Chairman's Message

Stéphane Richard,

Chief Executive Officer, Orange
and Chairman, GSMA

I would like to thank the GSMA’s Board and Leadership Team for all their support as I commence my two-year term as Chair of the GSMA. Thanks are also due to my predecessor Sunil Bharti Mittal, who served as GSMA Chair with great distinction. He will be a hard act to follow.

It’s truly an honour to work with some of the smartest minds as we advance the industry, support our membership and amplify the positive transformational impact of mobile around the world.

Our industry contributed almost $4 trillion to the global economy last year and we employ more than 32 million men and women worldwide. These numbers will grow over the coming years as we embrace new technologies and develop new business models.

But we are about more than driving economic growth – we are changing lives too.

More than 5 billion people are now connected to a mobile network, equivalent to roughly two-thirds of the world’s population. Almost half the world’s citizens also use their mobile phones to access the internet, providing them with access to a range of life-enhancing services in areas such as healthcare, skills and education, and jobs.

Mobile operators and their partners are developing solutions to extend affordable service to some of the lowest income and remotest populations in the world. And yet more than half the world’s population is still not connected to the internet, including many millions that are covered by mobile broadband networks but lack the means or compelling content to get online.

Our challenge, therefore, is to bring these people with us: to ensure digital inclusion for all.

Inclusion forms a major part of the mobile industry’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Consider Goal #5, Gender Equality, for example.

Increasing mobile phone ownership among women in the developing world could be the single most important thing we do to improve gender equality globally. There is work to do: women in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) are 10 per cent less likely to own a phone than a man, and 23 per cent less likely to be on the mobile internet.

Closing this gender gap can help empower women, making them more connected, safe and able to access information and services. There is a significant commercial and economic opportunity too: the GSMA estimates that closing the gender gap in mobile internet use across LMICs could add $700 billion in GDP growth in these markets over the next five years, not to mention providing mobile operators with millions more customers.

And we are making progress: the number of women in LMICs that own a mobile device has risen by over 250 million over the last five years and 80 per cent now own one. Tackling barriers around affordability, digital literacy and safety and security concerns, will be key to further advancing digital inclusion for women over the coming years.

We also need to work on increasing the number of females in our industry, especially in leadership positions, and encourage more young women and girls to study STEM subjects. The GSMA already has a number of initiatives up-and-running in this area and this will remain a key focus for us moving forward.

Gender inclusion is just one example of how our industry is connecting people to new opportunities and services, driving economic growth and advancing progress towards the UN’s SDGs.

Consider also how mobile is enabling digital birth registrations for the many millions of children who lack a formal identity. Or how mobile money is enabling financial inclusion for the estimated 1.7 billion people excluded from the traditional banking system. Or how mobile networks have been able to support more than 30 million people caught up in epidemics and natural disasters.

These are just a few examples of how mobile technology innovation is delivering on our industry’s promise: to connect everyone and everything to a better future. But there is still much work to do to connect the unconnected and build a mobile-powered digital world that is affordable, accessible and relevant for everyone. I believe we now have a unique opportunity to make this vision a reality and make the world a better place for all. Let the hard work begin today to deliver a better future tomorrow.