Inclusion beyond the numbers

February 27, 2024


When I attended Connected Britain 2023 held in London on 20-21 September 2023, I was struck by the different ways inclusion was discussed, starting with the Nokia keynote plea to be “inclusive and collaborative”. Many interpreted this from a fibre perspective as “homes passed”. This alone is not enough to address this matter fully or collaboratively.

GSM Association also published their annual report on UN SDGs which offered some great international data points to guide us.

The GSMA’s eighth SDG impact report, published at the halfway point to the 2030 Agenda, spotlights the mobile industry’s impact and recommends action points to help realise the UN Goals

Since 2015, almost 2 billion people have gained access to the internet through a mobile device, with some 4.5 billion people – or 57% of the world’s population connected by the end of 2022.1

But that leaves a lot of people who are still not connected to the Internet or the benefits of the World Wide Web. Connectivity is a key reason, but not the only reason.

We need to think differently – nationally and internationally, about Connectivity and Internet access. It is more than cost – it is also about devices, convenience and coverage. It is Inclusion that ensures that the WWW is not closed to anyone and providing the ease of use to maximise collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Language, ability and gender should not become new barriers either.

So how should we think about inclusion?

  • Key inclusion factors: By age, gender, accessibility, ability, geography, language, sector.
  • Locations: Homes; offices; major venues and stadia; remote and rural connectivity; mobility including transport links, automotive, rail, marine and air based requirements.
  • User requirements: voice/data/video; customer service (including physical and online; support and self- service; mobility; capacity; security and resilience; cost effectiveness; appropriate billing and accounting; social tariffs; devices and machine connectivity; applications and mapping; streaming; connected transport; health / energy requirements; net zero.
  • Capability: voice quality; data speeds; access to the Internet; access to content – download and upload; interactivity;latency; security; data storage and data trust; ease of use; network choice and portability; international roaming; private networks.
  • Technology choices and differentiated capability: wireline and wireless capabilities with appropriate systems integration and collaboration based on international standards; legacy networks with switchover plans. All key digital technologies such as Fibre , Wifi , Cellular, FWA and Satellite should be included; ideally standards based to attract maximum choice, and the best solutions support.
  • Distribution channels: choice and support, sometimes tailored and often with solutions or systems bundling.

Let’s be truly inclusive and show what the Communications industry can really do.

  1. ↩︎

Dr Mike Short, CBE is the Chair of the UK Telecomms Innovation Network Advisory Board (UKTIN AB) and Chief Architect – Satellite Applications Catapult. He was Chief Scientific Advisory at the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) from November 2017 to February 2023.

He has over 40 years of experience in the electronics and telecommunications industry, latterly as Vice President of Telefonica for 17 years to December 2016. In that post, he managed the launch of 2G (GSM) and 3G mobile technologies in the UK, established an office in Brussels and went on to lead international research, innovation and standards for Telefonica Europe.

His career includes the promotion of international technical standards in mobile and digital technology. He is a former chairman of the GSM Association, the UK Mobile Data Association, and was president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology in 2011 to 2012.

He was honoured with a CBE in 2012 for his services to the mobile industry.