Connecting every child to a better future: How the mobile industry is contributing to children’s rights


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Published: 4 December 2017

The ICT sector has an enormous role to play in protecting children online and connecting them to a better future. Mats Granryd, Director-General of the GSMA, the global body representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide, shares how his industry is contributing to children’s rights.

The GSMA represents nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators, and more than 300 companies from across the mobile industry – device makers, infrastructure providers, software companies and others. As an industry, we are all focused on a common purpose: to connect everyone and everything to a better future. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the very heart of this better future.

With over 5 billion subscribers connected, the GSMA has a unique opportunity, and obligation, to leverage the networks that we have built and the services we deliver to help achieve the SDGs.  The SDGs are an ambitious goal and require big thinking to achieve – and the mobile industry is taking on this challenge. In 2016, we became the first sector as a whole to commit to all 17 of the SDGs.

Achieving the SDGs – collectively and individually

Collaboration is essential – operators may compete fiercely within markets, but nearly 800 operators globally have aligned to address the world’s most pressing challenges.  I am very proud to say that mobile is already having a positive impact on all 17 Goals.

In September, we published the 2nd edition of our “Mobile Industry Impact Report”, which found that the mobile industry has increased its impact against all 17 SDGs in 2016. Overall, the industry’s contribution was the strongest around SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 13 (Climate Action), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).

Monitoring and measuring progress is key to our success – it allows us to identify the areas with more potential for impact, such as big data. And this reporting also provides an important blueprint for other industries as they commit to the SDGs.

4 billion

the number of people within reach of a 4G network

230 billion

the number of new subscribers in 2016

100 million

the number of new mobile money accounts registered

Ensuring a better future through company initiatives

Collectively and individually, mobile operators are undertaking a wide range of activities to help achieve the SDGs and ensure this better future for the world’s children. Let me share a few examples with you.

One very important one is in the area of child online protection. We work with our members through the GSMA Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content. This global group of operators takes steps to keep their own services free from child sexual abuse content, but also provides an example for the wider industry – sharing experiences and best practices, monitoring emerging trends, and working with key stakeholders to understand what contribution the mobile industry can make.

For instance, through the Alliance, working with INHOPE, we have produced a guide to setting up and managing a hotline to support the end goal of having a reporting hotline in every country.

With UNICEF, we developed a guide to “Notice and Take Down” processes for industry players to help them work with national hotlines and law enforcement to keep their services free from child sexual abuse content, whilst understanding necessary steps to take to preserve evidence.

But mobile operators are not just working on combatting risks; we are also investing in opportunities to actively improve children’s lives through connectivity.

One might not automatically think of mobile money as a key enabler of children’s rights, but it can play a very important role. In Côte d’Ivoire, mobile money has transformed school registration for nearly 1.5 million secondary school students. Parents can now use their mobile to register for school and pay registration fees, a much more convenient process – no waiting in long queues to submit paper forms and cash payments – and they have assurance that payment has been made.

And we’re not only focused on developing markets; in the United States, Sprint is leading the “1 Million Project”, providing free devices and service to schools to benefit 1 million low-income high school students, helping to overcome the “homework gap”.

Partnering for progress

Of course, achieving the SDGs is not something that mobile operators can do alone – we must work not only across our industry, but with other industries, with governments and many other organizations to make this a reality.

The need for strong partnerships is borne out in so many of the examples that I cited. In Tanzania, we are working with UNICEF and the local authorities to address birth registration. In Côte d’Ivoire, mobile money providers are working with the Ministry of National and Technical Education to digitize school payments. And the operators in the Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content work collaboratively with policymakers, law enforcement, hotline organizations and NGOs, as well as the wider mobile industry, to promote a robust and coordinated response to this crime and help safeguard children’s fundamental rights.

Beyond these specific examples, it’s instructive to consider the potential impacts of technology on children, good and bad, through the lens of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The GSMA and UNICEF are working in partnership to raise awareness of children’s rights amongst key stakeholders across the industry, as well as with policymakers.

We’ve run joint workshops in Latin America, Asia, and Africa around the safe and responsible use of mobile technology by children and how we can combat child sexual exploitation. We have also brought together industry, policymakers and activists to consider how we can empower young people to harness the power of connectivity to have their voices heard and positively engage with, and shape, the world around them.

"The mobile industry has perhaps one of the most important roles to play in shaping a more sustainable future. Every goal — from ending poverty and halting climate change to fighting injustice and inequality — can be positively impacted by ICT..."

Börje Ekholm, CEO, Ericsson, quote from 2017 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals

About GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series conferences.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA


Mats Granryd

Director General

As Director General, Mats Granryd leads the GSMA in supporting its global membership through a range of industry programmes, advocacy initiatives and industry-convening events. In 2016, Mats led the mobile industry in becoming the first sector to commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Supporting this, Mats serves on the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission and The B Team. Before joining the GSMA, Mats was President and CEO of Tele2 and also spent 15 years in a variety of roles at Ericsson.

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