For the last ten years, the term “digital inclusion” has become increasingly prominent in the discussions among major technology groups.
From the first signs, more concrete actions have followed. Today, the term is talked about more broadly across telephony and the internet, and is built into specific industry offers aimed at the most vulnerable. But does this mean digital inclusion is restricted to a few offers? What does it actually mean? And how does Orange tackle the subject of digital inclusion to guide its actions?
Digital inclusion is a process that brings together a set of offers, services and actions to make digital technology, mainly telephony and the Internet, accessible to individuals and provide them with the digital skills that will enable them to use these tools for their social and economic integration.
We recommend that by 2030, every adult should have affordable access to digital networks, as well as digitally-enabled financial and health services, as a means to make a substantial contribution to achieving the SDGs.”
Who are the digitally excluded?
Almost half of the global population still has no internet, and this exclusion takes many forms. In sub-Saharan Africa, 25% of the population lack network coverage, while 49% cannot use the internet because they cannot afford smartphones or mobile services, they lack the skills to use them, or the services don’t actually meet their needs (source: GSMA 2020). In Europe, this figure is 17.5% (source: ITU 2019). In France, recent figures mention 13 million people who struggle with technology.
How is digital inclusion being promoted?
Digital inclusion varies according to a combination of factors.
Self esteem, social connection and the ability to learn work together as a foundation.
We can see that digital is a manifestation. It is not the cause of digital exclusion: digital divides fit with social divides.
Today, the topic of digital inclusion goes right to the heart of our businesses and their development priorities. It’s a major subject that involves everyone working across public and private sectors.
Within the Orange Group, each entity has its own approach for contributing to digital inclusion: by simplifying access to connectivity and planning tomorrow’s networks, while maintaining our current global networks, creating and developing learning initiatives for using digital services, supporting entrepreneurships and start-ups, as well as promoting innovation.
In a world where new technologies are all around us, everyone should be able to access the internet. This is the foundation for digital inclusion. And it’s why Orange helps reduce digital exclusion and inequalities in order to fight e-illiteracy in France and around the world.
Inequalities when it comes to digital tools, uses, broadband access, skills… the digital divide covers a whole range of realities depending on the country and local context.
Orange is helping to reduce these inequalities so that everyone can make the most of the digital world. That’s why we’re continuing to develop our networks as the foundation of all digital uses.
The Group is committed to increasing coverage even in rural areas, notably through developing high speed broadband through the deployment of fibre.
At end-2019, 39.5 million homes throughout the world were connectable to Orange’s very high-speed broadband, including 16.3 million in France, 14.9 million in Spain, 4.2 million in Poland and over 500,000 in Slovakia. By 2023, we will connect over 65 million homes in Europe to fibre by deploying our own cables as well as using third-party networks, with 20 million homes connectable in France by 2025.
Source: 2019 Integrated Annual Report
When it comes to the mobile network, at end-2019, coverage rates reached nearly 100% in countries such as Poland (99.9%), France (99%) and Romania (98.1%). In the Middle East and Africa (MEA), we rely on innovative technical solutions to expand coverage in rural areas such as lightweight masts that are easier and cheaper to install and more wide reaching antennae. The Group will set up 8,000 new 4G mobile sites by 2023.
Orange now has a 450,000km global cable network and is constantly developing service quality and availability to support the explosion of digital services now available to customers. Submarine cables are not only internet highways but also real growth drivers for a region’s socio-economic development.
Enable everyone to develop through digital
At Orange, we firmly believe that digital technology is a powerful lever for individual and collective transformation and development. So how can we promote inclusion and ensure that digital has the potential to benefit everyone? By helping everyone to learn the right tools, regardless of their age or where they live. Teaching young people the basics, raising awareness among teens of the risks, helping people find jobs, and supporting professionals in their ways of working… Orange has set up many awareness and training initiatives across all of its operating countries.
