Thirty years of the Global Telecom Women’s Network, what an incredible achievement. I am delighted that we are celebrating the GTWN’s 30 years here in Barcelona, at MWC22.

Let’s take a moment to look back at just a few of the women that have played a fundamental role in the very early development of our industry.

From Ada Lovelace, in the 1800s, a remarkable mathematician, and the first computer programmer; to Sarah Bagley, the first woman telegraph operator, who also campaigned for equal pay; to Hedy Lamar, the Austrian actress, who pioneered the technology that would pave the way for WiFi. These are just three of the early women leaders who shaped our industry, and the world as we know it today.

Our industry has already come a long way, but there is much more that we need to do. There are three priority areas we need to focus on in 2022.

Firstly, the increasingly central partnership role that we are playing with other sectors ranging from manufacturing to healthcare.

Today doing business is a much wider term than it was even 10 years ago. There is no doubt that climate action is business, that sustainability is business, and that mobile can have a massive enablement effect across all sectors. In fact, our research shows that connected technologies could contribute 40% of the required carbon emissions savings for the world’s net zero goals. These technologies already exist, but they are still very underused by energy-intensive industries. So the opportunities are enormous, especially as the 5G era begins to take off.

Which brings us to the second theme – 5G and intelligent connectivity.

By the end of 2021, 176 mobile operators had launched 5G services in 70 markets around the world. And by 2025, we expect 5G to account for a quarter of total mobile connections. So, there is absolutely no doubt that 5G is the future, and that the leaders of tomorrow, the people that are innovating today, stand to gain the most from understanding and mobilizing all of its possibilities. And, of course, as this future begins to take shape, there is a very important group of people that we must not forget. The people who are not yet using mobile.

Which is the third theme – digital inclusion and in particular the usage gap.

Today, half of the world’s people are connected online, but half are not. 3.8 billion people globally are still not connected to the internet. This is made up of 450 million people – who live outside areas covered by mobile broadband, the coverage gap, and 3.4 billion people – who live in areas covered by mobile broadband but who do not yet use mobile internet, the usage gap.

In the last 5 years, 1.4 billion more people have been covered by mobile broadband, reducing the coverage gap. But the usage gap, the 3.4 billion people, remains. And we find that women are most affected by this. Across low- and middle- income countries, women are 7% less likely than men to own a mobile phone, and 15% less likely to use mobile internet. As we emerge from the pandemic, with renewed energy and ideas, now is the time for action.

Through the GSMA’s Connected Women Commitment Initiative, 40 mobile operators have made formal commitments to accelerate digital and financial inclusion for women, and to date, we have reached over 55 million additional women with mobile money and mobile internet services. The numbers show us that it really is possible to work together to close the usage gap.

At the GSMA, we also recognise that we have a responsibility to set standards and lead by example when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The GTWN has been an important part of this process, providing valuable thought leadership, and for that I thank you. They say that when women gather, great things happen. And I could not agree more. The GTWN has shown this time and again.

Congratulations again on 30 incredible years. Here’s to many more!