GSMA Report: Mobile Sector Critical for Sustainable Development Goals

The sixth annual SDG impact report from the GSMA has revealed that the mobile industry is a critical presence in the 17 sustainable development goals.

The sixth annual SDG impact report from the GSMA shows the mobile industry increased its contribution to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2020. Despite the significant challenges posed by the global pandemic, the sector is halfway to maximising its potential impact on the SDGs. However, progress cannot be taken for granted, as there are less than 10 years to achieve the 2030 SDG targets.

“As heads of state gather for the UN General Assembly, we call on world leaders, and the public and private sectors, to work together to accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs. The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in many ways, so keeping the commitment to the SDGs has never been more important for governments and industries. Yet, we know that it will not be possible to attain the 2030 Agenda without mobile connectivity. It is our responsibility to collaborate in new ways that will maximise the industry’s potential.”

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA

Despite rising mobile data traffic, mobile networks delivered a 33% improvement in download speeds in 2020 due to increasing 4G adoption and 5G take-up. These improvements enhance the mobile industry’s SDG impact, as it enables mobile to be at the heart of a broad range of services designed to address society’s global challenges.

2.3 billion people (45% of mobile subscribers) used their phones to purchase goods and services, representing an increase of 300 million since 2019. During the pandemic, more people used mobile to purchase food and other essential products and services as they became less comfortable handling cash. This activity supports the mobile industry’s contribution to SDG3: Good Health; SDG4: Quality Education; SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

2.6 billion people used mobile financial services, such as mobile banking and mobile money, an increase of 270 million people since 2019. Using mobile financial services helps create employment opportunities, raise productivity and formalise the economy, contributing to SDG 1: No Poverty and SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Other gains are included in the report.

Key facts include:

  • In 2020, the mobile industry increased its impact for each of the 17 SDGs, achieving an average SDG impact score of 50
  • This means the industry is achieving 50% of its potential contribution to the SDGs – up from 48% in 2019 and 33% in 2015
  • Despite the economic recession, mobile adoption continued to increase in 2020, supporting the industry’s contribution to multiple SDGs.
  • By the end of 2020, 5.2 billion people (67% of the global population) were using a mobile phone, representing an increase of 90 million people since 2019.
  • And, 4 billion people (51% of the global population) were also using the mobile internet, which is an increase of 220 million since 2019.

Net Zero by 2050

  • The mobile industry is making continued progress on disclosing climate data and setting targets for emissions reductions.
  • At the end of 2020, 69% of operators by connections and 80% by revenue disclosed their climate impacts, while 31% of operators by connections and 36% by revenue had set carbon reduction targets to be net zero by 2050.

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