The aim of the Digital Public Goods Alliance and Platform is to help accelerate attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in low- and middle-income countries. The Alliance and Platform facilitates the discovery, development, use of, and investment in, openly licensed technologies, data models, and content of high relevance for attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Digital Public Goods

Digital public goods are digital products, and the software, data and algorithms that drive them,  that serve to educate us, help us thrive in our professional lives, enrich our cultural experiences, and ultimately do good for the benefit of humankind. Examples of these goods exist all around us in the areas of information, education, healthcare, finance, and more. Many also serve to further the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, in its report published on June 10th 2019, recommends “that a broad, multi-stakeholder alliance, involving the UN, create a platform for sharing digital public goods, engaging talent and pooling data sets, in a manner that respects privacy, in areas related to attaining the SDGs”.

Digital Public Goods Platform

“There is currently no “go to” place for discovering, engaging with, building, and investing in digital public goods…such a platform could create great value by enabling the sharing and adaptation of digital technologies and content across countries in a wider range of areas relevant to achieving the SDGs”. 

Report of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation

The development of this platform includes building a “storefront” for digital public goods, supporting work across all of the Sustainable Development Goals, and working with a variety of stakeholders to develop definitions, criteria, and governance and financing mechanisms.

Open Licensing

“Many types of digital technologies and content – from data to apps, data visualisation tools to educational curricula – could accelerate achievement of the SDGs. When they are freely and openly available, with minimal restrictions on how they can be distributed, adapted and reused, we can think of them as “digital public goods”. In economics, a “public good” is something which anyone can use without charge and without preventing others from using it. Digital content and technologies lend themselves to being public goods in this respect.”

Report of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation

This  guidance necessitates that software, content and data must be possible to use independently of any particular vendor to be considered as digital public goods. Open licensing is a necessary, albeit not always sufficient, precondition for ensuring this. The minimum criteria for digital public goods also include other aspects, such as interoperability.

Types of Goods

Digital public goods include:

  • Open Software: Products and services ` in the form of websites and applications that offer a user interface through which the public good is provided to the user. Extensible to software libraries, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and other pieces of software that are designed as modular components to more complex programs.
  • Open Data and Content: Information or knowledge that is either easily understood directly by people or coded into a form that is efficient for movement or processing.
  • Open Standards: Compendia of norms, laws, specifications and reference implementations.

Note on Connectivity

Being connected to the Internet is vital for the organization and distribution of digital public goods. If there is no connectivity, there is no digital, and, reversely, digital access has limited value without access to relevant content. However, nearly half the world’s population is still not using the internet and remain disconnected from digital products and information that could dramatically improve their lives. The UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation highlights issues around connectivity. 

 

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