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.”
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:
- Accelerate the delivery of digital services for unserved and underserved populations
- Inspire more public commitments to digital inclusion
- Demonstrate that universal digital inclusion is an achievable goal
- Support Alliance organizations in the achievement of their digital inclusion goals
- Develop global relationships and sustainable, scalable models for further impact to 2030
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,” 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.