By Ron Chen, Senior Correspondent ASEAN Region
Crescent Enterprises has announced its commitment to the EDISON Alliance 1 Billion Lives Challenge, to impact 100,000 youth in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) region by 2025 through a set of comprehensive initiatives across its technology investments, new business incubation, and corporate citizenship programmes. Crescent Enterprises is the first business in the MENA region to make a commitment, which targets underserved communities focused on digital access, telehealth, and digital skilling.
The 1 Billion Lives Challenge is part of the World Economic Forum (WEF) EDISON Alliance, a global movement of public and private sector Champions, who are committed to prioritising digital inclusion as foundational to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Challenge aims to recognise, support, and encourage credible commitments from governments, organisations, and other establishments globally to improve lives through affordable and accessible digital solutions across health, finance, and education by 2025. The first wave of commitments has come from diverse and global organisations, including Mastercard, Verizon, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, and the University of Capetown, among others.
CEO of Crescent Enterprises and EDISON Alliance Champion, Badr Jafar announced this commitment at the third meeting of the Champions. He remarked, “Digitisation isn’t an end in itself. Addressing our social, socio-economic and environmental challenges is of course the real goal, and technology is a means to that end, and a crucial tool in that quest. We are deeply committed to help to equip the true agents of change, our youth, with the digital tools necessary to build an equitable and sustainable future in our region, and globally.”
Today, 37 per cent of the world remains offline. Among other realities, that percentage translates to 265 million children with no access to education, 2 billion people with no access to healthcare, and 1.7 billion adults who remain unbanked. As more basic services continue to shift online, digital gaps are exponentially deepening inequality.
“We are at a critical crossroads when it comes to building the equitable future we all hope to see. Now, more than ever, leaders across the world must acknowledge the urgency of bridging the digital divide and work fervently to accelerate inclusion,” Head of Digital Communications Industry, World Economic Forum, Isabelle Mauro commented. “We are grateful to Crescent Enterprises for their commitment to the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, and for their unwavering determination to improve lives across the MENASA region through various digital inclusion initiatives. We are optimistic that others in the region will follow suit.”
Crescent Enterprises’ corporate venture capital arm is already actively increasing digital access and use in the region, including through FreshToHome, an online retailer that enables fishermen and farmers take electronic bids on their latest yields, giving them heightened control and cutting out the middlemen, and Vezeeta, a digital healthcare platform that serves more than four million patients in 55 cities in six countries.
To achieve its vision to ensure that every person can affordably participate in the Digital Economy, the Edison Alliance has actionable plans to increase public commitments from public and private sector to drive the adoption of digital services for all, to encourage system level change through partnerships, evidence-based policy and innovative capital at scale, and to ensure there is a focus on underserved populations and strive for commercially sustainable solutions