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Why digital inclusion is key to a strong digital economy

In this HPE Discover 2021 roundtable, HPE CEO Antonio Neri leads a discussion on the importance of digital inclusivity and sustainability and what it will take to make that happen.

Digital transformation is happening at a rapid pace across all industries today. But not everyone is benefitting. As businesses ramp up efforts to compete in the digital economy, the digital divide is becoming starker than ever, with millions of people in rural and other communities lacking the connectivity and technologies needed to access adequate healthcare, education, and food resources.

Please listen to: Champions for change

In this HPE Discover 2021 discussion led by Antonio Neri, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, business leaders look at the importance of digital inclusion and sustainability, how those goals benefit both business and society, and what it will take to achieve meaningful change.

Closing the digital gap

Derek O'Halloran, head of digital economy and new value creation and a member of the executive committee at the World Economic Forum, says the pandemic provided time to reflect on the "critical nature of digital" and its positive impact on the planet. "What we've all seen over the past year … is a really significant upswell in public expectations and demand for progress on sustainability and inclusion," he says, adding that employees now expect their companies to demonstrate what they're doing to drive these outcomes.

Beth Ford, CEO of Land O' Lakes, a farmers' cooperative, has long been a voice on the state of digital connectivity in rural areas. The digital gap—which Ford says is estimated to be much greater than reported, with some 42 million people lacking access—has led to a "deterioration of the vibrancy of these communities," resulting in a lack of healthcare, food insecurity, and other challenges.

Please read: 3 steps toward a more digitally inclusive world

Why are we failing to make traction on digital equity?

"It's someone else's problem, someone else's issue," Ford says. But every citizen should have digital access, "just like electricity and the postal service," she adds.

The solution, these leaders agree, is to make digital inclusion and sustainability a priority and to fund such initiatives. Or, as Neri puts it, "Be bold, be a catalyst, be a force with your own thinking, and be part of the solution."

A bright future—for everyone

"We must address the reality that unless we rethink how we make decisions and who benefits from the outcomes, we risk reducing the chances of participation in the digital economy for billions of people," Neri says.

"We can all embed purpose in our work and drive meaningful change," he adds. "Looking ahead, we need the innovation and digital transformation the pandemic accelerated to act as a catalyst to reset how companies, societies, and governments work together to drive adoption of new digital technologies, inclusively and democratically."

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.