GTWN Call to Action for digital inclusion for all and digital generation

February 27, 2024

Ana Tavares Lattibeaudiere and Candace Johnson

The GTWN’s Call to Action for Digital Inclusion for All, which we issued in February 2023, goes to the very essence of the theme of the 2024 edition of The Mobile Century, digital generation.

In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, it is important that no-one be left behind, regardless of gender, age, geography, or social-economic standing. This includes in particular those who remain underserved by digital technology.

In issuing the Call to Action (CTA), the GTWN wished to inspire and celebrate individuals, organizations, and corporations who were taking positive action to bring about digital inclusion for all. In so doing, we built on the studies that mainly highlighted gaps in digital coverage, such as the excellent GSMA, United Nations and ITU reports, but wanted to go a step further by focusing on concrete actions and highlighting positive endeavors. We were not disappointed!

As a first step, over the twelve months since issuing the CTA, we surveyed what our GTWN International Board members were doing through their own personal initiatives to help bring about digital connectivity projects in places such as Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the United States, the UK, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Afghanistan.

We are proud of all our GTWN International Board Members’ initiatives which are detailed on the GTWN website1.

In particular, we would like to highlight the ongoing contribution of the GTWN’s Global President Emeritus, Keri Gilder, CEO of Colt, who has been leading the change across the TMT industry by pioneering the industry’s first ever inclusion and diversity score with the tmforum. The score sets the gold standard for measurement of diversity at the CEO -2 management level enabling a true understanding of not only overall diversity within a company but whether those diverse employees are being promoted into senior level positions. It also is the first score to measure inclusion through employee sentiment questions. The insights and enablement of real actions through the IDS scoring tool can help address the “talent problem” that we have as an industry. She has also partnered with other standards bodies such as the MEF to help drive further understanding of how to build Inclusion and Diversity into the high tech and innovation areas of the industry.

The CTA is an ongoing priority of GTWN and the list of digital inclusion projects and achievements will continue to expand throughout 2024.

Reaching out to GTWN’s global network

Following this initial review, we then reached out to our global network to continue our work to progress our CTA and engage with digital technology corporations and international agencies working in digital inclusion. This includes the ITU, the United Nations, the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), and We also continued our ongoing cooperation with the GSMA and their ground-breaking initiative with CARE and the GDIP2, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation3.

These initiatives range from individual contributions to large, corporate and nationwide programs. The ultimate goal of the GTWN’s CTA is to help inspire everyone to engage and contribute to making our world, planet, and universe socially responsible for enabling Universal Meaningful Connectivity as laid out by our partners at the ITU in their far-reaching program on UMC4, and the joint UN/ITU Broadband Commission5, which is bringing public and private players together to deliver practical and fact- based solutions.

In reaching out to our global network to find inspiration and partners, here again, we were not disappointed! So many individuals, corporations and organizations are doing truly amazing and meaningful activities that are making a difference in closing the digital divide and helping to ensure meaningful digital connectivity for all.

This point is highlighted by the World Benchmarking Alliance group which annually publishes digital inclusion ranking of two hundred keystone digital companies, benchmarked across four measurement areas: access, skills, use and innovation6. The leading 20 companies who comprehensively demonstrate best practices are Telefonica, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Verizon, Telstra, Telia, Singtel, SK Telecom. IBM, Qualcomm, AIS, Ericsson, Vodafone and Intel.

In addition to this impressive list of digital companies, the GTWN would like to highlight the following initiatives and programs which impress us by their scope and comprehensive and cooperative nature:

  1. S.H.E. – School of Hope and Empowerment by TATA together with Better India to promote entrepreneurship education, gender equality and wellbeing of women7;
  2. MTN’s remarkable achievement in surpassing connectivity milestones in the Free State and Northern Cape Region in Africa8;
  3. Vodafone’s results-based Plan and Results on delivering “Digital Inclusion for All”9; and
  4. Mastercard has created numerous partnerships with telecom operators around the world to bring both financial and digital inclusion for all. Be it via their MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth10 or their multiple partnerships with Samsung, Airtel and Asante in Africa, Mastercard leverages their financial clout to bring about tangible results in the campaign for digital inclusion for all.

