2021 Digital Inclusion Benchmark

December 2021

This second iteration of the Digital Inclusion Benchmark measures and ranks 150 of the world’s most influential technology companies on their responsibility to advance a more inclusive digital society. More specifically, the benchmark measures what companies are doing to:

  • enhance universal access to digital technologies
  • improve all levels of digital skills
  • foster trustworthy use by mitigating risks and harms
  • innovate openly, inclusively, and ethically.

From laptops, to online news platforms, to the WIFI connection that powers them, digital technology has become indispensible for everyday life. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of digital inclusion. If left unaddressed, the growing gap between the under-connected and hyper-digitalised will widen, inflaming existing inequalities.

Five key findings

Our 2021 iteration shows that the majority of tech companies still aren’t taking their responsibility to ensure that people are able to use technology – and in a way that benefits them – seriously. A handful is leading the way with robust child safety commitments or ethical principles regarding artificial intelligence. However most of the world’s most powerful and influential aren’t displaying the maturity that the world expects of them to ensure that they help, rather than hinder our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Key finding

Most companies are lagging behind on digital inclusion; progress is too slow

Some tech companies demonstrate a strong commitment to digital inclusion. Spain's Telefonica is the leading company with a score of 90 out of 100 for their efforts in increasing access to digital technologies, teaching digital skills, making the internet a safer and more trustworthy place and innovating diversely and ethically. Around two dozen more companies show good performance. However the vast majority are failing in their responsibility, with scores of less than 50 out of 100. Whilst there is moderate improvement in comparable metrics from last year's benchmark, progress is too slow to keep up with the growing number of divides and risks in our digital world.

Key finding

Enthusiastic about AI benefits, the industry is failing to consider the risks

Whilst many digital companies spent pages citing the benefits and potentials of artificial intelligence (AI), few seemed concerned about the risks. Just 19 out of 150 commit to publicly available principles for ethical AI. This number is chilling given the growing evidence of the human rights implications of AI in areas such as facial recognition and algorithmic placement of incendiary information. Without ethical AI principles, digital companies are driving a future where people will have less agency, face potential job loss and experience inadvertent bias.

Key finding

Questionable impact of ‘technology for good’ initiatives

Companies are proud of their initiatives, which include providing free connectivity for schools, or discounted services to underserved communities. Unfortunately many of these initiatives are one-off projects – especially those introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, only 13 out of the 150 companies assessed published an impact assessment for one or more of their initiatives. This number suggests that companies aren’t serious about their ‘technology for good’ efforts. Impact assessments can mitigate the risk of impact washing and provide a roadmap for companies to support digital inclusion.

Key finding

We need more women in tech

The lack of women engaged in research and development is a global problem as it affects the incorporation of gender perspectives in digital products. Consequently, the number of women engaged in technical roles is an important indicator to track. More companies are realising this; 18% more companies disclosed this information compared to last year’s iteration, with most of this increase coming from companies headquartered in the Republic of Korea and Japan. However this still only amounts to one-third of companies. On average, women make up just 23% of the technical workforce in the 150 digital companies assessed, highlighting the need for more women in tech roles.

Key finding

The industry needs to pay attention to its human rights risks and impacts

From online hate speech to the exploitation of children in mining minerals for smartphones, tech companies can have a devastating impact on human rights. It is therefore crucial that tech companies demonstrate their due diligence on their human rights risks and impacts. Unfortunately only 15 out of 150 companies disclose that they have the basic processes in place to identify, assess, and integrate human rights risks and impacts in their business practices. IT and software service companies lag behind all others in the sector, whilst hardware companies are slightly ahead of the curve.

See how the companies performed

View ranking

Further reading

  • Data

    All the benchmark results and data are publicly available and downloadable.

