Industry group GSMA announced Orange CEO Stephane Richard (pictured) will continue to chair and supervise the strategic direction of the organisation, with his term extended until the end of 2022.

Commenting on the appointment, Richard said “2020 proved what the mobile ecosystem has known for decades: the true relevance of robust and resilient mobile networks”, as connectivity had demonstrated “its ability to support our lives and the economy” while the world has leaned on the industry “like never before”.

But Richard outlined a need for operators to increase efforts in closing the global digital divide by introducing “more affordable smartphones and data plans, as well as training and better network infrastructure in rural areas”.

Richard will oversee the GSMA board with the support of the organisation’s new deputy chair Rima Qureshi, EVP and chief strategy officer at Verizon. The appointments will run for two years, starting from 1 January 2021.

Qureshi pointed to equal access to network technology as “essential for universal growth and vitality” in the future, adding the sector was central to providing technology services to individuals and companies “as they work to become more resilient”.

Richard took the reins of the GSMA board in January 2019.

Last week, the industry group elected four new board members from KDDI, KT, Telecom Italia and Veon.