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Open-source technologies have potential to accelerate development efforts: Brookings report

Open-source technologies have potential to accelerate development efforts: Brookings report

A research paper published by The Brookings Institution argues that if properly developed and deployed, open source technologies that can be categorized as Digital Public Goods (DPGs) can play a highly significant role in helping open societies meet their digital transformation objectives.

DPGs are open-source software, open data, AI models, standards and content that make Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) an operational reality, said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in 2020.

The report, ‘Can open-source technologies support open societies?’, produced by the Centre for Sustainable Development, is co-authored by Victoria Welborn, senior program manager – Digital Impact Alliance at the United Nations Foundation; and George Ingram, senior fellow on global economy and development at the Centre for Sustainable Development.

In the paper, the co-authors examine the unique value proposition of Digital Public Goods (DPGs) in supporting open societies by advancing more equitable systems and by codifying rights, and then delve into the persistent challenges to more fully realizing this opportunity. They also offer some policy recommendations for how to address these challenges.

The report recognizes the transformational potential of DPGs, their ability to drive inclusion, and how else they can be leveraged to support open societies in meeting their economic, social and political development endeavors.

Per the authors, if these technologies are developed with proper safeguards, in line with the principles of inclusion, privacy, transparency, and trust; then they can definitely contribute to “building open, trustworthy, and collaborative societies that produce inclusive services for the benefit of all nations and peoples.”

Although DPGs are crucial, there are a number of challenges faced in letting them fully realize their potential, the co-authors point out. These challenges include the lack of a clear regulatory framework and lack of globally-accepted standards governing Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI); local capacity constraints in supporting broad DPI ecosystems; lack of sustainability of investments, and a fragmented and fractured ecosystem that supports DPGs as the lack of established standards and inconsistent principles hugely hinders scalability, and adoption and implementation pace.

With regard to recommendations on leveraging DPGs for the development of open societies, the report suggests the need for a commitment to put in place safeguards for inclusion; the need to develop global norms and principles; the necessity to invest in local capacity development in terms of civil society actors and technologists; and the ability to coordinate sustainable investment for open-source technologies using a variety of funding models.

The report follows the May 2022 Center for Sustainable Development at Brookings paper on the role of DPGs and DPIs in reaching the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal, including legal identity for all, by 2030.

The importance of building digital public goods and infrastructure and how crucial they are for digital transformation projects was one of the highlights of the ID4Africa meeting in Marrakesh in June.

MOSIP president S. Rajagopalan has in the past also advanced five insights on how digital public goods can enhance the economic development agenda of nations.

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