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UNDP and India team up for digital public infrastructure guidance to spur SDG catch-up

UNDP and India team up for digital public infrastructure guidance to spur SDG catch-up

The Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations remain a long way from being realized, more than half-way to the 2030 goal. To speed up the progress, the government of India and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have published a pair of documents as resources for government agencies and officials to help them harness the power of digital public infrastructure (DPI).

Encouraging global adoption of DPI has been a major theme of India’s G20 Presidency, of which the country’s contribution to these documents is a part.

The DPI Approach: A Playbook” is accompanied by a compendium, titled “Accelerated the SDGs Through Digital Public Infrastructure: A Compendium of the Potential of Digital Public Infrastructure.”

The 57-page playbook is broken down into six sections, which cover what DPI is, its scope, what technologies can help, preparing institutions to govern it, as well as DPI sustainability and implementation.

The layers that make up DPI are digital identity, digital payments, consent-based data sharing and emerging functions, according to the playbook. The digital identity piece includes online identity verification capabilities, verifiable credentials and electronic signatures, the playbook states.

The document outlines stages of maturity in the development of DPI, gives examples of countries moving towards the achievement of SDGs through DPI, and provides general advice for various steps towards implementing similar changes.

Digital signatures, open APIs and end-to-end encryption should be used, for instance. Data federation is necessary to mitigate the risk of centralized databases.

The compendium is 47 pages long, and notes that the world is on track to meet only 12 percent of the SDG targets. It maps over 50 examples of projects related, more or less closely, against the SDGs.

Aadhaar is presented as an example of the potential of DPI for eradicating poverty, having benefited 49 percent of India’s residents by enabling them to use a public service they have not previously accessed.

Exporting digital transformation

India’s message on DPI has been well-received by some developing countries, though G7 countries seem less keen on changes that could effect the competitiveness of global enterprises based in the world’s wealthiest nations. Regardless, India’s influence on digital public infrastructure in general, and digital identity in particular, continues to grow.

World Economic Forum President Borge Brende credits India’s digital connectivity and the Aadhaar digital ID system with driving the country’s economic growth during a presentation at NDTV’s Decoding G20 Conclave, reports Nagaland Post. Similarly, Aadhaar architect Nandan Nilekani tells Business Today that India achieved 47 years worth of digital transformation in only 9 years, powering its economic gains.

“We think this model is unique, it’s collaborative, it’s equitable, and it’s based on the principle that opportunity must be made available to everyone in the country, irrespective of where they are,” Nilekani says. “This is something which is now gaining global recognition, and now whether it’s Bill Gates or whether it’s the IMF, they’re all recognizing India’s unique contribution to digital public infrastructure. And therefore there is now a major move afoot to take this model to 50 countries in five years.”

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