Hans Vestberg chairs Edison Alliance to close the global digital divide

Hans Vestberg Verizon
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. (screen shot)

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has created the Edison Alliance to mobilize the global telecom ecosystem with the aim of closing the digital divide. And Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg will be the first chairman of the Edison Alliance board.

Citing “connectivity deserts,” the WEF said the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the digital divide. Almost half of the global population, some 3.6 billion people, remain offline.

The Edison Alliance, which stands for Essential Digital Infrastructure and Services Network, will work with governments and industries to accelerate digital inclusion.

In addition to Vestberg, the board will include Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister for ICT; Ajay Banga, Mastercard Executive Chair; Shobana Kamineni, Executive Vice-Chairperson of Apollo Hospitals Group; and Robert Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners.

Other notable participants in the Edison Alliance include American Tower CEO Thomas Bartlett, Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm, Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark; Qualcomm’s CEO-Elect Cristiano Amon; and Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.

In 2021, the Alliance will focus on increasing digital inclusion in healthcare, education and financial services.

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There have been other groups trying to close the digital divide on a global basis, including the satellite industry and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which was initiated by Facebook. But TIP and satellite companies have focused on bringing telecom technology to unserved areas. While the Edison Alliance is taking a different angle, bringing in myriad business verticals. This could be effective as industries such as banking have motivation for more people to be connected.

Mastercard's Ajay Banga, said, “By putting our collective capabilities to work connecting people and businesses in the right way—with secure access and informed usage—we can start to tackle other barriers, like access to capital, and provide other opportunities for growth. Digital inclusion sets people up for so many other kinds of inclusion.”