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GSMA Launches Global Initiative to Make Smartphones Affordable Worldwide

In an ambitious move to bridge the digital divide, the GSMA has today announced the formation of the Handset Affordability Coalition, in London. This new global initiative brings together major mobile operators, global institutions such as the World Bank Group, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the World Economic Forum’s Edison Alliance. The coalition aims to make smartphones more affordable and accessible to the world’s poorest populations, a critical step in harnessing the full potential of digital technology for global development.

The Urgency of Smartphone Affordability

Despite widespread mobile internet coverage, a staggering three billion people across the globe are unable to access the internet. This ‘Usage Gap’ is particularly pronounced in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where 84% of broadband connections in 2023 were through mobile devices. The GSMA identifies handset affordability as the principal barrier preventing these populations from connecting online, alongside other challenges such as digital literacy, relevant content availability, and online safety.

GSMA Handset Affordability Coalition’s Strategic Focus

The coalition’s strategy revolves around exploring and implementing various innovative solutions to make entry into the digital economy more affordable. These include creating new financing mechanisms that ‘de-risk’ the cost of smartphones, thereby making them more accessible to lower-income populations. Special attention will be given to regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the affordability barrier is most acute.

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GSMA Launches Global Initiative to Make Smartphones Affordable Worldwide
GSMA Launches Global Initiative to Make Smartphones Affordable Worldwide 4

Statements from Key Leaders

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, highlighted the transformative role of mobile technology in integrating billions into the digital world. He stressed, “Mobile has helped billions of people worldwide to play an active role in our increasingly digital world, but the cost of entry can still be too high for many on low incomes.” Granryd expressed optimism that through innovative solutions and collaborative efforts, the coalition could significantly narrow the usage gap.

Echoing this sentiment, Guangzhe Chen, Vice President for Infrastructure at the World Bank, remarked on the necessity of affordable internet-connected devices for accelerating digitalization in developing countries. “We’ve seen the power of digital technologies to unlock growth and job creation and to ease access to education and health services, but people must first be connected to make this a reality,” said Chen.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary General of the ITU, also emphasized the coalition’s potential to complement the ITU’s mission. She noted the coalition’s alignment with the Broadband Commission’s goal for 2025, aiming for universal meaningful connectivity which is crucial for achieving a digitally inclusive future.

Ongoing Efforts and Future Plans

The coalition will operate under the GSMA’s Breaking Barriers campaign, which advocates for increased collaboration between governments and the mobile industry to address the multifaceted challenges preventing individuals from getting online. The GSMA will facilitate the sharing of insights and strategies among coalition members to ensure the effective deployment of tailored solutions that can bridge the global digital divide.

For more detailed information on the coalition’s membership and their specific roles, stakeholders are encouraged to visit the GSMA’s dedicated webpage at www.gsma.com/breakingbarriers, which will continue to be updated with the latest developments and progress reports.

Conclusion

Today’s announcement represents a significant commitment by the mobile industry and its partners towards eliminating one of the most substantial barriers to mobile adoption worldwide. By focusing on smartphone affordability, the Handset Affordability Coalition is set to play a pivotal role in enabling millions more to maximise their potential by getting online, thereby driving broader socio-economic development and connectivity across the globe.

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