How Mobile Network Operators Can Help Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals Profitably

Press Release: “Today, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) released its second paper in a series focused on the promise of data for development (D4D). The paper, Leveraging Data for Development to Achieve Your Triple Bottom Line: Mobile Network Operators with Advanced Data for Good Capabilities See Stronger Impact to Profits, People and the Planet, will be presented at GSMA’s Mobile 360 Africa in Kigali.

“The mobile industry has already taken a driving seat in helping reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and this research reinforces the role mobile network operators in lower-income economies can play to leverage their network data for development and build a new data business safely and securely,” said Kate Wilson, CEO of the Digital Impact Alliance. “Mobile network operators (MNOs) hold unique data on customers’ locations and behaviors that can help development efforts. They have been reluctant to share data because there are inherent business risks and to do so has been expensive and time consuming.  DIAL’s research illustrates a path forward for MNOs on which data is useful to achieve the SDGs and why acting now is critical to building a long-term data business.”

DIAL worked with Altai Consulting on both primary and secondary research to inform this latest paper.  Primary research included one-on-one in-depth interviews with more than 50 executives across the data for development value chain, including government officials, civil society leaders, mobile network operators and other private sector representatives from both developed and emerging markets. These interviews help inform how operators can best tap into the shared value creation opportunities data for development provides.

Key findings from the in-depth interviews include:

  • There are several critical barriers that have prevented scaled use of mobile data for social good – including 1) unclear market opportunities, 2) not enough collaboration among MNOs, governments and non-profit stakeholders and 3) regulatory and privacy concerns;
  • While it may be an ideal time for MNOs to increase their involvement in D4D efforts given the unique data they have that can inform development, market shifts suggest the window of opportunity to implement large-scale D4D initiatives will likely not remain open for much longer;
  • Mobile Network Operators with advanced data for good capabilities will have the most success in establishing sustainable D4D efforts; and as a result, achieving triple bottom line mandates; and
  • Mobile Network Operators should focus on providing value-added insights and services rather than raw data and drive pricing and product innovation to meet the sector’s needs.

“Private sector data availability to drive public sector decision-making is a critical enabler for meeting SDG targets,” said Syed Raza, Senior Director of the Data for Development Team at the Digital Impact Alliance.  “Our data for development paper series aims to elevate the efforts of our industry colleagues with the information, insights and tools they need to help drive ethical innovation in this space….(More)”.