The Digital Public Goods Alliance has, over the past year, worked closely with Omidyar Network at events like Co-Develop: Digital Public Infrastructure for an Equitable Recovery and during the World Economic Forum. Their leadership, particularly in the area of digital public infrastructure, is part of the reason we’re thrilled to announce them today as a member of the Digital Public Goods Alliance.
In their own words:
At Omidyar Network, we believe digital technology can and should have a positive impact on society. This belief comes from our Silicon Valley DNA.
We aspire to build a global technological ecosystem that reaches and works for everyone: One that balances innovation with responsibility, regardless of whether technology is deployed by individuals, companies, or governments.
That’s why Omidyar Network makes strategic investments and promotes ideas, technologies, and policies that help ensure a digital world that is safe, fair, and compassionate. We support organizations committed to making positive changes— and apply pressure to those that may be more resistant. In doing so, we can ensure that future technological innovation promotes well-being and individual liberty, while building in safeguards to manage its risks and unintended consequences.
Omidyar’s work includes a significant focus on digital public infrastructure, or DPI.
Digital platforms, such as digital identity and interoperable payment systems, form the scaffolding that holds up our entire digital economy, improving the delivery of basic services to millions. While not visible, this digital architecture has the power to enhance many different aspects of our lives, wherever we live on the globe. Identification enables people to open new bank accounts and access public services like education and health, while interoperable payment systems have the ability to drive down transaction costs for consumers.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen just how essential digital infrastructure can be. South Korea and Singapore were able to use theirs to track and trace who had contracted the virus — and to whom they had been in close proximity with. India used its digital infrastructure to send more than $200 million in emergency aid directly to more than 340 million citizens in a matter of days. Estonia, meanwhile, used its digital infrastructure to create digital immunity passports, which allow those who have recently tested negative for the novel coronavirus to return to work in person.
The problem is that this kind of digital infrastructure is only present in a few countries around the world — which leaves the rest of us to depend on slower, less reliable systems. Even in countries as wealthy as the United States, unemployment benefits, which could be paid in seconds via digital infrastructure, can take months to process due to antiquated technology and processes. And when it comes to countries with far fewer resources, especially in Africa, the lack of digital infrastructure can create even bigger impediments to access even basic services. For example, the lack of formal identification is one of the biggest barriers for financial inclusion. And even if governments and philanthropists have every intention of supporting vulnerable people, these will remain mere intentions without a mechanism through which they can get people the resources they need.
That’s why Omidyar Network is working to make sure countries have the technical resources to build the digital infrastructure that is powering so much of the developed world — and to do it in a way that is cost-saving, open-sourced, and empowering to local entrepreneurs who will no longer have to be dependent on big technology companies.
In 2021, they’ve already showed significant leadership in this area, including:
- Helping to conceive the idea for and provide foundational funding toward the modular, open-source identity platform, MOSIP. National governments are currently implementing MOSIP at population scale in the Philippines and Morocco. Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and Guinea have also signed agreements to adopt MOSIP. Omidyar Network has provided $7M to enable the design and implementation of MOSIP in 10 countries.
- Supporting the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University to evaluate the ethical considerations and guidelines for technologists, governments, and philanthropic donors involved in creating and employing digital public goods.
- Supporting Public Digital to develop an Open-Source Software Capability Model for Governments and share learnings with the broader community. In doing so, they consulted a range of experts and stakeholders, including government officials and donors experienced in creating and deploying digital public goods.
- Omidyar Network’s Senior Vice President of Programs, Michele Jawando, moderated a virtual “Co-Develop” event on August 30, which was hosted by the Digital Public Goods Alliance, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Norad), and The Rockefeller Foundation. The conversation elicited meaningful ideas and commitments from The United Nations, European Commission, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Africa Digital Rights Hub, USAID, India, Sri Lanka, Togo, Sierra Leone, Estonia, Norway, Germany, and many other champions. It drew out pledges of funding and other support to MOSIP and Mojaloop (two of Omidyar Network’s grantees and DPGs), the health data exchange DHIS2, Digital Square, Digital Public Goods Alliance, technical assistance to implementing nations, research, and proposals for new funding structures to pool demand and resources from the public and private sectors.
- Ms. Jawando also moderated an event on September 20 during World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit. Sigve Brekke (Telenor Group), Bård Vegar Solhjell (Norad), and Cina Lawson (Togo) talked about how public-private cooperation can help scale critical infrastructure such as digital identity, e-payments and data exchanges to accelerate digital inclusion and build competitive digital economies. In addition to the event, Omidyar Network collaborated with the World Economic Forum to produce a series of articles about the importance of digital public infrastructure.
In 2022, Omidyar Network will continue to advance its work in the following areas as well as to explore emerging issues and opportunities: Fostering a Healthy Tech Culture and Responsible Innovation; Reshaping the Data Paradigm; Expanding Digital Public Infrastructure; Fighting Disinformation and Dangerous Speech; and Curbing Big Tech’s Harmful Influence.
We at the Digital Public Goods Alliance look forward to continued partnership with Omidyar Network through 2022.