The MTN Group has joined forces with several global tech giants to form the Edison Alliance with the sole purpose of bridging the digital divided around the globe in the face of Covid-19.
The other tech giants in the alliance, formed by the World Economic Forum include Alphabet (Google), Millcom (Tigo), Bharti Enterprise (Airtel), American Tower, Dell Technologies, Ericsson, Nokia, Verizon and Qualcomm.
At the World Economic Forum in Geneva this January, it became obvious that COVID-19 has exposed digital inequities and exacerbated the digital divide – revealing the affordability challenges in wealthier nations and the deepening digital divide.
One thing stood out clearly, that nearly half the world is still not online, and the Forum described that as “digital deserts” that need urgent tackling.
The focus of Edison Alliance therefore is to accelerate digital inclusion, address inequality, and connect critical sectors of the global economy.
It is the first global mobilization of the public sector and industry leaders from all industries to ensure everyone can participate in the digital economy
The Edison Alliance is chaired by Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.
Talking up the Verizon’s involvement in the alliance, Verizon chief strategy officer Rima Qureshi highlighted the importance of efforts to close the digital divide in light of the Covid-19.
Qureshi said the pandemic heightened a need to improve digital inclusion, which is the focus of the alliance, backed by leading companies from multiple sectors.
She noted the group offers the opportunity to “look at how we create that basic capability to bring as many people as possible over that digital divide and then address the specific verticals that we believe are going to benefit society the most”.
Target areas are financial inclusion, healthcare and education. Qureshi said 5G could play a role in addressing these segments, citing more immersive educational experiences or remote medical interventions as examples.