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Digital administration to strengthen resilience

Digital public infrastructures contribute to greater transparency and respect for human rights. A global alliance is committed to establishing these systems.

Electronic money transfers, digital identities and digital signatures enable governments to provide basic services to the population in digital form. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the many advantages of digitalising citizen services and administrative processes were already clear. They make it possible for governments to continue operating in the event of a crisis. Countries such as Benin and Bangladesh, for example, were able to react more quickly to the challenges of the pandemic thanks to their networked health care systems.

Digital public goods (DPGs) play a key role in helping to fully harness the potential of digital technologies and data. DPGs are freely accessible data and open source code that ensure compliance with data protection and other laws while also contributing to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This reduces duplicate work in development cooperation, saves time and money in project implementation and increases added value in local settings. Open standards also make it possible for different digital systems to work together almost seamlessly, such as in the case of electronic money transfers. Free access to information and technologies is vital for ensuring that the digital divide between rich and poor does not grow wider.

For this reason, work began towards the end of last year on the Digital Public Goods Charter. One of the initiators of this process was the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), which was established within the United Nations in 2019. Kay McGowan, Senior Director at the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), says: ‘This initiative brings together national governments and civil society, as well as public and private institutions, in a unique way to promote secure, digital public infrastructures on a large scale in a post-COVID world.’

Milestone for digital public goods

At the beginning of June, high-ranking representatives from the worlds of policy-making, the private sector and civil society came together in Norway at a conference held by the Digital Public Goods Alliance to establish a regulatory framework, ‘for protecting privacy and other important human rights.’ This resulted in the first version of the charter text being published, which is also designed to build interest among potential participants.

One approach for achieving progress in these areas is to develop prototypical solutions for specific digitalisation projects in the public sector. These are then made freely accessible in low and middle-income countries.

German contribution: modules for digital administration

The most important German contribution to the global agenda for digital public goods thus far is the GovStack initiative. In this project, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH promotes the digitalisation of administrative services via standardised information and communications technology (ICT) modules. It does so on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with cofinancing from the EU. Countries can use these modules to independently transform their administration with few resources required. This approach is currently being piloted in six countries. The latest member country is Ukraine: the priority here is to lend the country digital support in the short term for rebuilding houses and roads.

The next milestone for the digital public goods agenda is scheduled for September 2022, when specific financing commitments will be announced. This financing is chiefly intended to fund the development of digital public goods and capacities in the countries.