Mobile World Congress 2022: Inclusion and closing the digital divide

Panelists: Inclusion is a matter of sustainability

Ben Wodecki

February 28, 2022

2 Min Read

Panelists: Inclusion is a matter of sustainability

Digital inclusion is not guaranteed even with the availability of communications infrastructure, according to a panel of speakers at Mobile World Congress 2022.

Device and service affordability, digital literacy and technology skills also are “vital drivers” to achieve greater levels of inclusion related to disability, age and gender, said Adrian Baschnonga, panel chair and global TMT lead analyst at EY.

During the pandemic lockdown, mobile connectivity was the lifeblood of socioeconomic cohesion, Baschnonga said. Yet despite uptakes in digital health and digital education apps, the gap between the digital haves and have-nots increased during the COVID crisis.

Robert Opp, chief digital officer from the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), agreed, adding that the pandemic highlighted digital divides “much more urgently than we thought before.”

“As governments moved to digital platforms to continue to provide services, digital became a lifeline,” Opp said. “But if you’re not connected, then you’re not able to benefit from those services. It’s not just a matter of connectivity and infrastructure, but usage, skills, affordability.”

Opp called for a more “holistic, multi-sectoral approach” to tackling the digital divide, encompassing industry as a whole.

One industry player on the panel was Antoine de Clerck, societal responsibility animation director at Orange. He told the audience that promoting inclusion is “simply a question of sustainability.”

“We cannot be sustainable in the long term if half of the population is excluded from accessing basic services. It’s part of our core business that we operate in an inclusive way,” de Clerck said.

An increasing number of CEOs are talking about how their businesses impact society, the communities they serve and the planet, not just how they're doing financially, according to Alix Jagueneau, head of external affairs & industry purpose at GSMA. He cited CEOs speaking during the day one keynote as examples of inclusion becoming more top of mind.

About the Authors

Ben Wodecki

Assistant Editor

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