The first alliance to accelerate digital inclusion

  • Today, 2.6 billion people do not use the internet.
  • The EDISON Alliance has crossed the halfway mark in its aim to positively impact 1 billion lives through digital inclusion.
  • 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 and bringing millions of people online, so they can access critical services in healthcare, finance and education.

The Alliance fosters collaboration and cross-sector action to enhance the case for digital investment. 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) remain offline and left behind. This is due to the persisting barriers to connectivity: affordability of data and devices, knowing how to use products and services, and a lack of access.

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.

Our approach to improving digital inclusion.

The EDISON Alliance is the first 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 lead the way into the digital infrastructure of the 21st century.

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 October 2022, the Alliance has impacted the lives of over 500 million people by activating over 250 digital inclusion initiatives across 90 countries.

“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

The Alliance has:

  • provided 280 million unserved and underserved people with access to digital financial services such as e-banking, mobile wallets and e-payments;
  • brought 90 million people access to digital healthcare services such as remote/connected care, telehealth platforms and telemedicine services; and
  • enabled 18 million unserved and underserved people and youth to access online quality education, remote learning solutions and job skills training.

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022, the Alliance launched a network of Lighthouse Countries, including Bahrain, Bangladesh and Rwanda, to promote digital inclusion in their respective countries and advance national digital inclusion goals. In September 2023, the Alliance announced the integration of Honduras, Togo and the United Arab Emirates as partners in its network. The aim is to provide a global platform for local actors to leverage the collective capability of the Alliance.

“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

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.

How can you get involved?

The EDISON Alliance is an initiative of the Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Nearly 50 active leaders – 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.

Want to make an impact yourself? Get Involved

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