    See data

The 150 most influential digital companies

Locations

  • Title: Spark
    Place: Auckland, New Zealand
    Description:
  • Title: Spotify
    Place: Stockholm, Sweden
    Description:
  • Title: STC
    Place: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Description:
  • Title: Swisscom
    Place: Ittigen, Switzerland
    Description:
  • Title: Tata Communications
    Place: Mumbai, India
    Description:
  • Title: Tele2
    Place: Stockholm, Sweden
    Description:
  • Title: Telecom Egypt
    Place: Cairo, Egypt
    Description:
  • Title: Telecom Italia
    Place: Rome, Italy
    Description:
  • Title: Telefonica
    Place: Madrid, Spain
    Description:
  • Title: Telenor
    Place: Fornebu, Norway
    Description:
  • Title: Telia
    Place: Stockholm, Sweden
    Description:
  • Title: Telkom
    Place: Johannesburg, South Africa
    Description:
  • Title: Telkom Indonesia
    Place: Bandung, Indonesia
    Description:
  • Title: Telstra
    Place: Melbourne, VIC, Australia
    Description:
  • Title: Tencent
    Place: Shenzhen, China
    Description:
  • Title: Texas Instruments
    Place: Dallas, TX, USA
    Description:
  • Title: TSMC
    Place: Hsinchu, Taiwan
    Description:
  • Title: Türk Telekom
    Place: Ankara, Turkey
    Description:
  • Title: Twilio
    Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Twitter
    Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Uber
    Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: VEON
    Place: Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Description:
  • Title: Verizon
    Place: New York, NY, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Viettel
    Place: Hanoi, Vietnam
    Description:
  • Title: Vodafone
    Place: Newbury, United Kingdom
    Description:
  • Title: Western Digital
    Place: San Jose, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Xiaomi
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: Yandex
    Place: Moscow, Russia
    Description:
  • Title: Yunji
    Place: Hangzhou, China
    Description:
  • Title: Zain
    Place: Kuwait City, Kuwait
    Description:
  • Title: Zoom
    Place: San Jose, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: ZTE
    Place: Shenzhen, China
    Description:
  • Title: Netflix
    Place: Los Gatos, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Nintendo
    Place: Kyoto, Japan
    Description:
  • Title: Nokia
    Place: Helsinki, Finland
    Description:
  • Title: NTT
    Place: Tokyo, Japan
    Description:
  • Title: NVIDIA
    Place: Santa Clara, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Ola
    Place: Bangalore, India
    Description:
  • Title: Omantel
    Place: Muscat, Oman
    Description:
  • Title: Ooredoo
    Place: Doha, Qatar
    Description:
  • Title: Oracle
    Place: Redwood Shores, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Orange
    Place: Paris, France
    Description:
  • Title: OTE
    Place: Athens, Greece
    Description:
  • Title: Palantir
    Place: Denver, CO, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Paypal
    Place: San Jose, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: PCCW
    Place: Hong Kong
    Description:
  • Title: Pinduoduo
    Place: Shanghai, China
    Description:
  • Title: PLDT
    Place: Makati, Philippines
    Description:
  • Title: Proximus
    Place: Brussels, Belgium
    Description:
  • Title: Qualcomm
    Place: San Diego, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Rakuten
    Place: Tokyo, Japan
    Description:
  • Title: Rogers
    Place: Toronto, ON, Canada
    Description:
  • Title: Safaricom
    Place: Nairobi, Kenya
    Description:
  • Title: Salesforce
    Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Samsung
    Place: Seoul, Republic of Korea
    Description:
  • Title: SAP
    Place: Waldorf, Germany
    Description:
  • Title: Seagate
    Place: Dublin, Ireland
    Description:
  • Title: ServiceNow
    Place: Santa Clara, CA , USA
    Description:
  • Title: SES
    Place: Luxembourg
    Description:
  • Title: Sina
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: Singtel
    Place: Singapore
    Description:
  • Title: SK hynix
    Place: Incheon, Republic of Korea
    Description:
  • Title: SK Telecom
    Place: Seoul, Republic of Korea
    Description:
  • Title: SoftBank
    Place: Tokyo, Japan
    Description:
  • Title: Sonatel
    Place: Dakar, Senegal
    Description:
  • Title: SONY
    Place: Tokyo, Japan
    Description:
  • Title: SpaceX
    Place: Hawthorne, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: GoJek
    Place: Jakarta, Indonesia
    Description:
  • Title: Grab
    Place: Singapore, Singapore
    Description:
  • Title: GTT
    Place: Mclean, VA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: HCL
    Place: Noida, India
    Description:
  • Title: HP
    Place: Palo Alto, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Huawei
    Place: Shenzhen, China
    Description:
  • Title: IBM
    Place: Armonk, NY, USA
    Description:
  • Title: iFlytek
    Place: Anhui, China
    Description:
  • Title: Iliad
    Place: Paris, France
    Description:
  • Title: Infosys
    Place: Bengaluru, India
    Description:
  • Title: Inmarsat
    Place: London, United Kingdom
    Description:
  • Title: Intel
