Dario Betti, MEF: “Digital inclusion will become more central.”
Today we interviewed Dario Betti, CEO of the MEF – Mobile Ecosystem Forum-, one of the leading European organizations in the mobile sector.
What do you think will be the challenges of the mobile industry in the coming months?
Challenges and opportunities often come together in equal measures. Here we have big challenges and big opportunities for the mobile industry.
First, the mobile has been the saviour for so much of the population: time spent on mobile has increased significantly. The time spent on phones in the first week of lockdown increased by 30% in China and 11% in Italy.
People were not just communicating but playing, paying, working and educating with their mobile phones. Mobile is at the centre of people’s life.
The other side of the challenges: I would say capacity and fraud. Our first analysis has shown that mobile networks have managed to cope overall, but it is fair to say that the requested speed and number of users point out that 5G is needed for the capacity growth that the users expect.
Finally, the SMS registry at MEF was witnessing a huge increase in attempt to scam via fake COVID-19 messages phishing users from bank and credit card date. The response from the industry has been fast and decisive to stop fraud, but this was a reminder of how important it is to defend the mobile medium.
As the importance of mobile will grow so will the people attempting to fraud users.
How will the MEF go along companies to face the new challenges?
MEF is the trade association of the Mobile Industry embracing all players that have something to do with mobile. Our members are many and much different from each other. Initially, we asked our members what we could do for them. In fairness, we expected hundreds of different responses in representation of our diverse base.
To our surprise, what the industry wanted was clear and consistent: a place to talk. The lack of events, face to face meetings or even bumping each other in airports is proving challenging from an industry that is all about collaboration. We are now running many more digital meet- ups and webinar to make sure that we can interact with a large base.
What changes in users are the most relevant now?
We are witnessing an encouraging expansion of usage from new users that were resisting digital services: the older segments. They are often the most vulnerable in the current conditions, and they can fight isolation, solitude thanks to digital services. Overall, mobile services have proven easy and immediate to use for these segments.
Mobile is the preferred way to break ice with digital technology. Moreover, if tracing apps will be used to monitor transmission as we are now seeing been suggested by many governments – you can imagine the overall penetration of smartphone to grow much further. The incentive to own a smartphone will be much higher. We estimate worldwide smartphone penetration at 46%, with peak penetration in some developed economies just over 80%.
I suspect that after the COVID-19 times we will see all of these number to be higher. Mobile is now becoming a necessity, not a choice.
What is the role of technology in today’s society?
It is difficult to find a role for technology. Today, technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. It is a very important achievement we have made more efficient and more affordable many services.
Payments, education, work and even health services have been made available via digital: no more paper documents, or visits to office.
However, technology is still not available to all. How to we make sure that these services are still available to those in society that cannot afford or use these technologies yet? The question of digital inclusion will become more central to much of the government plans of the future.