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Digital public goods and infrastructure can’t be stamped out on an assembly line

Digital public goods and infrastructure can’t be stamped out on an assembly line

Ambitious plans for using digital public goods and infrastructure for national economic development are resulting in insights for the next generation of adopters.

A backer of the concept, S. Rajagopalan, president of the Modular Open-Source Identity Platform (MOSIP) project, has pulled together five insights based on deployments so far. He published them through the World Economic Forum with his co-writer, Keyzom Ngodup Masally, head of digital public goods for the United Nations Development Programme.

The first insight on their list is accepting how essential it is to customize digital public goods (DPGs), which include digital identity, if they want to accelerate digital public infrastructure (DPI) outside of developed economies. This is not a one-size-fits-all national development strategy. What works in one situation or nation may not work in others.

Following closely on that idea is this: After committing to incorporating DPGs, backers have to align that commitment with a government’s broader goals.

Third, thinking has to encompass the entire society. Department-by-department, or siloed, planning and implementation will result in a fractured and disjointed whole.

To get an operational group thinking in this way, the authors advise, get everyone thinking about interoperable systems capable of addressing many use cases. The modular open-source approach MOSIP takes to digital identity is intended to support this kind of thinking and planning.

Fourth, build capacity staring with a vision for a nation’s digital infrastructure. To do that, put human rights and inclusivity at the heart of DPI implementation. This can address the most basic but important questions, like, what does data-sharing in the context of the society and the government.

Fifth, do not wait for the foreign cavalry to ride in with the skills required. Finding and holding local people to build a digital ecosystem that addresses the previous themes — customize, integrate, localize leads to lasting success.

If effectively harnessed, DPGs could accelerate progress towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 16.9, to provide legal identity to all people by 2030.

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