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Our President & CEO, Kathy Brown, will again lead a group of us headed to GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the week of 22 February. As highlighted in our 2016 Action Plan, our focus this year is on connecting everyone who is unconnected, and promoting trust in the Internet. Both topics are highlighted in last year’s Internet Society Global Internet Report, as critical issues with respect to the mobile Internet. With its concentration of Ministers, CEOs, operators and vendors, from around the world, Barcelona is the place to be to build the visibility, reach, and influence of the Internet Society for these key topics.

When it comes to increasing access, according to the most recent ITU numbers, there are 3.2 billion Internet users worldwide, or 44% of the population. Of these users, more than 80% access the Internet over mobile devices. Looking forward, the mobile Internet will clearly drive growth in usage; already, 78% of the population can receive mobile broadband signals, leaving significant room to grow just with existing infrastructure, which itself is always growing. Remaining obstacles include affordability of services and handsets for those who can’t afford service, and increasing the amount of relevant local content to attract those non-users who can afford service.

While we attend sessions and meetings to discuss all these aspects of increased access, we will have the opportunity to focus in particular on inclusion, but also on the need to recognize how women are empowering themselves through the Internet. According to a recent Web Foundation survey in nine cities in the developing world, women are 50% less likely than men to use the Internet, denying them the opportunity for increased economic, social, and government inclusion. But once women and girls have access to the Internet, they are more likely to use it in their daily lives. For example, 60% of bloggers online are women who also represent close to half of social media users. Kathy will have the opportunity to address these issues in her keynote interview and panel as part of the “Women Leadership Accelerating the Digital Age” session on Thursday, 25 February.

In addition to increasing the number of Internet users, we want to ensure that new and existing users alike have trust in using the Internet. In this, the mobile ecosystem plays a critical role. Not just because of the extent of mobile usage, but also because of its nature. To access a traditional computer the hacker must come in proximity to the computer at home or in the office; with a mobile device such as a smartphone, users bring the device into proximity of the hackers. A lost or stolen device can be read; wireless signals can be intercepted; and mobile apps can contain malware. As we use our devices increasingly to make payments, track our health, and conduct our business, these risks magnify.

The mobile industry has led to previously unimaginable levels of connectivity. 95% of the global population can receive a mobile voice signal, with 7 billion subscriptions used by more than half the world’s population. We know that this role will be duplicated in connecting the unconnected. We also seek to encourage the entire mobile ecosystem to join the Internet community to help build trust as well as connectivity.

Much of the future of the Internet is on display in Barcelona – the new devices and service providers who will connect the unconnected and the connected things that are beginning to surround us in smart homes, smart cars, and smart cities.

We can think of no better place to be to raise awareness of the Internet Society’s principles and values across the entire mobile ecosystem, and look forward to an exciting and fruitful visit.


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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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