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$295m committed to inclusive digital infrastructure

By Adeyemi Adepetun
27 September 2022   |   3:54 am
At the just concluded 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, high-level representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropy and international organisations

Countries to share digital public goods and best practices for global goals

At the just concluded 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, high-level representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropy and international organisations agreed to scale up efforts to build safe, trusted and inclusive digital public infrastructure (DPI) to achieve a more sustainable and equitable world.

To this end, they committed to sharing digital public goods, knowledge, and learnings, while providing an initial $295 million in funding to support the development and adoption of inclusive DPI, scaling technical assistance and deeper capacity building.

The event with the theme, ‘the future of digital cooperation: building resilience through safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure’, marks the first significant gathering of countries to advance the development and use of DPI and especially through digital public goods (DPGs).

The forum noted that as the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it faces a combination of global crises: from disease, food insecurity, political instability and economic volatility to climate change.

Accordingly, effective and inclusive DPI, interoperable digital platforms that enable basic, society-wide transactions, such as ID systems, digital payments, and trusted data sharing – have shown to be a key mechanism to transform service delivery and increase resilience for future crises.

The forum claimed that DPGs – open source software, data, AI models, standards, and content – are rapidly becoming indispensable digital cooperation tools, helping countries shorten their learning and adoption curve as they build DPI.

“From cash transfers and food distribution to e-commerce and innovative models of education, digital economy, and healthcare delivery, inclusive DPI systems have become critical to enabling meaningful delivery of public and private services and underpinning the achievement of a range of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including poverty reduction, financial inclusion, women’s economic empowerment, and climate resilience,” the forum noted.

The event was chaired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with co-hosts including members and partners of the Digital Public Goods Alliance – the Governments of Estonia, Germany, Norway and Sierra Leone, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, Smart Africa, and the World Bank Group. It brought together high-level representatives from these organizations alongside global leaders from the Dominican Republic, India, Mauritania, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, Timor Leste, Togo, Ukraine, USA, the European Commission, H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and members of the private sector and civil society to rally behind a compelling shared vision for accelerating the development of and use of DPI and DPGs, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the event as an opportunity to set in place building blocks for a bold vision of inclusive DPI that leaves no one behind and accelerates implementation of the SDGs.

President, World Bank Group, David Malpass, said: “There have been severe reversals in development, and global policy trends suggest these will persist. Digital public infrastructure is a vital part of our response. Digital identification, payment, and data sharing platforms have made it possible for countries to respond more effectively, more transparently, at a greater speed and scale, and with more security and privacy. For the digital transformation to be successful, we need to be trusted, quality, and inclusive public infrastructure, accessible and affordable Internet, and the development of digital skills.”

Bill Gates, the Co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said there is not a single SDG that digital public infrastructure won’t advance in one way or another.

Gates stressed that it is amazing in international development when one targeted investment can have spillover effects in almost every issue area we care about.

“This is why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is joining with governments and donors to invest more in digital public infrastructure. I urge everyone – leaders of countries in a position to build digital public infrastructure and leaders in a position to support it – to recognise the great promise of this moment,” Gates stated.