With much of the focus (rightly) on sustainability/E in ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance), it is too easy to forget about the S and G, especially in respect of digital inclusion. This is ironic as ESG has largely been built on the shoulders of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), which traditionally focused on companies’ relationships with society, other businesses, and employees. A key part of the Social aspect is digital inclusion. This encompasses sharing knowledge and providing technology to the digitally excluded worldwide. Mainly, digital inclusion consists of offering skills, equipment and connectivity to underserved groups both in advanced nations and in emerging economies. More often than not, it targets children’s education, and digital accessibility for the elderly, disabled and other minority groups.

Digital inclusion initiatives

The tech sector can be proud of its contribution. Equipment manufacturers and service providers have come up with multiple programs driven by altruistic aims, but are also innovating to solve specific issues (e.g., Vodafone’s m-mama app that connects pregnant women to emergency care in parts of Africa, Google’s Internet Legends program teaches children how to use the Web safely, and Cisco’s Employee Resource Organizations encourage inclusion and collaboration to exchange knowledge and ideas worldwide. The list, however, is delightfully too long to cover and includes solutions for recycling equipment, training in how to use technology, and the use of technology to overcome disabilities and other challenges.

These initiatives are not only good for society, they also reflect well on the ICT sector. Examples demonstrate how technology can be a force for good at a time when ‘Big Tech’ is often perceived as a means of exploiting and abusing people. In addition to positive brand attributions, digital inclusion initiatives encourage innovation (potential new revenue streams) and have a positive influence for key stakeholders from talent, through to governments, regulators, and investors. Well done everyone in tech and keep up the good work – it makes a difference to society and also makes commercial sense.

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