Digital skills have become essential in today’s job market. Acquiring digital knowledge is absolutely crucial in a world where more than one out of two schoolchildren will work in a role, once they’ve graduated, which doesn’t even exist yet.
In France, Orange partners the Science Factor competition, which promotes technical and scientific projects from mixed teams managed by girls. This initiative aims to inspire school and college students to think about a career in a scientific/computing field. The #SuperCoders workshops, which introduce young people to the basics of coding, take place thanks to Orange employees who have volunteered their time to coach more than 46,000 young people since 2014 across 20 countries.
Also since 2014, the Orange Foundation has been running a programme called Digital Schools in 16 African countries. Through this initiative, we equip schools with technical tools in partnership with the ministries of education in each country.
More than 250,000 children can now access essential educational content via tablets.
Orange is also taking on the challenge of digital transformation in Africa to promote new jobs and business sectors and thereby promote the continent's growth.
Orange Campus Africa, an online training platform dedicated to Africa, gives students access to the training they need for their studies or their professional life.
Orange Digital Centers are also key. These hubs for innovation and learning provide free business and skills support, including a coding school to learn practical computing and project management, as well as a Solidarity FabLab where young people learn to manufacture and prototype a product using digital equipment and benefit from an Orange Fab start-up accelerator. In Tunisia and Senegal, the first Orange Digital Centers (ODCs) were inaugurated in 2019 and by 2025, all Orange countries will offer local ODCs, forming a real network and encouraging best practice sharing.
Digital technology can be an amazing tool for accessing information and knowledge. However, there are obvious risks, and teens are particularly exposed. That’s why digital players such as Orange have a duty to support them, as well as their parents, in regulating their use and protecting their privacy.
Firstly, with appropriate tech solutions: parental controls, access profiles for each connected device, special tariff plans that are adapted to children etc.
Secondly, by increasing awareness. The “Bien vivre le digital” website offers advice and guidance to help people learn about going online safely, as well as a space dedicated to help parents of teenagers. From moderating smartphone use to setting up parameters around social networks, it helps families establish good digital practices.
This awareness-raising effort is not limited to France: Orange has also launched a communication campaign across its footprint promoting responsible screen use: "We all have great power. We all have great responsibility".
At Orange, we’re committed to developing useful and inclusive offers for everyone, including the most unconnected communities. That’s why in 2017, we conducted a stakeholder dialogue in France on the theme “precariousness and digital” and are now working to develop an offer aimed at the most vulnerable people in society.
As part of our series of stakeholder dialogues, our CSR team conducted a survey around the theme of precariousness and digital in France. A global observation has emerged: digital can strongly accentuate inequalities where it should be fixing or reducing them. Here are the three main lessons we can draw from the dialogue.
Here are the three main lessons we can draw from the dialogue.
Vulnerable populations don’t just need help understanding how to use technology, but also the right equipment for getting online.
These populations expect adapted offers from Orange that combine a tariff, device and support, as well as an advisor function to help them get to the right content.
The expected experience must be non-stigmatising, reassuring, educational and be done in person.
3 key figures from the precariousness and digital survey
- It’s estimated that 5 million people are excluded from society in terms of living standards and technology.
- 9 million people are living in poverty in France.
Orange also intends to accelerate access to connectivity on the African continent. One of the barriers to using the internet is the price of smartphones. In addition, there are difficulties linked to the lack of digital skills.
Since April 2019, and in nearly 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East, Orange has offered Sanza (3G) and Sanza XL (4G) phones to meet these barriers as they are both easy to use and offer the functionality of a smartphone at a lower cost. In October 2020, the Sanza Touch, a 4G Android version was launched by Orange in Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire and Madagascar.
Enabling equal access to employment through digital support
The Orange Foundation is committed to making digital technology a driver for professional and personal development for young people with no qualifications, unemployed women and people with autism. Here are just some of the highlights from Orange Foundation’s projects.