Better networks for a fairer and more sustainable world Better networks for a fairer and more sustainable world

Better networks for a fairer and more sustainable world

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Better quality networks, more widespread connectivity, the growth of applications that have an impact on our daily lives and on the environment. These are the main trends identified in the 2017 GSMA Report on the Objectives for Sustainable Development in the mobile communications industry.

The mobile communications industry was the first among global industries to solemnly commit itself to the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. On 18 September 2017, during the session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, GSMA – a body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide –  presented the2017 edition of the report on these objectives. The document compiles data from all 193 countries and territories represented by the United Nations, and in particular data describing the impact on three key objectives: the end of extreme poverty, the fight against inequality and the protection of the planet.

According to the report, in the last year the mobile communications industry improved its impact on all 17 sustainable goals identified in the report.  The most positive effects were in the areas of health and well-being (SDG 3), sustainability in urban areas (SDG 11), and the climate (SDG 13), thanks to the better overall quality of mobile connectivity and its applications.

The strong growth in infrastructural investments and the improved quality of the service played a key role in these results. With over 4 billion people, over half the global population, reached by fourth generation mobile networks, and 83% of the population reached by 3G networks, the use of mobile services, above all in emergency situations such as epidemics, natural catastrophes or military conflicts, has grown further. In addition to physical users, there was also significant growth (above all in Europe, see Figure 1) in sensors connected to mobile networks: over 100 million in the last year alone, destined to perform functions that are irreplaceable for mankind at this point.

Moreover, to reach the most remote areas, where the marginal utility of services is very high, operators explored new technologies, making an effort in unprecedented digital inclusion. It is however the actual increasingly sophisticated uses by people that underwent the most visible evolution. Using a terminal for payments, and even daily micro-payments, is a practice that now involves half a billion people, reducing the use of cash with all the related advantages. With respect to the 2016 report, mobile users of social media have also grown by half a billion, reaching the impressive number of 2 and a half billion people, further encouraging social inclusion and access to educational platforms. The area with greatest growth in social media on mobile devices is confirmed as Latin America (Figure 2).

Nevertheless, highlights the report, there is still a broad margin for improving the impact on each of the objectives. Universal access, Internet of Things applications and telemedicine are just some of the areas where there are still very large gaps. To reduce the divide, operators must have the courage to look beyond their business in the medium term, and not just for ethical reasons: investing now in the reduction of the digital divide actually means providing the opportunity to seize in advance the market opportunities that will soon arise. According to the GSMA report, in fact, solutions that aim to improve the results on all the sustainability objectives could generate over three billion dollars in additional revenues for the ICT industry by 2032. In order to achieve this, stresses the report, a strong alliance between industry and governments will however be necessary to consolidate a regulatory context that encourages more forward-looking choices.

TIM is one of the operators of GSMA that helped to obtain this impact. It did so with 22 projects and initiatives carried out in 2016 geared towards the creation of shared value and focused on three strategic intervention areas of its Corporate Shared Value model: Social Innovation, Environmental Protection and the Digital Culture. These projects provide an effective contribution to the achievement of the Priority SDGs for TIM from an analysis carried out in 2016 on the contribution that the company can provide in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda objectives. Of the 22 projects completed, TIM promoted digital literacy and inclusion initiatives in schools supporting innovation in education, such as the two-year project "Using ICT in schools, with TIM"; through energy efficiency projects TIM has reduced its environmental impacts and proposes technological solutions to optimize consumption by private entities, businesses and the PA: in 2016, 80 million euros of shared value for the environment were measured. With the Digital Life Programme, a set of solutions for security, the environment and optimal energy management, TIM promotes a low environmental impact Smart City model, enabling energy savings of over 50% with respect to traditional consumption.