World Bank and GSMA announce partnership to harness big data for development projects

The World Bank is entering into a partnership with the GSMA and mobile network operators around the globe to harness big data from the Internet of Things (IoT) to help end extreme poverty and unlock new drivers of economic growth.

The GSMA is a trade body representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors.

World Bank Group President, Mr Jim Yong Kim made the announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This is the first broad scope initiative involving the mobile communications industry and a major multilateral development bank.

Rapidly expanding mobile networks around the world generate enormous amounts of data. The press release states that there are over 3.8 billion unique mobile subscribers in developing countries. In such markets, more people have access to a mobile phone than to clean water or electricity.

Moreover, GSMA Intelligence estimates there will be 25 billion connections to the Internet of Things globally by 2025, enabling a range of activities from real-time crop monitoring to water leakage detection. The data from mobile networks and IoT devices can provide valuable insights for social and economic development.

This new initiative is expected to unlock new insights from anonymised data collected by mobile network operators through IoT devices and aggregate data from smartphone use.

The initiative calls on mobile operators to use data that collected by them through existing IoT services or through new pilots and partnerships to provide insights and analysis to design and improve projects.

This can potentially boost development outcomes from World Bank Group projects – in the last fiscal year, the institution committed approximately $62 billion for new projects in middle- and low-income countries.

The press release provides an example of successful application of mobile-enabled IoT and big data to projects by the World Bank. In India, wearable IoT data collection devices in the form of bangle-shaped sensors allow users to automatically monitor harmful emissions from their stoves, and the data they generate is helping drive a shift to cleaner cookstoves.

Operators and governments will also benefit from increased use of big data for development, as it can enable better service provision, creation of new indicators and statistics, and better quality of life for users and citizens in general.

Additionally, the World Bank Group will join the GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good Advisory Panel. The GSMA is a strong supporter of development initiatives that involve mobile networks and is one of the inaugural partners of the World Bank-led Digital Development Partnership – DDP.

It will also call on industry leaders, development partners and governments to work together in building a strong enabling environment for the IoT, while protecting personal privacy.

“The mobile network industry provides the connectivity that is essential for countries to unlock new drivers of economic growth, help make the global market system work for everyone, and meet the world’s rising aspirations,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “Through this initiative we will partner with the mobile industry to harness IoT, big data and other new technologies to solve the world’s largest challenges.”

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, added, “This new initiative with the World Bank Group will leverage the mobile networks that we have built and the services we deliver to address some of the most pressing challenges that our world faces today. With IoT and big data, we have the ability to provide insights that can be used across a wide range of applications, from agriculture to environmental protection and beyond. We are pleased to be working with the World Bank on this critical initiative and encourage our operator members globally to join in this effort.”

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