In the dynamic landscape of the digital era, the mobile industry stands as a trailblazer in embracing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Eight years ago, it took the lead in committing to these ambitious goals, and the journey since then has been one of evolution, progress, and challenges. This article delves into the profound impact of the mobile industry on sustainability, exploring key findings and paving the way for a future where mobile becomes a formidable force in achieving global net zero.
Mobile Industry's Sustainable Odyssey
A Remarkable Progress: From 33 to 53
In 2015, the mobile industry embarked on the SDG mission with an average impact score of 33. Fast forward to 2022, and the score has soared to an impressive 53. Notably, 11 SDGs now boast contributions exceeding 50%, showcasing a commendable stride towards a more sustainable future. Despite facing hurdles in 2022, such as the global rise in inflation and the impact of COVID, the mobile industry remains a beacon of progress.
Connecting the Unconnected: SDG 9 Milestone
SDG 9, focusing on Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, emerges as a standout performer. The mobile industry has brought the internet to nearly 2 billion people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) over seven years. By the end of 2022, 57% of the world's population, amounting to 4.5 billion people, accessed the mobile internet. The ripple effect extends to LMICs, where mobile has facilitated access to education for 1.4 billion people and improved healthcare for 1.3 billion.
Mobile Connectivity as the Catalyst for Prosperity
Beyond mere connectivity, the data underscores a transformative impact on economic and social indicators. Countries experiencing significant improvements in mobile connectivity also witness notable enhancements in their SDG scores. In 2022 alone, mobile technologies and services added $5.2 trillion to the global economy, lifting two million people out of extreme poverty in Nigeria and contributing to a two-million increase in global employment over five years. Furthermore, the industry played a pivotal role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2,135 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018.
Empowering Financial Inclusion: Bridging the Gap
Financial inclusion, a potent tool against poverty, has found a champion in the mobile industry. The number of registered mobile money accounts surged to 1.6 billion by the end of 2022, more than doubling the 2017 figures. This surge signifies a significant step in lifting individuals out of poverty by enhancing their ability to manage finances, handle risks, and build working capital.
IoT's Ascendancy: A Catalyst for SDGs
The mobile industry doesn't merely connect people; it extends its reach to machines through IoT connections. The growth from 5 billion to 16 billion IoT connections between 2015 and 2022 propels advancements in SDGs related to health, climate action, sustainable cities, and partnerships for the goals. This technological leap demonstrates the industry's commitment to multifaceted contributions to sustainability.
Navigating Challenges: A Stalled Progress in 2022
After seven years of uninterrupted progress, 2022 witnessed a decline in the impact score for 10 SDGs. The resumption of in-person activities and economic factors are cited as potential culprits. A noteworthy area of concern is the gender gap, with women in LMICs, although using mobile internet more, showing a reduced growth rate in 2022.
Future Trajectory: A Call to Action
Looking ahead, the GSMA projects that, at current rates, the mobile industry will achieve 76% of its SDG impact targets by 2030. To ensure this trajectory, stakeholders are urged to sustain the growth of mobile and mobile internet adoption, boost 5G adoption, scale up IoT connections for climate change mitigation, and deploy AI to foster innovation, analyze complex data, and address challenges related to the SDGs.
In conclusion, the mobile industry's journey towards sustainability is marked by tangible achievements, yet the road ahead demands unwavering commitment and collective action. As we navigate the digital landscape, the impact of mobile on the SDGs becomes increasingly evident, illuminating a path towards a future where connectivity and innovation converge to drive meaningful change. The story of the mobile industry is one of progress, challenges, and a resolute vision for a sustainable tomorrow.