GSMA Launches Framework to Improve Digital Inclusion – strong support by MEA companies

To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the GSMA is launching the ‘Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities’. The Principles aim to further inspire the mobile industry to help close the mobile disability gap.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are over one billion people with disabilities; of them, only 1 in 10 has access to the assistive technology they need to live independent lives. Furthermore, the WHO estimates that 80% of persons with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).  By combining multiple assistive technologies in a single device, mobile phones are cost-effective tools to enable greater inclusion and participation for persons with disabilities.

The ‘Principles’ set out a framework for action, together with recommended activities, to help address the barriers that currently prevent persons with disabilities from accessing and using mobile-enabled products and services. Research conducted by the GSMA in LMICs shows that persons with disabilities are less likely to own smartphones and use mobile internet than persons without disabilities.

“Vodacom’s vision of connecting everyone for a better future has enabled Vodacom to embrace the digital inclusion of consumers with disabilities for more than a decade. We are excited to join the GSMA’s Assistive Tech Programme by becoming a signatory of the newly launched Principles for driving digital inclusion of persons with disabilities. The principles will play an important role to ensure that mobile operators implement accessibility strategies that promote the digital inclusion of disabled consumers. Vodacom continues to remain committed to playing our part to ensure disabled persons become part of a connected society.” 

Shameel Joosub, Chief Executive Officer of Vodacom Group

Action is required to address the barriers and requirements of persons with disabilities, drive innovation, place persons with disabilities at the heart of the design process, and realise the social and commercial opportunity of reaching this underserved segment of the population. By doing so the mobile industry can make meaningful change and help ensure no one is left behind in an increasingly digital world.

“Removing the barriers faced by persons with disabilities requires informed action from all stakeholders. It’s time for the mobile industry to take steps to ensure our products and services are accessible, unlocking the power of connectivity so that all people thrive. I am delighted that Dialog Axiata PLC, Optus, Orange Group, Safaricom PLC, Telefónica Group, Turkcell, Vodacom South Africa and Zain Group have already signed up to the Principles, and I look forward to many more industry participants joining us in this commitment.”

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA

The Initiative sets out three core principles for advancing the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities:

  1. Embrace disability inclusion at every level of their organisation;
  2. Understand how to reach and better serve persons with disabilities;
  3. Deliver inclusive products and services that meet the varied needs of people with disabilities.

Digital accessibility is recognised as a key priority across a range of global commitments, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy. The core ambition of all these projects is to ensure inclusion for all in a rapidly expanding digital landscape. Signing up to the GSMA’s ‘Principles’ is an important step towards achieving this goal.

“The launch of these noble Principles by the GSMA complements Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al Kharafi’s dedication to and vision of Diversity and Inclusion, that recognizes the real and positive contribution people with disabilities can make to society if only given the opportunity. In many ways, the Principles reinforces our own efforts under our ‘WE ABLE’ disability inclusive program, whereby Zain pledges to become disability inclusive across all operations by 2022. Zain urges other like-minded organisations across all sectors, to embrace systematic change and implement initiatives that help speed up the narrowing of the mobile disability gap.”

Jennifer Suleiman, Zain Group Chief Sustainability Officer

The framework has been endorsed by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Mobile & Wireless Forum’s (MWF) Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI), Global Disability Innovation Hub, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), PurpleSpace and The Valuable 500.

You can learn more about the Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities here.

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