WEF commits to improving the lives of 1 billion through increased digital access

Students attend school virtually at a garbage dump site that provides free WiFi, in Surabaya, Indonesia on Sept 15, 2021.
Students attend school virtually at a garbage dump site that provides free WiFi, in Surabaya, Indonesia on Sept 15, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The World Economic Forum (WEF) announced its commitment to improving the lives of a billion people around the world by connecting them to the Internet by 2025.

The commitment on Tuesday (Sept 21) came as part of the forum’s Edison Alliance, a movement of 45 entities committed to allowing every person affordable participation in the digital economy.

It coincided with the WEF Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021, held from Sept 20 to 23, a fully virtual summit involving global leaders from different sectors. 

WEF platform head Derek O’Halloran said: “Most of the world’s population lives within the coverage of broadband infrastructure. However, the lack of relevant, affordable services means that 47 per cent of people still cannot participate and do not benefit from the Internet.”

He added that collaboration and investment across different industries were needed in order to allow people to participate and benefit from the Internet.

With two billion people lacking access to healthcare, 1.7 million adults without their own bank accounts and 265 million children lacking access to education, providing much needed Internet access will help these individuals realise their basic rights, said the WEF.

The commitments made include the Bangladesh government’s Digital Bangladesh initiative, which aims to connect, with fibre optic cables, more than 5,000 rural and urban local government service centres by next year and 200,000 public facilities by 2025.

Another global initiative, Giga, aims to connect schools and young people to information and choice. By 2030, Giga hopes to connect 2.8 million schools and more than 500 million children.

The Indonesian government has also joined in the effort, aiming to provide more than 12,000 villages with 4G cellular networks by the end of next year, as well as connect 150,000 public facilities with Internet access through the launch of the Satellite of Republic of Indonesia I in 2023.

Women in Tech, an international non-profit organisation that aims to close the gender gap and help women embrace technology, will also seek to empower a million women through skilling, mentorship, advocacy and community support.

The organisation has launched a a fully online school, HER Digital Academy, which will provide 100,000 students with the opportunity to learn about web development and digital technology.

The yearly WEF summit brings together global leaders to focus on new technologies and policies to further cooperation and highlight solutions to challenges people collectively face as a species.