Vodafone Group Plc
27 September 2022
27 September 2022
ACTION PLAN AGREED FOR UNIVERSAL SMARTPHONE ACCESS
UNGA, New York : The ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for
Sustainable Development has ratified the first multi-stakeholder
study aimed at creating practical tools and actions that could
enable nearly 3 billion more people to access and use the internet
through a smartphone by 2030.
Around a third of the global population still cannot or do not
access the internet(1) . The adoption gap for mobile internet -
which arises when individuals do not use the internet even when
there is mobile network coverage in an area - is now over seven
times larger than the coverage gap globally and is even larger in
South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North
A Broadband Commission Working Group on Smartphone Access was
co-chaired by Nick Read, CEO of Vodafone Group, Houlin Zhao,
Secretary General of the ITU and Heidi Schroderus-Fox/ Rabab
Fatima, UN High Representatives for the Least Developed Countries,
Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
(UN-OHRLLS). The Working Group also included representatives from
the governments of Benin and Ghana.
The report, 'Strategies Towards Universal Smartphone Access',
found that limited affordability and availability of smartphones,
along with low consumer confidence, in part due to a lack of basic
digital skills, are limiting internet adoption.
The report, which took a year to research and write, identifies
three interventions that will have the most immediate impact on
-- increased use by telecom operators of flexible device financing models;
-- reduced taxes and import duties; and
-- improved distribution models to make smartphones more accessible to rural communities.
Alongside these measures the report recommends further
investigation into the use of device subsidies and the re-use of
The Broadband Commission will create taskforces to complete a
five point action plan resulting from its findings:
(i) initiate win-win partnerships with players across the digital value chain;
(ii) improve recycling regulation and develop quality standards
for pre-owned smartphones;
(iii) develop strategies for recycling of mid- and low-tier devices;
(iv) explore the use of Universal Service Funds and other government subsidies; and
(v) further explore the economic benefits of reducing tax and
import duties on smartphones.
Nick Read, the CEO of Vodafone Group said: "Access to the
internet, and smartphones, are critical enablers of jobs,
education, healthcare, financial services and much more. We need
focused partnerships between business, government and civil society
to drive smartphone adoption, through the five actions we have
identified, to ensure we enable the transformative benefits of
internet adoption for billions of people."
Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of the ITU, said: "Thanks to the
collaborative efforts of all members of the Working Group, this
report moves the conversation forward by providing detailed case
studies on initiatives implemented globally to address the
challenges in providing affordable broadband and smartphone access.
This report is just the first step. For the next phase, I would
like to invite you to join us to implement the recommended
initiatives and the five-point action plan to reduce the device gap
for the underserved communities globally, as we move towards
building a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable world."
Rabab Fatima, UN High Representative for the Least Developed
Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island
Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), said: "Only 45% of adults in
emerging economies currently own a smartphone, compared to 76% in
advanced economies.(3) Women are also significantly less likely
than men to own a smartphone and use the mobile internet if they
live in low and middle income countries. Smartphones are not just
consumer goods: they are accelerators for learning, connection and
economic activity. But with the cost of a smartphone exceeding 70%
of the average monthly income of people living in low and middle
income countries(4) , enabling access and use to the internet must
now become a policy priority for the international community."
The Working Group also included representatives from: America
Móvil; the government of Benin; the Food and Agriculture
Organisation of the UN; the government of Ghana; the GSMA; the
International Trade Centre; Intelsat; the International Science
Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation (ITC);
Millicom; Smart Africa; ZTE; and the World Wide Web Foundation. The
lead author of the report was Professor Christopher Yoo, John H.
Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer &
Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania. The report
included research from the GSMA, ITU and 19 structured expert
interviews, as well as insights from focus groups of entrepreneurs
convened by the ITC, and extensive desk research.
The strategies for smartphone adoption build upon the
Partner2Connect Digital Coalition which was launched earlier this
year by the ITU, in close cooperation with the Office of the
Secretary-General's Envoy on Technology. Partner2Connect is a
multistakeholder alliance to foster meaningful connectivity and
digital transformation globally, with a focus on (but not limited
to) the hardest- to-connect communities. The coalition has so far
had 428 pledges with an estimated financial value of
US$26.06billion (EUR26.04billion). Pioneer pledges include
Vodafone, through its main African business Vodacom, which will
invest US$190 million (EUR190 million) over the next five years to
increase 4G population coverage to an additional 80 million people
The full report is available at:
- ends -
1. ITU: Measuring digital development: Facts and Figures 2022 (forthcoming).
2. GSMA: Accelerating affordable smartphone ownership in emerging markets .
3. Pew Research Center: Smartphone ownership is growing rapidly around the world, but not
always equally .
4. A4AI: Affordability Report 2021 .
For further information:
Media Relations Investor Relations
Unique in its scale as the largest pan-European and African
technology communications company, Vodafone transforms the way we
live and work through its innovation, technology, connectivity,
platforms, products and services.
Vodafone operates mobile and fixed networks in 21 countries, and
partners with mobile networks in 47 more. As of 30 June 2022, we
had over 300m mobile customers, more than 28m fixed broadband
customers and 22m TV customers. Vodafone is a world leader in the
Internet of Things (IoT), connecting around 160m devices and
We have revolutionised fintech in Africa through M-Pesa, which
celebrates its 15(th) anniversary in 2022. It is the region's
largest fintech platform, providing access to financial services
for more than 50m people in a secure, affordable and convenient
Our purpose is to connect for a better future by using
technology to improve lives, digitalise critical sectors and enable
inclusive and sustainable digital societies.
We are committed to reducing our environmental impact to reach
net zero emissions across our full value chain by 2040, while
helping our customers reduce their own carbon emissions by 350m
tonnes by 2030. We are driving action to reduce device waste and
achieve our target to reuse, resell or recycle 100% of our network
We believe in the power of connectivity and digital services to
improve society and economies, partnering with governments to
digitalise healthcare, education and agriculture and create
cleaner, safer cities. Our products and services support the
digitalisation of businesses, particularly small and medium
Our inclusion for all strategy seeks to ensure no-one is left
behind through access to connectivity, digital skills and creating
relevant products and services such as access to education,
healthcare and finance. We are also committed to developing a
diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the customers and
societies we serve.
For more information, please visit www.vodafone.com , follow us
on Twitter at @VodafoneGroup or connect with us on LinkedIn at
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