Implementing safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure supported by robust governance frameworks is critical for countries to build resilient futures. On June 1st, government leaders, international development organisations, and philanthropic funders gathered to pledge large-scale technology sharing, funding, and their commitment to support this international cooperation agenda.
In June, global leaders jointly committed to advancing the use of digital public goods (DPGs) – the open-source solutions needed to build digital public infrastructure (DPI) that can enable countries to provide better services and foster inclusive economic growth. The event was convened by the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), Government of Norway, Government of Sierra Leone, and United Nations Development Programme.
Digital public infrastructure – the digital systems like cash transfers, digital identification, and data exchange that enable the effective provision of essential society-wide functions – can play a critical role in building resilience, including pandemic and crisis recovery. At the event, global leaders committed to implement and fund digital public infrastructure through a newly established Digital Public Goods Charter, which serves as a framework to increase international cooperation on this agenda.
The DPG Charter, co-led by the DPGA and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), outlines a clear vision for a coordinated global approach to build safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure using DPGs. Doing so can enable countries – regardless of income levels – to transform services and service delivery for people and communities everywhere.
The DPG Charter, and the commitments made by global leaders, are especially relevant given the devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting climate disruption. These challenges, compounded with the unprecedented food, energy, and financial crisis precipitated by the war in Ukraine, are creating an urgent need to act.
Investing in digital public infrastructure that puts human rights at the centre, and promotes gender-sensitive, whole-of-society approaches, can alleviate near-term economic shocks and build resilient systems for the future. The benefits are proven: countries that had well governed digital public infrastructure in place weathered the pandemic better than countries without. These countries were able to respond to challenges faster by capitalising on the use of pre-established, high-quality, welfare-enhancing digital systems.
DPGs are built on open standards, and therefore support greater interoperability. This can reduce duplication, save time and money in implementation, and provide opportunities for digital cooperation globally. The DPG Charter promotes leveraging DPGs for digital public infrastructure, which in turn can create a fairer and more inclusive playing field for countries and local digital ecosystems worldwide – by increasing participation of micro-merchants including women in e-commerce; improving children’s access to education; ensuring last-mile digitisation of payments and cash transfers; and strengthening crisis preparedness and resilience.
This event, and the pledges made, mark the starting point for global cooperation on DPGs for DPI –and funding to support it– between governments, multilateral organisations, donors, and the private sector. These efforts are in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, and the activities of the Global Digital Compact and the Summit of the Future in 2023.
Below are some of the leaders who pledged their support to advancing this initiative:
Alkesh Kumar Sharma, Secretary in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India: “By joining the DPGA, we commit to making available India’s digital public infrastructure such as Universal Payments Interface (UPI) as global digital public goods, and will offer technical assistance to implementing countries to advance global welfare for all.”
Eva-Maria Liimets, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Estonia: “Estonia remains committed to support the development of the X-road solution and to advocate it as a digital public good which can boost digitalisation, and also plans to invest a minimum of EUR20 million in open-source AI solutions in 2022-2023.”
Niels Annen, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany: “Germany has invested EUR 20 million in the GovStack Initiative to accelerate digital government services development by sharing interoperable and reusable digital building blocks – additional funding is currently subject to the approval of the German Parliament.”
Zunaid Ahmed Palak, State Minister, ICT Division, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, Bangladesh: “In order to respond to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s call of building an equitable, high-income Smart Bangladesh by 2041, this requires an uncompromising and relentless focus on ensuring digital equity enabled by DPGs and digital public infrastructure at scale. Which is precisely why today I am proud to announce that the Government of Bangladesh will be joining the Digital Public Goods Alliance and wholeheartedly endorsing the vision of the Digital Public Goods Charter.”
Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, Rwanda: “Rwanda fully endorses the vision laid out in the Digital Public Goods Charter. We are committed to advancing the DPG agenda. As we join the Digital Public Goods Alliance today, we commit to bringing our expertise and sharing lessons learned as well as learning from the successes of the different partners.”
Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Ukraine: “It’s the digital public infrastructure that makes it possible for us to continue to deliver services to our citizens. It also became the bedrock for data-driven decision-making processes […] Jointly with UNDP under very difficult conditions we have provided digital public services for receiving IDP [internally displaced people] status. We are working on a platform for payment and deduplication from international humanitarian agencies through Diia services.”
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Nandan Nilekani, Co-Founder and Chairman of Infosys Technologies Limited, spoke in support of the DPG Charter and confirmed their strong commitment to help advance investments in digital public infrastructure, enabled by DPGs, for financial inclusion, social protection and inclusive development.
Other participating countries pledging support and commitments at the event included: Norway, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Uganda, as well as leadership from USAID, UNDP, and UNICEF.
(Source: UNDP, June 2022)