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Themes: Assistive & Accessible Technology

The future of (mobile) innovation is inclusive

By Felipe Ramos-Barajas

I recently had the opportunity to attend GSMA’s World Mobile Congress (WMC19) in Barcelona. Each year, thousands of people descend onto this sun-kissed city to share, learn, and discuss the future of mobile technology. This year was not the exception. Among the crowd, there was a palpable sense of excitement—and, unsurprisingly, some reservations—about new technologies, such as the advent of 5G. There were countless examples of daring new technologies, new ways of doing and looking at things, and the opportunity to meet the people and companies working at the forefront of mobile technology.

Policy makers were there, too. GSMA hosted the WMC19 Ministerial Meetings where policy makers discussed with innovators, industry leaders, and regulators about policy on digital transformation. One insightful comment came from OECD Secretary-General, Ángel Gurría, who reminded us that while technology is agnostic, the biases, beliefs, and prejudices with which we develop, trial, and use any type of technology make it a powerful tool to either advance or discourage inclusion. This seemingly apparent remark should not be overlooked.

The mobile technology sector is comprised of a mostly young, male, and non-disabled demographic. Innovators must keep this in mind. Different views and needs of other demographics must be taken into consideration. Mobile technology should not create additional barriers for people with disabilities, women, or older adults. Mobile innovation needs to create solutions that do not perpetuate old ways by default.

As often repeated, the most effective innovation is the one people don’t notice. And, for them not to notice, the easiest way is to not create additional barriers.

GSMA event theatre. Message in screen reads: 'Is it time to re-examine how we define inclusion?
Photo taken by Felipe Ramos-Barajas