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Reflections on Davos 2023: Collaboration for Impact

The 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting took place against a backdrop of economic and geopolitical uncertainty, mounting global climate challenges and stubborn inequality, including a digital divide that still leaves 2.7 billion people offline. During my three days in Davos, I was heartened to see that business, government and civil society leaders participating alongside me viewed these complex and interlocking challenges not as a prompt to pull back, but as an opportunity to redouble efforts to make positive change. More importantly, they recognized that only through collaboration would demonstrable impact be possible.

I hold two leadership roles at WEF, both of which align with the priorities of American Tower and my own personal values. As a Governor of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Industry, I have opportunities to highlight the role of digital infrastructure to help governments, economies and communities successfully transition to a digital ecosystem and create pathways to enhance quality of life. As a Champion of the EDISON Alliance, a coalition of public and private leaders around the world committed to prioritizing digital inclusion, I and others embrace the 1 Billion Lives Challenge to improve one billion lives through affordable access to digital solutions by 2025.

Common themes permeated the discussions with the ICT Governors and EDISON Alliance members, including the importance of closing the digital divide and ensuring that digital transformation is sustainable. Multiple organizations, both public and private, aligned under these common objectives, recognizing that everyone must bring their unique strengths to the table in a spirit of collaboration. Moreover, to ensure we hold ourselves accountable and deliver meaningful impact, participants recognized that there must be clearly defined metrics, qualitative and quantitative, and transparent reporting on progress.

A key focus of mine at Davos was highlighting American Tower’s collaboration with customers to improve their ability to deploy the next generation of wireless communications with cleaner, renewable energy, reducing the dependence on fossil fuels. Through adoption of science-based targets (SBTs) across American Tower’s global operations and supply chain, we publicly commit to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Deploying new innovations in areas like energy efficiency and renewable energy, as we’ve done in our African markets over many years, helps us contribute to decarbonization of the ICT sector and ensure more sustainable connectivity.

Another focus at Davos was reviewing progress of the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, where the success metric is impact-oriented, as measured in lives improved.

“A recent EDISON Alliance Impact report highlights that efforts to promote digital inclusion have positively impacted over 450 million people since the Challenge was launched in 2021. American Tower alone has enhanced more than 335,000 lives by offering social programming through our more than 400 Digital Communities across 15 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. ”

— Tom Bartlett

Digital Communities are digitally connected spaces, equipped with ICT, providing instructor-led or self-guided digital literacy and youth education instruction, financial literacy and career skilling or healthcare services with an aim to improve quality of life through connectivity.

As American Tower makes progress implementing our commitment to scale up our Digital Communities program, our focus for the year ahead is to continue to engage global partners to help us scale and sustain the program. Our success will depend on strategic collaboration with public and private partners—including for-profit corporations, nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations and governments—to provide social impact programming that accelerates digital equity and impacts lives for the better.

It was a productive week in Davos, but much work lies ahead. Whether supporting the greening of the ICT sector, expanding the reach and benefits of the internet or investing in technology solutions to meet the many challenges businesses and governments face, we will all do better by working together.

Tom Bartlett

Tom Bartlett is President and CEO of American Tower Corporation.

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