New York, USA, 21 September 2021 – The EDISON Alliance aims to improve the lives of 1 billion people through the 1 Billion Lives Challenge by increasing affordable digital access to healthcare, finance and education by 2025. Although 85% of the world’s population lives in areas covered by 4G, only half are online. Cost, not coverage, is the critical barrier to connectivity. In low-income countries, home to 650 million people, mobile broadband is 18 times more expensive than in developed countries, as a proportion of average income.
Derek O’Halloran, Head of the Platform for Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation at the World Economic Forum, said: “Most of the world’s population live within the coverage of broadband infrastructure. However, the lack of relevant, affordable services means that still 47% of people cannot participate and do not benefit from the internet. This challenge is about more than infrastructure – it is about the collaboration and investment needed across different industries, governments and civil society to bring safe, meaningful services to people’s lives. Today we launch the 1 Billion Lives Challenge to catalyse the commitments and silo-breaking partnerships needed to make this happen.”
"This challenge is about more than infrastructure – it is about the collaboration and investment needed across different industries, governments and civil society to bring safe, meaningful services to people’s lives.”—Derek O'Halloran, Head of Platform for Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation, World Economic Forum
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how critical it is to access healthcare, education and financial services online. Yet, deep inequalities persist in the affordability of digital access between least-developed and most-developed countries. The data clearly demonstrate the need for quick and decisive mobilization of resources and commitments to closing the digital divide. With focused resources and a coordinated response, the 1 Billion Lives Challenge aims to drive change and harness businesses, organizations and governments together to reimagine a digitally inclusive future.
“As we emerge from the COVID19 pandemic, it’s never been clearer that digital accessibility, affordability and usability are critical to participate in everything from education and banking to receiving basic healthcare,” said Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO, Verizon. “Through the EDISON Alliance, we aim to create a more digitally inclusive world by connecting 1 Billion Lives to this fundamental core of our society.”
By spotlighting and accelerating concrete commitments, the 1 Billion Lives Challenge aims to:
The three sectors of health, finance and education are key areas of focus for the EDISON Alliance. Two billion people still lack access to healthcare, 1.7 billion remain unbanked and 265 million children have no access to education. Enhancing internet access to this enormous unserved population will help ensure they are not left behind in realizing their basic rights.
“The EDISON Alliance’s 1 Billion Lives Challenge seeks to embed digital inclusion into the design of policies, infrastructure, and services to address the disproportionate impact that exclusion from the digital economy has on women and other underserved populations."—Paula Ingabire, Minister for ICT and Innovation, Rwanda
“The EDISON Alliance’s 1 Billion Lives Challenge seeks to embed digital inclusion into the design of policies, infrastructure, and services to address the disproportionate impact that exclusion from the digital economy has on women and other underserved populations,” said Paula Ingabire, Minister for ICT and Innovation, Rwanda.
The Alliance supplies ongoing guidance and research on leading best practices to empower policy-makers and relevant stakeholders with mechanisms to make informed decisions and pioneer innovative ways of financing digital inclusion. These tools are key enablers to help achieve the 1 Billion Lives Challenge and include the Shared Principles for an Inclusive Financial System, the Guidebook for Digital Inclusion Bond Financing and the EDISON Navigator, an online tool currently being designed to provide users easy access to curated information on best practices and lessons learned in digital inclusion approaches.
The 1 Billion Lives Challenge brings together leaders of global businesses, international organizations and governments who have pledged to improve a quantified number of lives through digitally inclusive services. The initial wave of existing and new commitments assembled to meet this challenge includes:
American Tower: American Tower is building 2,000 Digital Communities over the next five years to improve the quality of life for economically disadvantaged or underserved global communities by supporting connectivity worldwide through community education, healthcare access, financial inclusion and career development.
Apollo Hospitals: Apollo Remote HealthCare Intervention programs have provided health care services to about 16 million people across various projects as of July 2021. The aim and target for these programs is to impact an additional 20 million people in resource constrained communities by the year 2025, thus touching the lives of at least 36 million people.
