Global leaders usher in a new era of digital cooperation for a more sustainable, equitable world
Right to left, Mr. Bill Gates, Co-Chair, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; His Excellency Alar Karis, President, Republic of Estonia; His Excellency, Julius Maada Bio, President, Republic of Sierra Leone; Her Excellency Cina Lawson, Minister of Digital Economy and Transformation, Republic of Togo; His Excellency Moctar Yedaly, Minister of Digital Transformation, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, yesterday at an event convened on the theme of ‘The Future of Digital Cooperation: Building resilience through safe, trusted and inclusive digital public infrastructure’. Source: UNDP
Press Release: Countries from around the world committed to sharing digital public goods and best practices for the Global Goals. Funders committed US$295 million to advance inclusive digital public infrastructure.
New York – At the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, high-level representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropy, and international organizations yesterday agreed to scale up efforts to build safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure (DPI) for a more sustainable, equitable world. To this end, they committed to sharing digital public goods, knowledge and learnings, and providing an initial US$295 million in funding to support the development and adoption of inclusive DPI, scaling technical assistance, and deeper capacity building.
The event The Future of Digital Cooperation: Building resilience through safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure marks the first significant gathering of countries to advance the development and use of DPI, and especially through digital public goods (DPGs).
As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it faces a combination of global crises: from disease, food insecurity, political instability, economic volatility, to climate change. Effective and inclusive DPI – interoperable digital platforms that enable basic, society-wide transactions, such as ID systems, digital payments, and trusted data sharing – have shown to be a key mechanism to transform service delivery and increase resilience for future crises. DPGs – open source software, data, AI models, standards, and content – are rapidly becoming indispensable digital cooperation tools, helping countries shorten their learning and adoption curve as they build DPI. From cash transfers and food distribution to e-commerce and innovative models of education, digital economy, and healthcare delivery, inclusive DPI systems have become critical to enabling meaningful delivery of public and private services and underpinning the achievement of a range of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including poverty reduction, financial inclusion, women’s economic empowerment, and climate resilience.
The event was chaired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with co-hosts including members and partners of the Digital Public Goods Alliance – the Governments of Estonia, Germany, Norway and Sierra Leone, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, Smart Africa, and the World Bank Group. It brought together high-level representatives from these organizations alongside global leaders from the Dominican Republic, India, Mauritania, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, Singapore, Timor Leste, Togo, Ukraine, USA, the European Commission, H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and members of the private sector and civil society to rally behind a compelling shared vision for accelerating the development of and use of DPI and DPGs, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN Secretary-General’s statement noted that “this event is an opportunity to set in place building blocks for a bold vision of inclusive Digital Public Infrastructure that leaves no one behind and accelerates implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.” This statement was delivered by the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.
The contributions and pioneering initiatives showcased mark a milestone for international digital cooperation and underscore the need for equitable access to digital public infrastructure:
- Countries from around the world, including Estonia, India, Norway, Peru, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Timor-Leste, Togo, and Ukraine, committed to sharing government technologies as digital public goods, alongside best practices and implementation learnings.
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed US$200 million to expand global digital public infrastructure, encompassing tools such as interoperable payment systems, digital ID, data-sharing systems, and civil registry databases.
- The Kingdom of Norway contributed US$50 million for the development and adoption of DPI.
- The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany pledged EUR35 million (approximately US$34.6 million) to advance DPI.
- The EU’s Horn of Africa Initiative committed EUR10 million (approximately US$9.9 million) to enhance cybersecurity in the region, using the GovStack model.
These contributions will be important inputs to the Global Digital Compact – a multi-stakeholder understanding between the UN Member States, the private sector, civil society, and the private sector on shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all – and complement DPG Charter efforts.
Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said:
“We know that countries with strong and interoperable digital infrastructure are better equipped to meet people’s needs and accelerate action towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Today, we have with us the single largest and most prominent gathering of countries and other partners coming together to create and implement safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure at scale. We will commit to sharing and learning from one another, to finding ways to finance these journeys, and to leaving no one behind in the process.”
