Internet street sign. Image: Leon Seibert/Unsplash

5 charts on how we can get more people access to the internet

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda

  • The EDISON Alliance has helped 784 million people in 127 countries access the internet and digital services.
  • This represents almost 80% of the group’s goal to provide 1 billion people with affordable and accessible digital solutions by 2025.
  • The EDISON Alliance Impact Report 2024 also shows that nine of the top 10 countries it impacted last year are developing nations.

Big progress on digital access was made during the COVID-19 pandemic, when 800 million new internet users got online globally.

But billions of people are still offline.

In a new report, the World Economic Forum’s EDISON Alliance details its progress in bridging the digital divide – the gap between those who do and don’t have access to digital technology and the internet.

The EDISON Alliance Impact Report 2024 is the group’s second impact report since it was set up in 2021 by leaders from the private sector, governments and civil society.

Chart 1. Bridging the digital divide

While 95% of people live in areas with internet coverage, 2.6 billion people are still unconnected. In the least developed countries, only 27% of people are described as internet users, although 63% of the world’s population is connected to the internet.

Education, finance and healthcare are three essential services that digitized during the pandemic – and the EDISON Alliance is looking at how to use digital technology to bring these services to underserved people.

The group’s approach is focused on increasing access to the internet and digital services, boosting digital skills – including providing content in local languages – and reducing the cost of services including broadband and internet-enabled devices.

The EDISON Alliance’s framework for impact
Globally, 2.6 billion people still aren’t connected to the internet. Image: EDISON Alliance

Chart 2. EDISON’s 1 Billion Lives Challenge

By the end of last year, the EDISON Alliance had reached 784 million people through 320 digital initiatives across 127 countries.

This is a jump in reach of more than 70% since EDISON’s 2023 impact report and completes almost 80% of the group’s goal to provide 1 billion people with affordable and accessible digital solutions by 2025.

EDISON’s impact also spans 15 industries. The Alliance includes community-led task forces that address specific digital inclusion challenges, a repository of digital inclusion resources for policymakers and business leaders, digital-sector experts and partnerships across the public and private sectors.

1 Billion Lives Challenge progress overview
The EDISON Alliance has helped more than 784 million people access the internet and digital services. Image: EDISON Alliance

Chart 3. Accessing online education, finance and health services

Education, finance and healthcare and three key focus areas for the EDISON Alliance.

The Alliance has impacted the lives of 94 million people through digital and online education. This is 12% of the total number of people EDISON has helped and a four-fold increase in the number of lives impacted in 2023.

It has helped 463 million people through expanded access to digital financial and banking services. This is 65% up on last year – an additional 183 million people – and more than half of the total number of lives EDISON has impacted.

And, in healthcare, EDISON Alliance partners provided 141 million people with access to health tech solutions and remote care, a 57% increase from last year.

Breakdown of lives impacted by focus area
The EDISON Alliance focuses on boosting digital access through education, financial services and healthcare. Image: EDISON Alliance

Chart 4. Improving digital and internet access, affordability and usability

Access to the internet and digital services was the biggest problem tackled by the EDISON Alliance last year. In total, the group helped 486 million people with connectivity. This represents more than 60% of the people EDISON has helped and is an 80% jump on progress in the previous year.

Affordability was improved for 196 million people, who were able to access cheaper devices and/or digital services, including broadband. This is 53% up from the last impact report and represents a quarter of the people EDISON has helped.

Usability – understanding how to use digital technology – was improved for 102 million people through digital literacy and skills training. This is a 96% rise in lives impacted and a “significant increase” in initiatives, the Alliance said.

Breakdown of lives impacted by problem solved
The EDISON Alliance helps people access, afford and use the internet and digital services. Image: EDISON Alliance

Chart 5. Widening internet and digital access globally

India, Bangladesh and Vietnam were the top three countries impacted by the EDISON Alliance, with most lives improved.

In total, 78% of the people EDISON has helped live in South Asia.

Another 14% are in Africa, up from 10% in the previous impact report.

Ranking by country with most lives impacted by EDISON partners.
South Asia is impacted the most by EDISON partners. Image: EDISON Alliance

Of the top 10 countries the EDISON Alliance has impacted, nine are developing nations.

Only about a third of people on average have internet access in these countries, compared to 80% on average in developed nations, the Alliance says.

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