LIVE FROM UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY (UNGA), NEW YORK: GSMA director general Mats Granryd (pictured) argued the case for mobile as a key enabler for connecting the roughly half of the world’s population which remains offline.

In a session co-hosted by the industry group, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and UNDESA, Granryd noted the mobile industry “is uniquely positioned to drive inclusion, growth and sustainable development”.

He explained around two-thirds of the world’s population now have a mobile subscription and more than 3.3 billion people worldwide have access to the mobile internet. A new era of “intelligent connectivity” ushered in by 5G, IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data will have a wide impact, with the benefits not limited solely to the developed world.

Societal benefits
Granryd cited the example of the GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good (BD4SG) initiative, which is running projects across Latin America and Asia using big data to tackle infectious diseases, disasters and environmental crises.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises and GSMA chair, picked up the baton for the mobile industry, calling for governments to make high-speed connectivity a “national goal” and back investments of almost $500 billion that mobile operators are expected to make in the coming years.

He criticised the approach of some governments that he believes view the industry mainly as a source of revenue, a problem which is particularly prevalent in emerging markets: “The poorer the country, the greater the attention on mobile operators” as a source of taxation, he said.

In a separate session, Aminata Kane, CEO of Orange Sierra Leone, highlighted the role being played by mobile money in driving financial inclusion in emerging markets. She noted that, since launching in the Ivory Coast in 2007, Orange Money was now available in 17 countries and had more than 38 million customers across Africa and the Middle East.

The impact of this on financial inclusion “has been incredibly successful,” she said.