New Research Points to How Mobile Network Operators Can Help Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals Profitably

KIGALI, Rwanda – 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.

Emmanuel de Dinechin, Partner at Altai Consulting added: “By fully embracing the opportunity offered by D4D, and by doing so today rather than tomorrow, the industry could boost its impact even further.”

To access 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, click here.

For a deeper look at the applicability of MNO data-driven insights across a range of development topics, please refer to DIAL’s February 2018 Report Unlocking MNO Data to Enhance Public Services and Humanitarian Efforts here.

The Digital Impact Alliance’s Data for Development Team will continue to review other questions related to data for development to advance shared knowledge and better coordination between various D4D actors, so please sign up for DIAL’s newsletter, read our blog, and follow us online.

About DIAL

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) aims to realize a more inclusive digital society in emerging markets, in which all women, men and children benefit from life-enhancing, mobile-based digital services. A partnership among USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish Government and the United Nations Foundation, DIAL’s efforts help accelerate the collective efforts of government, industry and development organizations to realize this vision.

About Altai Consulting

Altai Consulting is a consulting firm that specializes in emerging markets. Its client base includes private companies active in various sectors as well as public institutions, international organizations and charities, including the World Bank, CGAP, GOGLA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, DFID, JICA, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM. Altai has also advised the governments of several developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia in improving the effectiveness of their public policy and service delivery mechanisms.