Bangladesh: Digital Bangladesh, a vision of the government of Bangladesh, is creating unprecedented public-private partnerships to accelerate bottom-up socio-economic development. The initiative will connect over 5,000 rural and urban local government institution-based one-stop service centres with fibre optic by 2022 and 200,000 public facilities (including over 100,000 schools and more than 18,000 health clinics) with fibre, 4G/5G, and the country’s second satellite by 2025. A whole-of-government citizen-centric platform MyGov has been launched to simplify, decentralize and digitize 90% of G2C services by 2023, with most payments going cashless by 2025.
Giga: Giga is a global initiative, led by UNICEF and ITU, to connect every school to the internet and every young person to information, opportunity and choice. This translates to a goal to achieve universal school connectivity. By 2030, Giga hopes to connect 2.8 million schools and over 500 million children.
Indonesia: Indonesia is accelerating the development of telecommunications infrastructure to support the growth of the digital economy, aiming not only to provide more than 12,000 villages with 4G cellular networks by the end of 2022 (10 years faster than the initial plan) but also to connect 150,000 public facilities with internet access through the launch of the Satellite of Republic of Indonesia I (SATRIA I) in 2023.
Mastercard: Last year, Mastercard reached its five-year goal of bringing 500 million previously unbanked people into the financial system, through more than 350 innovative programmes across 80 countries. But that is not enough, especially now that a global pandemic has made the contrasts of the digital divide even more stark. Mastercard is doubling down on its original commitment, taking everything they have learned so far and reaching to bring another 500 million people into the digital economy by 2025, for a total of 1 billion individuals. It is also committing to help 50 million small and micro merchants, with a direct focus on providing 25 million women entrepreneurs with solutions that can help them grow their businesses.
MTN: MTN has committed to include financially 100 million people and 2 million SMEs by the end of 2025.
Qualcomm Incorporated: By 2025, Qualcomm is committed to enrich the lives of 27 million people by continuing to bring technology to underserved communities around the world through their Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ programme and engage 1.5 million students and teachers across the globe in their strategic STEM initiatives.
Southern Communities Initiative (SCI): Led by Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners; Rich Lesser, CEO of Boston Consulting Group and Dan Schulman, President and CEO at PayPal, SCI aims to drive more investment into six southern communities in the United States that are home to half of all African Americans, reducing the digital divide in nearly four million households over the next 10 years (about 3 million households, or 9 million people, by 2025). SCI is also working to dismantle systemic inequities and the digital divide, and increasing access to education, connectivity and jobs.
Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF): Through the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, a $100 million commitment by leading investor and philanthropist Tony Elumelu, the foundation has empowered over 10,000 African entrepreneurs from across all 54 African countries with funding, training, mentorship and access to key networks. It is inspired by his philosophy of Africapitalism that positions the private sector, and young entrepreneurs in particular, as key players in eradicating poverty and transforming Africa. Through its TEFConnect platform, the foundation aims to support up to 10 million Africans by 2030.
University of Cape Town, South Africa: The university is committed to digital inclusion in Africa. Through its “one student, one laptop” initiative, the university aims to provide 3,000 high-quality laptops every year to students on financial aid. In addition, the university’s Online High School programme aims to provide quality education to 1,000 students every year through connected, digital technologies and an open, freely available self-paced curriculum.
Verizon: Verizon is dedicated to economic, environmental and social advancement, and has committed $3 billion to help those who need it most across a five-year span through 2025. This includes 10 million youths provided with digital skills training by 2030, 1 million small businesses provided with resources to help them thrive in the digital economy by 2030, and 500,000 individuals prepared for jobs of the future by 2030.
Western Union: Through the global pandemic, the international flow of remittances has remained more resilient than other private capital flows. In the post-pandemic economic rebuilding that lies ahead, there will be significant need for innovation and technology to keep financial support flowing across borders, particularly to developing countries. When this money moves fluidly, good things happen. A child goes to school, a business expands, emergency aid arrives the moment it is needed. That is why Western Union is committed to enabling 300 million people to digitally connect to the global economy through mobile wallets by 2025.
Women in Tech: Women in Tech is committed to empower 1 million women and girls in STEM by 2025 across 6 continents through skilling, mentorship, advocacy and community support. In addition, our social impact fully online school HER Digital Academy aims to provide 100.000 students quality education in web development programs and digital technology, building skills and confidence to best equip them for the future of work. Women in Tech is an international non-profit organization on a mission to close the gender gap and to help women embrace technology.
Visit the website to learn more and join the 1 Billion Lives Challenge.