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Mobile network growth drives new businesses, access to education, report says

The smartphone industry continues to grow, and according to a new report from the GSMA, the industry is having a massive impact on global infrastructure and the number of people with connectivity. According to the report, more than 5 billion people are now connected to mobile networks, and 400 million new subscribers have joined mobile networks since 2015. The GSMA is a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.

The report, called the “Mobile Industry Impact” report, highlights the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, of which there are 17. Not all of the 17 goals are related to technology, but mobile network access plays a significant role in many of the goals — especially SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. The progress on that goal is the result of almost universal mobile network coverage of some kind, which is driving new business models and the adoption of mobile savings and credit.

“More than two-thirds of the people on the planet are now connected to a mobile network and, for many, mobile is the primary – sometimes only – channel for accessing the internet and life-enhancing services,” said Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA. “Today’s report outlines how the mobile industry is playing a central role in accelerating delivery of the SDGs and leveraging the power of mobile networks and services to transform lives around the world.”

Thanks to the increased coverage around the world, it’s expected that more than half of the world’s population will be accessing the internet through their smartphones, which is up by 36 percent from 2015.

With internet access comes access to other technologies that could be helpful in developing areas. For example, the study highlights that around 250 million people have started using mobile money since 2015, bringing the total number of mobile money accounts to 690 million around the world. According to the report, this helps “expand financial and social inclusion.”

Education is another big advantage of increased connectivity. The report notes that there are now 750,000 education-related mobile apps available for smartphones, which is up by 62 percent from 2015. The result is that a massive 1.2 billion people are using their smartphones to improve their education or the education of their children. Not only does this help improve overall education in underserved areas, but making education more accessible also helps bridge the gender gap related to education access. Better and accessible education is SDG 4, while gender equality is SDG 5.

It’s likely increased connectivity will impact other UN goals, too. For example, SDG 3 is related to improved health and better access to health care, while SDG 7 relates to clean energy.

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