May 30, 2017

Digital Technology in Côte d'Ivoire Is Transforming the Way People Live, Work, Play and Communicate

Following from my previous post about a GSMA report focusing on the growing mobile technology sector in West Africa and the socioeconomic benefits this will bring to the region, the London, England-based organization also published a report asserting how "the mobile industry has contributed to enormous change" in the West Africa nation of Côte d'Ivoire. Available in both English and Français, the report explains: "Digital technology in Côte d'Ivoire is evolving rapidly, leading to the emergence of new services and applications that are transforming the way people live, work, play and communicate."

The report claims "mobile technology is also revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare and agricultural services. Platforms have been developed that enable doctors and health professionals to communicate directly with patients through voice calls and SMS, significantly benefiting rural communities that would otherwise have to travel long distances to receive such services." Moreover, "Mobile platforms have also been used to provide farmers and agricultural firms with up-to-date information on market prices, production techniques and weather. Such mAgri services currently have almost half a million users in Côte d'Ivoire."

The report also illustrates the beneficial role mobile technology will play in achieving the "17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeking to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This high-level ambition is made specific by the 169 targets that sit behind the SDGs and provide greater direction, quantification and timing for each goal. The intention is to meet all the targets by 2030, with some requiring earlier attainment."

Encouragingly, "The mobile industry was the first to come together and make a commitment to sustainable development and the goals. As part of this commitment the GSMA has started to assess how mobile technology contributes to the SDGs. The first report was launched at the UN Private Sector Forum in September 2016 and provided a framework to assess the industry's impact on the SDGs.

"All SDGs are affected by the mobile industry to varying degrees. Basic voice connectivity offers many societal, economic and environmental benefits, and upgrading to mobile broadband, to smartphones, and further to M2M (machine-to-machine) and IoT (Internet of Things), together with rapid digital transformation, creates a significant opportunity for the industry to support governments in meeting their SDG commitments."

The report dives deeper on mobile connectivity and its impact on SDGs by explaining: "The mobile industry's core mission is to provide connectivity. The provision of voice, SMS and data connectivity impacts all 17 SDGs. For example, mobile connectivity reduces the costs of accessing information and can create or expand markets by enabling the mechanisms for buyers and sellers to discover each other and conduct transactions, driving more inclusive growth. This is particularly relevant to SDGs 1 – No poverty, 5 – Gender equality, 8 – Decent work and economic growth, 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure, and 10 – Reduced inequalities.

"Another example is the use of mobile for emergency calls and broadcasting, which can play a critical role in the response to and management of natural and man-made disasters, which is relevant to SDGs 1 – No poverty, 2 – Zero hunger, 3 – Good health and well-being, 11 – Sustainable cities and communities, and 13 – Climate action. Additionally, mobile services enable users to access essential information such as health advice and educational tools, key to SDGs 3 – Good health and well-being and 4 – Quality education."

The report's final chapter focuses on opportunities for public-private collaboration. It notes that "mobile financial services have had a significant social and economic impact in many countries and are a key driver for many SDGs. Today, Côte d'Ivoire has the highest penetration of mobile money accounts in West Africa, and mobile money is already being used by the government to facilitate the payment of over 1.7 million secondary school fees each year. Further rollout of mobile financial services will continue to contribute to Côte d'Ivoire's achievement of the SDGs.

Image: GSMA
"Additional areas of opportunity include other mobile-enabled services such as energy, health and education. Given that just over 50% of the population have access to electricity, providing innovative ways for people to access electricity is important, particularly in rural areas, such as with pay-as-you-go solar home solutions. For this to be realized it is important to have the right infrastructure in place as IoT is still nascent in the country. Additionally, given low levels of literacy in the country and low health outcomes (such as high levels of maternal and infant mortality, and high levels of food insecurity), the Ministry of National and Technical Education (MENET), the Ministry of Health and mobile operators could collaborate to meet the goals on good health and well-being (SDG 3) and quality education (SDG 4)."

I agree with the claim presented in the report's Executive Summary: "Closer collaboration between the Ivorian mobile industry and the various line ministries of its government offers a strong opportunity to support Côte d'Ivoire's social and economic progress." Do you have specific ideas on how mobile technology can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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