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Digital inclusion

The possibility of accessing technology should be open and available to everyone, improving lives and generating opportunities for all.

Technology acts as an enabling element for facing social challenges, but, as it evolves, it can also produce certain divides that generate inequality and discrimination. That is why technology should not only offer new products and services to those collectives that need them, but must also work to minimise those divides that are generated by the very lack of access to it.

According to the 'The Global Information Technology Report', published by the World Economic Forum in 2015, 90% of the population in developing countries and 60% worldwide do not have access to the Internet. Additionally, half of the world's population does not have access to a mobile terminal.

This is why Telefónica, in addition to developing new sustainable solutions, is working to reduce the lack of access to these services. 

We have spent years developing a wide range of sustainable and innovative products and services, with the goal of lessening the digital divide in the regions where we operate.

We have focused on developing sustainable and innovative products, services and business models in areas such as disability and dependence, education, health, finance, entrepreneurship, relations with public administrations, Big Data, remote and impoverished communities and the protection of children. 

1. GEOGRAPHICAL DIVIDE

Traditionally, the population in remote areas of developing countries has lacked equal access to basic services due to the geographical divide, but recently, thanks to the introduction of information and communication technology, these areas have seen an improvement in access to basic services a result of the development of social inclusion policies.

However ICT is not just set up in these areas in order to improve communications; commercial mobile services can also simultaneously increase economic growth thanks to the improvement in productivity and community members' incomes. By creating sustainable business models based on telecommunications, we are hopeful that the members of these communities will have the opportunity to reverse their current impoverished and excluded situation.

Consequently, Telefónica has spent years bringing telecommunications to the most remote areas and minority groups by means of different programmes and projects focused on boosting the social inclusion of these groups.

Fundación Telefónica finances the Sávalo II programme which, through mobile technology, seeks to aid artisan fishermen from Tumaco de Nariño (Colombia) in developing their digital skills and capacity for innovation to improve their quality of life and to secure their culturally traditional fishing industry.

Fishing is one of the main economic activities in the region and provides a means of living for dozens of families who employ techniques handed down to them by their ancestors. Overfishing, together with a lack of investment opportunities, has brought about consequences such as a reduction in community income and youth emigration to other cities in search for jobs.

To combat this, the project supports the implementation of new economic activities through the use of applications for smartphones and tablets, boosting the development of digital skills and capacity for innovation in this community. This is done through a sustainable programme with the secondary school, local markets, and other local agencies.

Other projects we have spent years working on include México Rural, Intégrame, En quechua y aymara, Pescando com Redes 3G and ConectaRSE para Crecer.

2. DISABILITY DIVIDE

Accessibility is an issue that affects a large segment of the global population. According to the World Health Organisation, more than a billion people around the world suffer from some type of disability.

This group generally has poorer health and poorer academic results, as well as fewer economic opportunities, which can lead to elevated poverty ratios. In part, these problems originate from a lack of access to services and the obstacles they have to confront on a daily basis.

At Telefónica, aware of the potential that digital technology can offer, we are working to develop products and services under the criteria of "Design for Everyone", with the goal of fully integrating people with dependencies or different capabilities into society.

For example, in keeping with our commitment to disadvantaged groups, at Telefónica we have developed our own application to help deaf people call the emergency services on the telephone. The application is based on pictograms and videos with sign language that cover the principal and most common emergencies grouped by service: need for the police, rescue, firefighters, and health. The pictograms are simplified into three large groups (police, firefighters and SEM [Emergency Medical Services, EMS]) which indicate situations such as abuse, aggressions, fights, disappearances, robberies, suicides, car accidents, car breakdowns, fires, gas leaks, floods, intoxications, the inability to breathe, burns, chest pains, births, choking, injuries, seizures, vomiting/nausea, fever, sick children, falls/broken bones and a generic 'other'. Each pictogram includes advice for minimising risk while the emergency services are on their way.

FESOCA, the Catalan NGO, will be in charge of distributing and disseminating the application throughout the deaf community in Catalonia. This organisation is a reference point within the community.

Further information in chapter: 'Disability and dependence'.

3. Education Divide

ICT has become the pivot for education transformation in the 21st century, opening up a world of possibilities for learning and teaching in a digital environment that is more in line with students' new habits that nowadays see them permanently connected.

This modernisation of education confronts us with new challenges, such as putting a check on academic failure and improving employability and the efficiency of the school system, as well as the ability to teach from anywhere and guarantee equal access to education for everyone, regardless of their purchasing power or level of education.

At Telefónica we have committed ourselves to supporting this process of educational change towards a digital environment. We do so through the development of products and services that range from connectivity to platforms and content, addressing training solutions in new technologies.

Further information in chapter: 'Digital education'.

4. Health Divide

Today, healthcare is facing new challenges with an ageing population, increased chronic illnesses and citizens consistently demanding better healthcare services.

At Telefónica, we contribute to developing a new, better connected and sustainable management model, with solutions that create new service channels. Our goal is to make contact with healthcare professionals more accessible, educating both healthy patients – so they can live in a healthy manner – as well as patients with chronic illnesses – so they can care better for their health. The challenge is to encourage patients, through their own empowerment, to take a more active role and to make chronically ill patients feel safe and protected, ensuring higher quality attention and greater control over their illnesses.

Further information in chapter: 'eHealth'.

5. Economic Divide

The popularisation of mobile services is an undeniable reality. In some countries, such as Brazil, mobile penetration has already exceeded 120%. Because of this, these devices are more and more becoming a gateway to a wide range of financial services.

Mass access to financial services through mobile technology is making daily life easier for many people without banking experience in developing countries, turning this into a real alternative to exclusion from the formal banking system.

At Telefónica we are convinced that mobile phones have enough potential to transform the way in which consumers manage their finances, make payments and send and receive money. But we also believe a strong ecosystem is necessary, sufficient to guarantee the quality and security of these services. For such an ecosystem to exist, we believe it is necessary for both telecommunications operators and financial institutions to work together, offering the necessary confidence to the consumer.

In Latin America, Telefónica has launched two initiatives in collaboration with MasterCard in Brazil and Peru. Christened as Zumm and Tu Dinero Móvil, they allow us to offer services through mobile phones that improve financial inclusion, allowing clients to be able to make movements such as depositing or withdrawing money from an account, sending money between people as if it were a text message, paying bills (electricity, gas, etc.) and paying for purchases in any shop with a physical pre-paid card. Additionally, this service has a wide network of physical agents and service points that are enabled for operation.

The benefits of these mobile financial services are very important for the Latin American population, where issues such as not receiving a salary in a bank account and not being able to pay bills remotely for the most basic services continue to consume a large amount of time and money.

Zuum was launched in May 2013 in Sao Paulo, and in 2014 it widened its scope of operation to reach five Brazilian regions.

Tu Dinero Móvil was launched onto the market in May 2014 in three important Peruvian cities: Lima, Trujillo and Chiclayo, with the aim of expanding to the rest of the country in the short term.