The GSMA announced several advances in its Mobile for Development programme, all of which support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with director general Mats Granryd proclaiming “this truly is the digital age for Africa”.
“The rapidly growing adoption of mobile and digital technology in Africa has unlocked new opportunities across the continent, providing a platform for innovation, creating new companies and services, and providing employment opportunities,” he said.
Five new operators have signed for the GSMA’s Connected Women Commitment Initiative. EconetLeo, Orange Cote d’Ivoire, Safaricom Kenya, Telenor Pakistan and Vodacom Tanzania join other GSMA operators in “committing to connect millions more women in low- and middle-income countries by 2020”, the association announced in a statement.
The work supports SDG 5 (Gender Equality).
Humanitarian connectivity, disaster response
Sudatel Group, which operates in Guinea Conakry, Mauritania, Senegal and Sudan, became the latest signatory to the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter initiative, taking the total to 112 mobile operators across 77 countries.
Contributing to SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), the Charter is designed to improve preparedness in disasters, reduce loss of life, and aid recovery through access to communication and information for those affected by crisis.
The GSMA’s Disaster Response programme, which manages the Charter, produced a report exploring the socio-economic impact of connectivity for refugees in Nyarugusu, one of three large refugee camps in the Kigoma region of Tanzania.
In its statement, GSMA said the report provides “robust evidence of the current use, value and impact of connectivity, and addresses the barriers and challenges refuges face in accessing and using mobile devices”.
Mobile for Energy Access initiative
The GSMA Utilities programme launched its Mobile for Energy Access initiative, supporting SDG 7 (Universal Energy Access).
According to the association, an estimated 772 million people currently do not have access to energy, but are covered by mobile networks.
The new programme is designed to promote the role of mobile in enabling clean and affordable energy offerings, and will help mobile operators engage more efficiently with the energy sector by providing feasibility studies and advisory services, sharing insights and toolkits, and enabling partnerships.
Tri-party rural roaming in Tanzania
Tanzania’s three big operators – Airtel, Tigo and Vodacom – have successfully implemented what was described as the first three-way rural roaming project in Africa.
Supported by the Ministry of Works – Transport and Communications and the Universal Communications Service Access Fund, and enabled by the GSMA, the work has extended mobile broadband coverage to more than 70,000 rural users in Tanzania.
The project was backed by Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia, which built “solar-powered, energy-efficient sites” to improve the customer experience in remote locations, while also optimising cost.
Scalable mobile solutions for Africa
The GSMA issued a report outlining the results of work with mobile operators Airtel Malawi, Dialog Sri Lanka, Grameenphone Bangladesh, Ooredoo Myanmar, Telenor Pakistan and Vodafone Ghana to launch “data-driven services for farmers”.
Since 2014, the mAgri programme, under the mNutrition Initiative funded by the UK Department for International Development, worked with operators to develop and launch services that now reach more than 5 million registered users worldwide.
Globally, the work supports services which have allowed smallholder farmers to improve crop yields and income, contributing to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 1 (End Poverty).