5G: Enabling Pathways Out of Poverty
5G availability will determine whether or not mobile-dependent users in many regions can fully participate in the global economy.
For these communities, 5G represents increased economic opportunity through improved access to health care, education, transportation, energy and employment.
“We are now in the decade of delivery. We need to see true collaboration amongst the tech sector, in deed as well as word that moves beyond competitive and geographic boundaries. I think it will happen, but will it happen in time to deliver for the Global Goals.”
5G has a critical role to play in addressing SDG 4 — “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” — by increasing access to remote education for children and adults who are unable to attend school or higher education due to remote locations. Increased internet speeds would allow these students to participate in classes in real time, instead of watching videos of distant teachers. Teachers could connect to students remotely, removing the need to train local teachers or attract foreign teachers to underserved areas.
In 2020, telecommunications company MTN will run a trial of 5G in select cities in Nigeria, the first time 5G will be available in West Africa. 5G can enable remote education and telemedicine opportunities, improving medical care in rural areas, and decreasing geographic limitations to higher education. CSRI and Ericsson note that the well managed rollout of 5G could also enable inclusive socioeconomic development. This will require African governments to develop regulations and help mobile operators overcome steep infrastructure costs.
Rain, a South African based company, launched Africa’s first commercial 5G network in late 2019, using existing 4G infrastructure to build the 5G network. Select customers were invited to purchase 5G, however at $68 per month, the technology is still out of reach for many people. The president of South Africa has called on telecommunications companies to reduce prices in line with other countries around the world in order to enable increased access for many communities.
Companies need to work with governments to ensure that essential 5G infrastructure is available across high-poverty regions and that policies are in place to support the rollout of 5G. This is especially critical in the Global South where technological innovation is most needed and can be held up at the government level. Companies can have the greatest impact through partnership to enable a faster transition to 5G in places where the technology is most limited. Access to 5G will open doors to improved education and healthcare, as long as its distribution is inclusive of all.