Digital Inclusion Navigator: A platform to help bridge digital divide for billions

The COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises have laid bare the need for digital inclusion, while also rolling back hard-won progress in the very same area.

The World Economic Forum’s EDISON Alliance has launched a new tool to share best practices in expanding digital inclusion – the Digital Inclusion Navigator.

The Navigator is open to all and will ultimately convene and share the best ideas and practices of the digital inclusion policymaking community the world over.

The need for digital connectivity has never been more clear, nor more urgent.

Refugees need to stay in touch with their families who remain within the country. In most countries, we access vaccines — and show evidence of our COVID-19 immunity — through web-connected phone apps. Financial inclusion remains out of reach for nearly two billion adults globally, disconnected from the internet and therefore disenfranchised from the wider financial system.

Access to the internet means having access to healthcare, education, financial services, civic participation, and even entertainment. And while the pandemic brought about an uptick in connectivity, it was sporadic, and in some cases disruptive because of misuse.

Digital technology is, at present, clearly distributed unevenly — across and inside countries, genders, ethnicities, and socio-economic strata.

We must ensure that everyone is able to be connected and has meaningful access to the digital services, wifi, and resources that they need to live a secure and dignified life.

When it comes to development, safe and meaningful connectivity and technology should be widely available and a right for all.

Organizations like UNDP and the World Economic Forum are collectively working to provide access to 2.9 billion people in the last mile of digital connectivity to essential and affordable digital services that will improve their lives and livelihoods.

The challenge in getting digital inclusion right 

Collaboration to co-design digital tools with the end user is essential. Moving forward, and as the world continues to recover from COVID-19, many countries are determined to drive forward digital transformation, but are faced with recurring roadblocks.

First, digital inclusion is not always embedded in the design, infrastructure, and services in an inclusive and rights-based way. Secondly, fragmented and uncoordinated efforts lead to duplication of resources, wasted time, and high costs. Thirdly, there is also a lack of readily available models of success from other countries’ experience, and guides to context-specific replication.

UNDP and the Forum are working to deliver tailored solutions to overcome the barriers to digital inclusion as part of the EDISON Alliance, which is a global movement of 45 champions from the public and private sector.

Building a global platform for sharing digital experiences

The Digital Inclusion Navigator is an example of a successful collaboration in this vein. It is a one-stop-shop of curated case studies, leading best practices, and relevant information on digital inclusion, aimed at helping policymakers make quicker and better sense of overwhelming and often siloed information.

The Navigator provides quick and easy access to trusted sources to bring forward cross-sector policy implications and drive impact. Since it was first made available to a select testing group in December 2021, it has been tested, refined, and reiterated — and well received — by some 100 policymakers from different countries.

Aaron Maniam, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Singapore’s Ministry of Communication and Information, for example, lauded the Navigator as “a useful one-stop repository of credible resources relevant to digital inclusion.”

Likewise, Alexia Peralta, of Belize’s E-Governance and Digitalization Unit, said: “I found a lot of value in being able to access case studies and see applications in the field.”

“You get to see what has worked and what we can utilize when we are constructing and developing our own projects. These best practices and experiences learned from other scenarios set this tool apart.”

It is the UNDP’s intention to leverage its existing capacity to identify concrete examples of digital inclusion from across geographies, especially the Global South, that are not found anywhere else. These will form the basis of the case studies that will help users find actionable practices.

The knowledge sharing platform’s initial focus is on the role of digital services in healthcare, financial services, and education, as well as expanding access to and use of connectivity and technologies.

“As someone who has recently started working on digital inclusion within education, I had very little idea about this topic,” said Beatriz Rodriguez, of the Lemann Foundation Brazil, “It’s amazing to have a platform where I can find the main sources of information in one place.”

Getting back on track to 2030

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises, many indicators of human development are heading in the wrong direction. While digital technologies are not a panacea, closing the digital divide and making sure that people everywhere have access to safe, affordable, and meaningful digital services can make a huge difference in getting back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Digital Inclusion Navigator is one such step that champions of the EDISON Alliance are taking in enabling us to reach the goal of bringing 1 billion people online by 2030 — and more after. The platform is now available for everyone to use on an open, independent and publicly accessible site.

Fellow policymakers, development practitioners and experts working to close the digital divide should test the platform, use it, and offer feedback on how to improve it.

In doing so, the global policymaking community can find the best ideas and approaches that the world has to offer when it comes to inclusive solutions — and make them available to everyone, everywhere, leaving no one behind.


Additional links: