EDISON Alliance: Bridging the Digital Divide

Interview with Børge Brende. President, World Economic Forum

Teresa Clarke, Chair of Africa.com interviewed Borge Brende, President of World Economic Forum about the EDISON Alliance Initiatives in Africa following his travels with U.S. President Kamala Harris to Zambia.

The World Economic Forum’s EDISON Alliance is committed to expanding its Lighthouse Network—which aims to close the digital divide, particularly for women—by bringing on three new countries in Africa by the end of this year, to support its goal of improving the lives of 1 billion people through affordable access to digital services by 2025. This includes increased attention to addressing the barriers women face in accessing and using digital connectivity. Launched in 2022, with Bahrain, Bangladesh, and Rwanda, the Lighthouse Network provides a platform for countries to showcase success stories, facilitate peer to peer exchange, and crowd in the partners and resources needed to meet their national digital inclusion goals, including on digital gender equality.

World Economic Forum’s EDISON Alliance Initiatives have Improved the Lives of more than 454 Million in 90 Countries

Since its launch in January 2021, the EDISON Alliance, convened by the World Economic Forum, has had a positive impact on the lives of 454 million people in 90 countries by activating over 250 initiatives in health, finance and education.

Through its 1 Billion Lives Challenge, the alliance is accelerating digital inclusion solutions by harnessing commitments from government, the private sector, civil society, academia and international organizations globally, improving affordability, usability and access to digital services and connectivity for 1 billion people by 2025.

According to a report published by the International Telecommunication Union, universal connectivity remains a distant prospect in some countries of Africa and South Asia, where only about 40% of the population is online. With a strong focus on countries with the most profound need for digital inclusion, the four countries with the most improved lives are in South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia). The combined population of these five countries is over 2 billion people – equivalent to a fourth of the world population.

In 2021, 1.4 billion adults were unbanked. The EDISON Alliance provided280 million unserved and underserved people with access to digital financial services such as e-banking, mobile wallets and e-payments. The alliance brought 90 million people to access digital healthcare services such as remote/connected care, telehealth platforms and telemedicine services. In 2021, 244 million children and young people aged between 6 and 18 worldwide were out of school. The alliance enabled 18 million people and youth to access online quality education, remote learning solutions and job skills training.

Bridging the digital divide is a complex challenge. However, after achieving 45% of its 1 Billion Lives Challenge, with three full years until 2025, the EDISON Alliance believes in the importance of demonstrating that it is achievable. United with its board members and a strong community of champions, the alliance encourages members from the public and private sectors, countries, governments, academia, international organizations and civil society to join to further digital inclusion worldwide.

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