The next generation takes up the cause

We are also very pleased and proud to see that the call to ensure digital inclusion for all is being answered by our younger colleagues and mentees in the next generation of digital natives, who understand that access to digital technologies is vital to ensure full economic and social participation. We highlight a couple of examples here of this inspiring work, which bodes well for the future of the industry.

Saira Faisal Syed

  • helped start the GSMA Diversity for Tech Community whose primary goal is to foster partnerships, highlight the work of every member, and collectively make a positive impact in encouraging more women to pursue careers in tech.
  • The GSMA APAC team set the stage for a meaningful change and partnered with Ministry of IT & Telecom in Pakistan and Kistpay to make a substantial leap forward by launching the Smartphone4All initiative, with gender inclusivity at its core. The program continues to work to bridge the digital gender divide by ensuring women’s equal access to smartphones and digital resources. It’s a significant step towards empowering women through technology.11

Blanca Villanueva

  • Blanca is the daughter of GTWN International Board member and GTWN Asia Pacific President, Myla Villanueva. Blanca has in her own right contributed significantly to the work of the GTWN – as an author for The Mobile Century and also for our 20th Anniversary publication in 2022. She is an early expert in AI, which she has been involved in for more than 10 years. Blanca has grown up in the digital tech sector, so to speak, and we are delighted that she has chosen to make her career as a major player in AI and digital tech related fields.
  • Blanca co-authored an article entitled Human mobility networks reveal increased segregation in large cities, which was published in Nature magazine in November 2023.12
  • In this study mobile phone mobility data was used to represent 1.6 billion real-world exposures among 9.6 million people in the US. While a long-standing expectation is that large, dense and cosmopolitan areas support socioeconomic mixing and exposure among diverse individuals, the data shows that residents of large cosmopolitan areas have less exposure to a diverse range of individuals. Secondly, increased segregation in large cities arises because they offer greater choice of differentiated spaces targeted to specific groups. Thirdly, this effect is countered when a city’s hubs (such as shopping centres) are positioned to bridge diverse neighbourhoods and therefore attract people of all socioeconomic statuses. These findings challenge a long-standing conjecture in human geography and highlight how urban design can both prevent and facilitate encounters among diverse individuals.

Best practices and conclusion

During this past year since the launch of the CTA, the GTWN has discerned that best practices to achieve digital inclusion for all revolve very much around providing access (be it by ensuring devices and connectivity packages) and education, (packages which include not only how to use digital devices, but also providing meaningful education programs in teaching people about finance, health, economic livelihood, etc.). We observed from many projects that the combination of financial inclusion and digital inclusion produces very concrete results.

Importantly, we have also learned that providing digital access devices is not enough to ensure digital inclusion. Key to truly bringing about digital inclusion for all is education.

Finally, it is important as we move forward that we remain aware that focusing on digital generation can be a way to bridge gaps between generations while also encouraging everyone to work together to ensure that no-one is left behind on this digital journey.

It is clear that our work is not done, BUT by adopting a can-do approach to bringing digital inclusion for all, we firmly believe that our goals will be met. In so doing, we hope to achieve peace and health for our world, the planet and the universe.

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With over 20 years’ experience, Ana is a well-recognized leader in the Telecoms and IoT space. As Executive Director for GlobalPlatform, she is responsible for the organization’s overall strategy, marketing and business development across key vertical sectors. Prior to joining GlobalPlatform, Ana was appointed Chief Strategy Officer for 10T Tech and started work to support many innovative companies on defining their strategy and path to success. Before that she held key positions at GSMA where she was responsible for global strategy, global IoT strategy and vertical engagements and most recently as EVP and Head of North America, responsible for driving global initiatives such as Networks (4G, 5G), IOT, RCS, eSIM, Identity, Spectrum and Gender Diversity. Driving strategy and innovation has been at the core Ana’s career, having held strategy consulting positions at BCG, Deloitte Consulting and Accenture and in private banking at Merrill Lynch. Ana is also a proud Board member of the Global Telecom Women’s Network where she drives initiatives that promote gender diversity in tech sectors.

Contact: [email protected].

Candace Johnson is Founder/Co-founder SES, Loral Teleport Europe, Europe Online, GTWN, OWNSAT, VATM, GBRW. Currently: Chair Seraphim Space Advisory Board and Partner, Vice-Chair NorthStar Earth & Space, Executive Board Member ICC.