Harnessing digital technologies for international cooperation

re:publica in Berlin hosts discussion on how open standards and open data can help to promote sustainable development.

In whatever form it takes – apps or data analyses, for example – digitalisation is also changing our approach to international cooperation. At re:publica, one of the leading conferences dealing with digital society issues, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is demonstrating how digital technologies can be used for development projects.

‘Digital solutions are already being applied in many projects to improve the results of our work,’ observed Christoph Beier (Vice-Chair of GIZ’s Management Board) at the conference. ‘They can help us develop new approaches to solving some of the most pressing challenges in the field of international cooperation.’

By way of example, open access to data increases transparency and can help to reduce corruption. This is particularly important in the extractives industry. Acting on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), for example, GIZ supported an initiative to establish an electronic management system for 780 mining licences in the West African state of Sierra Leone covering 98 per cent of all industrial licences and a large proportion of small-scale mining licences. In addition, a database showing the public revenue generated from mineral extraction is freely available to the public on the internet. The new system enables the country to administer its mineral resources and the activities of mining companies efficiently and to harness them on a sustainable basis. As a result of the first digital reconciliation of the data in the tax year 2010/11, the government was able to chase up and collect unpaid mining licences worth USD 5 million. In 2016, 57 licences were cancelled due to repeated breaches of the holders’ reporting and payment obligations.

Thanks in large part to the new management system, Sierra Leone now meets the requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). This limits the scope for industry corruption and helps the country to attract reputable global investors that comply with the relevant international standards.