His Excellency Alar Karis, President, Republic of Estonia, said:
“We must not forget that the values we integrate into our digital architecture now will determine the way forward. We believe in sharing good approaches in order to support digital transformation in an equal manner for all. This is why we continue to provide our expertise and lessons learned from Estonian digital-society experience, using and developing open source solutions.”
His Excellency, Julius Maada Bio, President, Republic of Sierra Leone, said:
“The Government of Sierra Leone is enthusiastic about the opportunities of digital public goods and we look forward to working with partners that share our vision of a world where digital technology is co-created and shared.”
Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:
“There is not a single Sustainable Development Goal that digital public infrastructure won’t advance in one way or another. It is amazing in international development when one targeted investment can have spillover effects in almost every issue area we care about. This is why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is joining with governments and donors to invest more in digital public infrastructure. I urge everyone—leaders of countries in a position to build digital public infrastructure and leaders in a position to support it—to recognize the great promise of this moment.”
His Excellency Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister, Norway, said:
“It is essential that we support these emerging technologies that are making a difference in the transformation of countries, that scale up their development and economic growth. But at the same time, we need to be attentive – technology that can be used for good can also be used for bad. Be it in the military sector or surveillance, exclusion, or the spread of fake news, contributing to greater polarization.
“The Digital Public Goods Alliance has created a strong platform to create and scale essential open and safe digital solutions. It is driving a new phase of private-public partnership and inspiring greater collaboration on digital solutions between countries that are both similar and diverse, like Norway, Germany, Sierra Leone, India, and Estonia.”
David Malpass, President, World Bank Group, said:
“There have been severe reversals in development, and global policy trends suggest these will persist. Digital public infrastructure is a vital part of our response. Digital identification, payment, and data sharing platforms have made it possible for countries to respond more effectively, more transparently, at a greater speed and scale, and with more security and privacy. For the digital transformation to be successful, we need trusted, quality, and inclusive public infrastructure, accessible and affordable Internet, and the development of digital skills.”
Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT & Innovation, Government of Rwanda (Rwanda is Chair of Smart Africa), said:
“Rwanda’s experience, like that of many other countries, shows that political will and the social contract with our people are the right ingredients for an accelerated digital transformation. Smart Africa brings together like-minded countries that are focused on how we can leverage digital transformation to take our economies to the next stage. This requires experience sharing and work in particular areas, including payment infrastructure, digital ID, and harmonization of laws and regulations to ensure harmonization of platforms and systems as we see ourselves as a single market in Africa.”
Dr. Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, said:
“The digital world is a perfect illustration of the problems we all have, and where we can come to common solutions. For instance, during the Ebola crisis, over 10 years ago, we worked with the Nigerian government to develop early warning systems. This was then used during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were benefitting from a system that was developed for another purpose. This is an example of how cooperation should work in both directions.
“This is why Germany is renewing its support for the GovStack initiative and the Digital Public Goods Alliance, by committing EUR35m over the next three years.”
Catherine Russell, Executive Director, UNICEF, said:
“Every half a second, a child goes online for the first time. Children and young people are engaging with the digital world in unprecedented breadth and depth. We need to catch up — and invest in digital infrastructure, solutions, and standards so that they can safely and positively engage with the digital world. We also need to bridge the digital divide and reach the 2.9 billion people who remain offline with equitable access to online tools and services.”
Liv Marte Nordhaug, Co-Lead, Digital Public Goods Alliance, said:
“It was truly inspiring to see countries from all over the world committing to share digital public goods and best practices to help shorten the learning and adoption curve for others. With new financing from governments and philanthropic funders, these commitments will help foster digital cooperation to build inclusive digital public infrastructure.”
About the Digital Public Goods Alliance
The Digital Public Goods Alliance is a multi-stakeholder initiative with a mission to accelerate the attainment of the sustainable development goals in low- and middle-income countries by facilitating the discovery, development, use of, and investment in digital public goods. Member organizations commit to working collaboratively, transparently monitoring activities, and sharing efforts and progress with one another in order to create a digital ecosystem that advances DPGs.
About the United Nations Development Programme
UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and the planet.