UN adviser cites mobile industry's critical role in advancing Sustainable Development Goals

UN Special Adviser David Nabarro (on screen) promoted the Sustainable Development Goals at the World Mobile Summit in Barcelona. UN Photo/Anoush Tatevossian

23 February 2016 – The United Nations adviser on the new 15-year development agenda has underlined the importance of partnership with the mobile communications industry and the critical role it will play in promoting, advancing and measuring the Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking at the World Mobile World Summit in Barcelona yesterday, David Nabarro, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, encouraged and commended the mobile industry's commitment to work together and develop policy frameworks, services, content and technical standards that would ensure no one is left behind.

He also called on the mobile industry to “work with Governments and the international community to expand connectivity, lower barriers to access and ensure that tools and applications are developed with vulnerable communities in mind.”

He also urged all attendees to work together to close the digital and gender divide and to collaborate on accelerating a data revolution for sustainable development, in particular, to enable the responsible use of data for humanitarian and development purposes, while protecting individual privacy.

The summit brought more than 400 business leaders, government officials and board members of mobile operators and vendors to explore the socio-economic impact of mobile technologies on individuals, businesses and governments around the world. It focused on actions all stakeholders could take to collectively address the challenge of connecting the billions of currently unconnected individuals to deliver a range of life-enhancing and life-changing services.

Mobile phone technology has already transformed societies around the globe, even in the poorest countries and communities by creating jobs, spurring financial independence, improving education and promoting better health. By 2020, approximately 3.8 billion men and women across the developing world will be connected to the internet via mobile, but 40 per cent of that population will still lack access.

“The digital divide remains a yawning gulf that leaves the poor, those living in rural areas, and a disproportionate number of women – stranded on the wrong side,” Dr. Nabarro said. “Mobiles do not merely contribute to development - they are an important dimension of development,” he added.

He also noted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) included a gender equality goal which calls for women’s use of technology to achieve women’s empowerment and advance gender equality. Women still lag behind in access to mobile technology and the internet and especially in their sophistication of use of these tools.

The UN Global Pulse initiative has demonstrated how the data produced by mobile phones can be used to map and curb the spread of hunger and disease, inform crisis response and understand the impacts of climate change. According to the initiative, real-time information to stay ahead of emerging risks, respond more effectively to crises, and keep progress on track is critical to the achievement of the SDGs.

Dr. Nabarro is working with Member States and other relevant stakeholders to galvanize action on implementation of the Agenda. The 2030 Agenda was unanimously adopted by world leaders at a historic UN summit last September and integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.

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