for educational purposes", impacting gender inequality. Improved impact scores since 2015 are also seen for "SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, and SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being. " A graph on page 18 shows the SDG index score graphed against the mobile connectivity index score.

The methodology used to construct the mobile impact scores is summarised in Figure 3, page 19, with a more detailed description provided in Appendix A. The methodology includes the steps: 1) review impact evidence, 2) identify the industry activities and services that are drivers, 3) assign each driver to a cluster representing its impact potential, 4) select the metrics to quantify the drivers, normalise metrics and aggregate to obtain the SDG impact scores. Results over three years of measurement are shown on page 21.

Case studies include, for example:

PAYG solar providing solar to the off-grid market by allowing lower income customers - 8.5 million - to buy solar products on credit or pay small fees for continuous use, representing 10–15% of solar home systems sold globally.

"Africa Water Enterprises (AWE) installed eWATER taps on rural solar pumps in The Gambia and established a prepaid bill collection system with an app that agents used to transfer cash to credit on customers’ NFC tokens. M2M connectivity enabled real-time monitoring and responsive maintenance, financed through collected funds, to address the issue of broken water systems."

"To support disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, AT&T deployed its flying drone, COWs (Cells on Wings), to provide data, voice and text services to its customers and recovery teams. The Flying COWs provided wireless connectivity to customers in an up to 40 square mile area, flying 200 feet above the ground."

Among the recommendations to accelerate impact are the following four key enablers of mobile connectivity: infrastructure, affordability, consumer readiness, and content and services. For example, under consumer readiness, the private sector can build digital skills by providing networks for education, advice, and training, including programmes to close the gender gap.

Governments can work to improve literacy and school attendance and foster information and communication (ICT) skills in education. Both sectors can "[w]ork together to understand mobile internet adoption among different demographics, including women and girls, rural populations, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities, among others, and then establish strategies and targets to close any gaps." Finally, GSMA recommends that governments and policymakers, international organisations, and industry work together with mobile operators to scale up mobile-enabled solutions that address the SDGs.