The mobile industry has a key role to play in supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and should be motivated to do so by the business opportunities these provide.
That was a key message delivered by speakers in this morning’s Achieving Sustainable Development Goals through Mobile keynote.
Greta Bull, CEO of policy and research centre CGAP, told delegates the mobile industry “has been hugely influential in extending financial services to people”. She explained while CGAP has provided microfinance service for 20 years, it has not achieved scale “in the way that digital finance has”. The rapid deployment is “all down to mobile”.
Bull added the mobile industry’s ability to distribute financial services is a key reason for its success. “You have to have the connectivity and the distribution to make it work, and once you have that…then you have a platform for other people to plug in.”
The CGAP CEO said the distribution platform must now be used to build “open platforms where smaller players can connect and develop” services meeting the needs of low income people “in a much more nimble way”.
Financial inclusion is only one element where the mobile industry can enable, and profit from, SDGs.
Jeremy Openheim, executive director of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, told delegates societal problems offer an opportunity to create or transform “huge markets” around the world in fields including food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and wellbeing.
“In every single one of them, the mobile industry has a central role to play. There is no other industry that plays as powerfully across the board,” Oppenheim said.
While the speakers highlighted the business opportunities SDGs offer the mobile industry, Oppenheimer cautioned against losing sight of the core objectives of the goals. “If we just focus on, if you will, the cash returns and we don’t think about the human returns, we’re missing the biggest issue that faces us right now, which is how to get people into the kind of jobs and into the kind of employment opportunities that can be transformative for the next generation.”