Digital Public Infrastructure

  • IASbaba
  • November 2, 2022
  • 0
Science and Technology
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  • Rapidly worsening impacts of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing war in Ukraine have resulted in a cycle of crises in which many countries are experiencing devastating effects on healthcare systems, education, and food security.
  • The pandemic has delayed achieving the SDGs, upturned our societies, and deepened socioeconomic divisions.
  • Investing in sustainable technologies can make the difference in how we address challenges now and in the future.

Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI):

  • DPI refers to solutions and systems that enable the effective provision of essential society-wide functions and services in the public and private sectors.
  • This includes digital forms of ID and verification, civil registration, payment (digital transactions and money transfers), data exchange, and information systems.
  • They are open source, customisable, and localisable.
  • Vendor lock-in means being locked into long-term contracts with limited flexibility and large, sometimes unexpected, fees; lack of customisation to local context; inability to integrate citizens into governance and decision-making; and centralising the market around only a few companies.
  • Benefits: increase resilience, avoid vendor lock-in, leverage existing solutions and adapt them to local needs, support interoperability between different platforms and solutions and have ability to respond swiftly and effectively to global crises.
  • It allows countries to retain strategic control over their digitalisation processes, ensure digital cooperation and strengthen long-term capacity.
  • For example, many African countries that had strong DPI prior to the COVID-19 in response to the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis, is now providing essential services to citizens despite the breakdown of physical infrastructure as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

Digital Public Goods (DPGs):

  • DPGs are open-source software, open data, open AI models, open standards, and open content that adhere to privacy and other applicable laws and best practices, do no harm by design, and help attain the SDGs.
  • DPGs are needed to accelerate the DPI agenda. DPI may include implementations of multiple proprietary and/or open-source solutions, including digital public goods (DPGs).
  • For example, Estonia co-funds the DPG X-Road—open-source software that provides unified and secure data exchange between organisations and improves service delivery for citizens—and shares vendor training and certification approaches with Finland and Iceland. Estonia’s approach to DPGs has become a key component of its digital diplomacy and digital foreign policy work.
  • In 2022, UN Development Programme and the Digital Public Goods Alliance, countries from around the world committed to sharing DPGs and best practices for the implementation of DPI. Funders also committed US$295 million to advance inclusive digital public infrastructure with DPGs.

DPI Application:

  • Government benefits like cash transfers are supported by foundational DPI.
  • MOSIP has been used for pandemic-related subsidy payments
  • It is an open-source identity platform that can then be used to access a wide variety of government and private services.
  • MOSIP allows national identity systems to be context-specific and based on local laws and decisions
  • MOSIP is representative of the adoptable, interoperable, and transparent qualities of DPGs
  • Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates’ Foundation, Tata Trust, Omidyar Networks, and NORAD,
  • Adopted by the Philippines, Morocco, and Togo, and piloted in Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and Guinea.

Suggestions for G20:

  • Committing to open data access
  • Digital solutions are most effective when powered by relevant and high-quality data.
  • Jamaica opted to use CommCare, a DPG, deployed offline first as a mobile application, and used to track and support clients before, during, and after they are vaccinated.
  • The G20 can help technologies like CommCare and DIVOC achieve global reach and become an integral part of a country’s DPI.
  • Encourage inclusive private and public collaboration
  • Taking an open and inclusive approach to DPI can stimulate entrepreneurship, innovation, and productive competition, but the private sector should also take a proactive role in producing and contributing to DPI.
  • Uganda’s UGHub allows government services to act as a single unified system, easing access to e-services, breaking down silos, lessening the administrative burden on citizens and coordination and integration with the private sector and international organisations
  • Increase public sector support and funding for joint DPI
  • Close coordination with all sectors (private, public, and civil society) can help avoid fragmentation and duplication while harnessing the cooperation and ongoing dialogue needed to address global challenges.
  • DPI that is open, accessible, and cross-sectorally enabling can help mitigate the costs of climate change such as more than US$100 billion per year as per G20’s ‘Investing in Climate Change Mitigation’ report.
  • Set the global norms and standards to protect people
  • DPI can expose citizens to risks such as privacy violations, data-driven behavioural manipulation, identity theft and fraud, and exclusion from essential public services.
  • A 2021 report by the Digital Public Goods Alliance outlined a vision for DPI that safeguards inclusion, trust, competition, security, and privacy, public value and private empowerment

Way forward:

  • Digital public infrastructure can unlock value by
  • breaking down data silos
  • creating shared technology infrastructure
  • encouraging private sector participation
  • delivering innovative solutions
  • DPI must be implemented inclusively with safeguards which can contribute to a country’s resilience in the face of crisis.
  • Sharing of DPGs and DPIs must be made the general norm to ensure global digital cooperation and ensure thought leadership and research
  • The G20 can play a pivotal role in stewarding inclusive approaches to digital transformation, directing international development cooperation, and strengthening multilateralism towards a new future for free, inclusive, innovative, and open DPI to transform the lives of the people and for the larger global good.

Source: Orf  Online


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