It’s astonishing how much transformation information and communication technologies (ICTs) have brought about, says Ms Belinda Exelby, Head of International Relations at GSMA, a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.
During an interview held at the ITU 2018 Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai, she said, “you only have to look around to see the power of ICTs on our lives today, in all parts of the world.”
“93% of the global population now have access to a mobile phone, which is more than some people have to basic services such as electricity, or sanitation, or water,” said Exelby.
A GSMA report published last September found that the mobile industry is having an impact on every single one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that the impact has increased since the previous year, said Exelby.
“Surprisingly, the four SDGs where it has the most impact are: SDG 4, on quality education; SDG 9 on industry innovation and infrastructure; SDG 11 on smart sustainable cities; and SDG 13, on climate action,” she continued.
“This year, we’ve seen 1.6 million households being connected to solar home systems, which enable them to have access — through mobile-enabled, pay-as-you-go mechanisms — to clean energy and electricity rather than the dangerous or polluting sources that they were using previously.”
“Our mission at GSMA is to connect everyone and everything to a better future. So everything that we do is done through that lens,” she said.
“We work closely with our member operators to promote innovative new services, business models, and capacity building, and we also work with governments to advocate for a policy and regulatory framework that will help to overcome some of the barriers to adoption of internet, such as digital literacy, digital skills, the lack of locally relevant content and, of course, the affordability issue,” she explained.
“To close the connectivity gap, we all need to work together. It won’t close on its own. I would really like to make a plea to ITU Member States to work genuinely with the private sector so that we can all come together and overcome this challenge.”