Of the 4 billion people who don’t have internet access, only 800 million are in unserviced areas. Effectively, this means that the remaining 3.2 billion people are in fact covered by a telecommunications network, however, don’t have the capacity to connect either as a result of lack of digital literacy skills, or access to a mobile and network connection.
Digital inclusion is becoming the last frontier to achieving financial inclusion. However, as technology continues to improve, the gap widens for those who are left behind.
The 2019 OECD Forum, held in the organisation’s Paris headquarters hosted a panel of experts representing intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, private sector and industry bodies. The panel investigated the challenges and progress being made on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Representative of the Chairman of Orange for GSMA, Milena Harito Shteto, spoke about the impact of the telco industry on the spread of mobile money and financial inclusion.
Harito Shteto highlighted that whilst the mobile industry remains a business, like any other, it was the first to commit to the SDGs. Notably, over the past 3 years, 250 million people in Africa have gained access to financial services via mobile money.
Large telcos and startups alike are contributing to accessibility. For example, a number of “smart feature phones” have already been released to the market. Additionally, certain large mobile operators are contributing to solar power infrastructure in areas that do not have access to electricity to charge and power devices but are reachable by network providers.
There are already numerous innovative solutions that already exist. Now, it’s a matter of making them affordable, accessible and mainstream in order to achieve the 2030 SDGs.