Digital public technology can help drive sustainable development

Digital technology is gaining increasing attention in the international dialogue on global prosperity and stability. Inside August 2021, G-20 Digital Ministers After Kovid-19, it has been identified that digitization can enhance the capacity of the economy and government to contribute to a “resilient, strong, sustainable and inclusive recovery”. In May 2022, the Indonesian government, as part of its G-20 presidency this year, encouraged G-20 Digital Economy Working Group In priority Digital connectivity, digital skills and literacy, and cross-border data flow. Meanwhile, for the upcoming year G-7 Summit In Schloss Elmau, the German presidency proposed that the goal of “strengthening together” should prioritize “social justice, equality, and inclusive digitization”.

In the best case scenario, digital technologies are contributing to massive improvements in access to public services, social security provisions and economic opportunities for millions of people. Nevertheless, deep questions are being raised. Some of these focus on corporate control and ownership of digital infrastructure and platforms. Large private firms own and operate many of the world’s underlying digital systems, with huge impacts on technology users and potentially even controlling governments. Others focus on how digital technologies have opened the door to new forms of government surveillance, empowered dictators with repressive digital tools, increased inequality, and encouraged social divisions through the spread of confusion.

In response, a growing international movement is emphasizing the public dimension of digital technology. In recent times Work paper, We explore how digital public technology (DPT) can help accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) progress, with an emphasis on extreme deprivation and basic needs. By DPT, we mean digital assets that create a level playing field for wider access or use – being universally owned, universally regulated or open source. A prime example is the Aadhaar platform in India, which provides personal identity to allow more than one billion citizens access to government programs and services.

Benchmarking SDG Challenge

Any consideration of DPT for SDG needs to be anchored in the empirical evaluation of SDG gaps. Drawing from a separate upcoming study of numerous SDG indicators, a trend assessment shows that by 2030 none of them is on the path to complete success. Some – such as infant mortality, access to electricity, access to sanitation and access to drinking water – are on track to benefit more than half of the relevant population if needed. Some are on the path to less than half the required gains, including stunting, extreme income poverty, maternal mortality, access to family planning, primary school completion, and non-communicable disease mortality. Others such as malnourished and overweight children are lagging behind. Many SDG challenges are highly concentrated in a small number of populous countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, India and Pakistan. Many other smaller countries, such as South Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic, are also severely closed to many SDG targets.

As the world approaches the 2030 SDGs, a holistic approach to building strong institutions, encouraging data governance governance and expanding digital access while encouraging participatory processes can help drive sustainable development progress at a much faster rate.

In this context, problem-and-country-specific assessments are essential when considering the potential role and contribution of DPT. In many countries, proper procedures often depend on the underlying physical infrastructure and economic system. Rwanda, for example, has made remarkable progress on the SDG health index despite high-income poverty and Internet poverty. This is in contrast to Burkina Faso, where income poverty and internet poverty are lower but infant mortality rates are higher.

The key element of digital public technology

To help frame problems for DPT conversations, we are drawing from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) typology to identify three layers of a digital ecosystem: physical infrastructure, platform infrastructure, and app-level products. The physical and platform levels guarantee rules, standards and security so that local market innovators and governments can develop new ideas more quickly in changing circumstances. App-level products provide specific services such as collecting information on health needs or interventions, providing farmers with market information, applying for a government license, and granting access to an educational or recreational program.

We then describe five types of DPT platforms:

  1. Personal identification and registration infrastructure, which allows citizens and organizations equal access to fundamental rights and services.
  2. Payment infrastructure, which enables efficient asset transfer with low transaction costs.
  3. Knowledge infrastructure, which links educational resources and datasets in open or authorized ways.
  4. Data exchange infrastructure, which enables the interoperability of independent databases.
  5. Mapping infrastructure that intersects data exchange platforms to strengthen geospatial-capable diagnostics and service delivery opportunities.

In principle, each platform type can directly or indirectly contribute to the range of SDG results. For example, a person’s birth certificate (SDG target 16.9), land title (SDG 1.4), bank account (SDG 8.10), driving license, or government-sponsored social security (SDG 1.3). It can ensure access to publicly available basic services such as public schools (SDG 4.1) and health clinics (SDG 3.8). Payment platforms may facilitate transitions linked to preferred policy interventions or they may support unconditional objectives such as extreme poverty reduction, digital food stamp vouchers for food insecure people, single mothers targeted assistance with young children, or emergency humanitarian assistance (SDGs 1.1, 2.1). 3.1, 3.2, and 11.5)

Factor for public welfare promotion

Given the broad potential of DPT contributions to SDGs, a real challenge is to “level the playing field” so that broader service providers can use the physical and platform layers of digital infrastructure equally. Three levers can help do this: public ownership and governance; Public regulation; And open code, standards and protocols. Typically, DPTs are created and deployed through a combination of these levers, enabling different public and private actors to benefit in a unique way.

The implementation of DPTs often faces significant challenges in design and deployment. Problems may include lack of financial sustainability, limited power within the government to oversee a platform, and barriers to government procurement. Further, DPTs could undermine SDG results if they add inequalities in digital access, contribute to the centralization of power in certain public or private entities, or lead individuals to data misuse and abuse.

In the midst of this complexity, several donor agencies have so far made a wide range of strategic priorities for digital development. Strong official figures are not available, however An OECD estimate Relevant digital-centric funding rose to $ 6.8 billion in 2019, with multilateral institutions providing more than bilateral donors. With an estimated funding of up to $ 491 million in 2019, some large private philanthropists seem to be giving even more relative priority to digital technology.

Looking forward

As fast-changing digital technologies penetrate more and more across all societies, successful DPT strategies will require a multifaceted approach that promotes benefits while minimizing risks. Governments can establish participatory design processes and citizen-centric data governance systems while ensuring accountability and redress. Civil society can represent different voices in policy-making when it comes to spreading digital literacy and holding governments accountable. Funders can finance risk-based support structures while prioritizing sustainability.

In this context, international actors will be better served to increase their focus on DPT as a potential tool for advancing policy strategies and outcomes. As the world approaches the 2030 SDGs, a holistic approach to building strong institutions, encouraging data governance governance and expanding digital access while encouraging participatory processes can help drive sustainable development progress at a much faster rate.

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