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Mobile broadband as a platform of possibility for sustainable development

Group photo of participants at UN Foundation gathering at UN Week 2018

Ten years have passed since Ericsson’s former CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg addressed the UN General Assembly – a rare intervention from the private sector at that time. His remarks focused on Ericsson’s conviction that communication technology and connectivity in particular could play a significant role in helping to reach the Millennium Development Goals – the predecessors to today’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mobile broadband was still in its infancy at that time, but we already had a clear sense of the opportunities it created in terms of tackling global development challenges.

Fast-forward to 2018. It’s been three years since the launch of the SDGs and New York was packed last week with private-sector representatives attending a variety of side events in conjunction with the UN General Assembly. The vital role that our industry can play in achieving all 17 of the SDGs is widely acknowledged today. In fact, it is even mentioned in the introduction to the SDGs: “The spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies.”

It’s no surprise then, that the GSMA hosted a number of sessions highlighting the role of our industry in achieving the SDGs. On the technology front, we are now on the cusp of a new 5G reality that offers a platform of possibility capable of delivering exponential benefits. Leveraged properly, technology and innovation can help us to better care for our planet and give a voice to those who might otherwise be excluded, while big data can help us be more effective in the interventions and preventative measures we take.

At the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, commissioners highlighted the 50/50 moment we are in right now – 50% of the world’s population is connected to mobile broadband which means 50% are not. In order for broadband to be used to full effect to spur progress toward all of the SDGs, more must be done to get everyone connected as soon as possible. Affordable access, relevant content and digital skills education are all critical issues that require action. Both ITU and UNESCO as co-conveners of the Commission as well as the multi-stakeholder body of commissioners are working to make this a reality.

The UN Foundation Solutions Summit provided a great opportunity to learn about the work of social entrepreneurs, who have come to represent an important part of the SDG ecosystem. It was inspiring to meet so many men and women from across the globe who are focused on social impact and are using technology to take it to scale.

I left New York feeling full of optimism, despite the great global challenges ahead. While I recognize that technology cannot solve everything on its own, I believe that Ericsson is playing a key role in driving positive change by delivering a platform of possibility for a sustainable future.

Learn more about our SDG-related activities in our sustainability and corporate responsibility report.

Written by Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is the Vice President of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility for the Ericsson Group. Her focus is on advocating the role that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can play in addressing global challenges in areas such as education, climate change and humanitarian response and preparedness. She also manages the company's relationships with key sustainability stakeholders, including investors, NGOs, the UN and other international organizations, as well as partnerships such as the World Economic Forum.

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