Accelerating digital inclusion for 1 billion people by 2025
- Today, 2.6 billion people do not use the internet.
- EDISON Alliance partners have improved the lives of 784 million people through 320 digital inclusion initiatives across 127 countries.
- The Alliance is mobilizing cross-sector action to provide affordable and accessible digital solutions across health, education and financial services.
The impact of prioritizing digital inclusion.
The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated digitization worldwide. Access to digital technologies allowed people to carry on with their lives, but the health crisis also exacerbated existing inequalities for the 2.6 billion people who remain unconnected to the internet.
The World Economic Forum’s EDISON Alliance is a global movement of leaders from across industries and governments who are prioritizing digital inclusion to bring millions of people online, so that they can access critical services in healthcare, finance and education.
The Alliance fosters collaboration and cross-sector action to enhance digital inclusion. It is mobilizing commitments globally to accelerate the delivery of digital solutions to unserved and underserved populations, aiming to improve the lives of 1 billion people by 2025.
What is the challenge?
Although most people in the world live in areas covered by a broadband network, 33% of the global population (2.6 billion people) remains offline and left behind. This is due to the persisting barriers to connectivity: affordability of data and devices, the lack of necessary digital skills and a lack of access to digital infrastructure and skills.
For the average consumer in most low-income economies, the cost of fixed or mobile broadband services remains too high. A basic mobile data plan in these countries costs approximately 9% of average income. While this has slightly decreased in recent years, the cost remains many times more expensive than in higher-income countries.
Having access to affordable digital services, as well as the digital skills required to use them, is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Leaders from industry and government are pushing this complex and urgent challenge to the forefront of the Forum’s agenda because no one sector can address this challenge on its own.
“ No matter where you were born or where you live, everybody should have access to the digital services that are necessary to fully participate in 21st century society. Helping all people access our shared future has been my life’s work and it’s what we at Verizon work to address every day.”
— Hans Vestberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Verizon
Our approach to improving digital inclusion.
The EDISON Alliance is a global mobilization of private and public sector leaders, bringing actors from the telecoms and broader ICT industry together with members of healthcare, financial services, education and investors to foster digital inclusion.
In September 2021, the Alliance launched the 1 Billion Lives Challenge to improve 1 billion lives globally through affordable digital access to healthcare, education and financial services by 2025. As of January 2024, Alliance partners have improved the lives of 784 million people through 320 initiatives across 127 countries through digital solutions.
“We are implementing programmes that will ensure that our citizens have access to affordable smart devices and possess appropriate digital skills to harness the benefits of a digital, cashless economy. We invite partners, corporates and governments, within the EDISON Alliance to accelerate their commitments to ensure universal and lasting digital inclusion for 1 billion lives.”
— Paula Ingabire, Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation of Rwanda
EDISON Alliance partners have:
- provided 463 million people with access to digital financial services;
- brought 141 million people access to digital healthcare services; and
- enabled 94 million people and youth to access online education.
In terms of regional impact, South Asia and Africa have benefitted the most from the Alliance’s initiatives – with India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan and Ethiopia leading the way with the highest number of lives impacted.
The Alliance’s Lighthouse Countries Network is a platform for countries to advance their national digital inclusion agendas. Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria recently joined Bahrain, Bangladesh, Honduras, Rwanda, Togo, and the United Arab Emirates to leverage the collective capabilities of the Alliance.
In Rwanda, for example, a partnership with Mastercard has introduced bespoke digital financial services tailored to the country’s market needs. While in Bangladesh, the government has effectively leveraged the Alliance’s collective knowledge to enhance its digital education services.
“The digital revolution is an empowering force for people and planet, yet billions, especially those most vulnerable populations of societies, remain offline or poorly connected. That is why UNDP became a founding member of the EDISON Alliance, and we are very pleased to see how it has accelerated wider adoption of digital inclusion through collective advocacy and country-level initiatives.”
— Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme
In partnership with the International Finance Corporation and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Alliance is working to advance digital inclusion through financial services and help reduce inequalities for people and smaller businesses in emerging and developing economies.
The Alliance also supplies ongoing guidance to empower policymakers and relevant stakeholders to make informed decisions that advance digital inclusion. These tools include shared principles for digital health inclusion and an inclusive financial system, a guidebook for digital inclusion bond financing, and the Digital Inclusion Navigator – a one-stop shop of curated case studies and leading best practices to help policymakers decode the digital divide. The Alliance’s Initiatives Marketplace serves as a central hub to showcase the diverse array of partner initiatives, enabling members to draw inspiration and identify expertise and collaborators for their initiatives.
How can you get involved?
The EDISON Alliance is an initiative of the Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A network of 160 changemakers – from CEOs to Ministers to Heads of International Organizations – are championing digital inclusion.
Companies and organizations can join the 1 Billion Lives Challenge by pledging an existing or new commitment to improve lives through digitally inclusive services, or contributing to an initiative with a recognized pledge.