    Place: Santa Clara, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: JD,com
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: Jio
    Place: Mumbai, India
    Description:
  • Title: Jumia
    Place: Lagos, Nigeria
    Description:
  • Title: KDDI
    Place: Tokyo, Japan
    Description:
  • Title: KPN
    Place: Rotterdam, Netherlands
    Description:
  • Title: KT
    Place: Seongnam, Republic of Korea
    Description:
  • Title: Lenovo
    Place: Hong Kong
    Description:
  • Title: LG
    Place: Seoul, Republic of Korea
    Description:
  • Title: Liberty Global
    Place: London, United Kingdom
    Description:
  • Title: Logitech
    Place: Lausanne, Switzerland
    Description:
  • Title: Lumen
    Place: Monroe, LA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: MegaFon
    Place: Moscow, Russia
    Description:
  • Title: Meituan
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: Mercado Libre
    Place: Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Description:
  • Title: Microsoft
    Place: Redmond, WA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Millicom
    Place: Luxembourg
    Description:
  • Title: MTN
    Place: Johannesburg, South Africa
    Description:
  • Title: MTS
    Place: Moscow, Russia
    Description:
  • Title: Naspers
    Place: Cape Town, South Africa
    Description:
  • Title: NAVER
    Place: Seongnam, Korea
    Description:
  • Title: NEC
    Place: Tokyo, Japan
    Description:
  • Title: NetEase
    Place: Hangzhou, China
    Description:
  • Title: Asus
    Place: Taipei, Taiwan
    Description:
  • Title: AT&T
    Place: Dallas, TX, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Axiata
    Place: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    Description:
  • Title: Baidu
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: BCE
    Place: Québec , Canada
    Description:
  • Title: Bharti Airtel
    Place: New Delhi, India
    Description:
  • Title: Booking Holdings
    Place: Norwalk, CT, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Broadcom
    Place: San Jose, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: BT
    Place: London, United Kingdom
    Description:
  • Title: ByteDance
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: China Mobile
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: China Satellite
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: China Telecom
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: China Unicom
    Place: Beijing, China
    Description:
  • Title: Chunghwa Telecom
    Place: Taipei, Taiwan
    Description:
  • Title: Cisco
    Place: San Jose, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Citrix
    Place: Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Cloudflare
    Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Cogent
    Place: Washington, D,C,, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Comcast
    Place: Philadelphia, PA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Delivery Hero
    Place: Berlin, Germany
    Description:
  • Title: Dell
    Place: Round Rock, TX, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Deutsche Telekom
    Place: Bonn, Germany
    Description:
  • Title: Digicel
    Place: Kingston, Jamaica
    Description:
  • Title: Digital Realty Trust
    Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: eBay
    Place: San Jose, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: EchoStar
    Place: Englewood, CO, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Elisa
    Place: Helsinki, Finland
    Description:
  • Title: Equinix
    Place: Redwood City, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Ericsson
    Place: Stockholm, Sweden
    Description:
  • Title: Etisalat
    Place: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
    Description:
  • Title: Eutelsat
    Place: Paris, France
    Description:
  • Title: Facebook
    Place: Santa Clara, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Foxconn
    Place: Taipei, Taiwan
    Description:
  • Title: GlobalFoundries
    Place: Malta, NY, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Globe
    Place: Taguig, Philippines
    Description:
  • Title: Acer
    Place: Taipei, Taiwan
    Description:
  • Title: Adobe
    Place: San Jose, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Airbnb
    Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: AIS
    Place: Bangkok, Thailand
    Description:
  • Title: Akamai
    Place: Boston, MA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Alibaba
    Place: Hangzhou, China
    Description:
  • Title: Alphabet
    Place: Mountain View, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: Altice
    Place: Woerden, Netherlands
    Description:
  • Title: Amazon
    Place: Seattle, WA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: AMD
    Place: Santa Clara, CA, USA
    Description:
  • Title: América Móvil
    Place: Mexico City, Mexico
    Description:
  • Title: Ant
    Place: Hangzhou, China
    Description:
  • Title: Apple
    Place: Cupertino, CA, USA
    Description:

Previous findings

  • 2020 Digital Inclusion Benchmark

    The the World Benchmarking Alliance’s first Digital Inclusion Benchmark ranks 100 of the world’s most influential technology companies.

    See 2020 findings