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G20 members urged to strengthen collaboration to develop scalable digital public goods

G20 members urged to strengthen collaboration to develop scalable digital public goods

A policy brief which examines how digital public goods (DPGs) can be leveraged for economic development has made recommendations on how members of the G20 can enhance their capacity to work on DPGs that are scalable, low-cost, and secure.

The brief, published by the Open Research Foundation (ORF), also underlines the potential of DPGs as tools capable of unlocking avenues for technological revolution and global economic progress.

The 18-page document is titled ‘Laying the foundation for the future: open-source sustainability and the adoption of digital public goods.’

The authors, Alex Krasodomski-Jones and David Eaves, from the University of Oxford, highlight the necessity of building digital public goods based on open-source standards. They hold that a sustainable open-source government technology ecosystem is an important condition for scalable, low-cost, and secure software digital public goods.

The brief also suggests that the G20 has a great role to play in the development, uptake and sustainability of open-source DPGs.

This, the document notes, can be done through three ways: the ‘no action’ model in which the government does not take a frontline role in DPG development, the ‘individual member state action’ option, which allows states to boost the uptake and sustainability of DPGs, focusing either on those meeting national government requirements or the needs of citizens and non-governmental groups, and the ‘coordinated international action’ approach, which looks at government-led software cooperation as one of the effective ways of developing and maintaining digital public infrastructure.

To the authors, one of the ways to achieve greater international collaboration is to set up a G20 working group that would foster partnerships on software development. This working group, according to them, should be able to help build relationships between member states’ digital and procurement teams, provide a dedicated forum for the identification of shared government software requirements, and lead member-state investment in the open and DPG ecosystems.

Such a forum should also set minimum thresholds for the procurement and use of open-source DPGs, per the authors. It could establish draft principles for joint software governance that would promote bilateral and multilateral agreements on issues of governance, funding, licensing, and community standards, among others.

The brief also calls on G20 members to set standards on sustainable usage of open-source technology, which it believes, could be useful in tackling the shortfall in governance and funding facing open-source DPGs, often masked by private software procurement.

“G20 member states should prioritise creating high-impact funding for immature DPGs by establishing sovereign funds for developing DPGs, making small grants to experimental or bespoke digital solutions to national government, local government or community requirements,” the authors opine.

Since taking over the presidency of the G20, India has pushed a strong advocacy for the institution to torchlight global efforts in developing and leveraging DPGs as one of the routes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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