The Social Impact award is not an add-on, here’s why it’s important and why you should enter

The well worn joke is that industry awards are meaningless and boring unless you win, in which case they are an important validation of your innovation and worth.

The Small Cell Forum Awards are certainly not meaningless or boring. They are often hard (if politely) fought at the judging stage. The awards also attract a genuinely long list of entries from companies who are rightly proud of their achievements.

However, perhaps the Small Cell Forum will allow me to lift the curtain a bit and say that one award category which has seen limited entries in the past is its Social Impact award. (And I hope I can say this without in any way denigrating past winners, who may well have won even if there had been a longer list of entries).

I find the apparent reticence to enter this category understandable for two reasons. One – I suspect there is a perception that this is somehow a less prestigious award than others. Second, I think there’s probably a lack of understanding of what you could be entering in this category and why. I would like to help change that.

This category says it will recognise those who have been promoting small cells for social/economic/environmental development. This, I think, has tended to lend people to think of more extreme use cases in developing world or disaster-hit environments. But when you think about it, any one of those categories should be right in line with what operators and their suppliers are trying to do with small cells – across the board.

Social and Economic development? How about small cells in rural or even semi-rural locations, bringing broadband where previously there was none and in so doing opening up opportunities for residents to become better connected to each other and the world. And I’m not just talking about remote areas in developing countries, but in “mature” markets as well where there can still be a digital divide. Or how about small cells in urban locations, unlocking revenue streams for businesses by acting as platforms for location specific services, or simply by providing better connectivity and enhancing productivity. How about interesting industry vertical use cases where small cells have opened up revenue streams? That’s economic development.

Environmental development? How about the impact on the built environment – via the development of aesthetically pleasing products designed to fit in with our buildings, and city and rural landscapes? How about small cells’ impact on energy use and efficiency across a network?

If you have a product, service or deployment which has contributed in any of these ways, or in others, then you should enter this award. Social, economic and environmental development is not a “nice to have”, a tick in the CSR report. They form a foundational economic rationale for small cell deployments themselves. Winning this category should be seen in that light.

At The Mobile Network, we are backing this view by dedicating our entire next issue to the societal impact of mobile networks. In this issue we are considering how mobile networks have impacted and will impact on:

  • the built environment, rural landscape, architecture and design
  • family, social and cultural life
  • enterprise development and working life
  • accessibility to services and facilities for those with disabilities

We are seeing some great stories rise up that really illustrate how mobile networks as a whole have contributed to social and economic development.

That is why I volunteered to be lead judge on this category, and it I will do my best to push through a view of this award that makes it something that highlights how the products and services you deploy impact on the lives that we lead, the businesses we run, the world we live in.

With the Small Cell Forum’s permission, I am also happy to act as a point of information on this category, if you would like to know if an entry would be suitable or would like further information. Entries are open until Tuesday 14 April. You can find me at keith@the-mobile-network.com