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UNDP report reviews crucial role, next steps in building DPI in developing countries

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UNDP report reviews crucial role, next steps in building DPI in developing countries
 

An assessment conducted by the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has highlighted the UN agency’s massive contributions to the buildup of digital public infrastructure (DPI) in low-income countries (LDCs) over the past decade.

The 126-page analysis, released last November and presented during the UN’s opening session of 2024, gauges support offered by the UNDP for the digitalization of public services in eight program streams across several thematic areas in many countries of the Global South.

Covering the period 2015-2023, the evaluation comes in the early stage of the UNDP’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan and Digital Policy implementation. It is expected that it will inform the UNDP’s programming strategies at the global and country levels.

The report notes variations at different levels of digitalisation in many countries either because of the governance system in place or the available digital infrastructure, underlining the difficulty which countries faced when the coronavirus pandemic pushed almost every transaction online.

“The evaluation found that UNDP played a crucial role in enhancing digital public infrastructure, which is foundational for digital transformation of public services. Strategic preparedness at the corporate level enabled UNDP to respond swiftly to pandemic-related requirements, ensuring the uninterrupted delivery of public services,” says Isabelle Mercier, director of the IEO.

The evaluation highlights the need to properly address data security and digital privacy as a fundamental right, but equally urges the UNDP to address issues of interoperability while also ramping up its support and collaboration in the development of DPI.

“UNDP should continue its engagement in digital public infrastructure advancing user-focused design and streamlined digital offerings for key digitalization drivers such as digital legal identity, digital financial services and interoperability,” Mercier recommends.

She also argues that additional attention is required for the least developed countries, “where digital ecosystems are in early stages. Further advocacy is needed for data privacy and legal identity management at the country level.”

The UNDP is involved in several DPI development projects including the recently launched 50-in-5 initiative which seeks to support 50 countries in the full development of at least one component of their DPI ecosystem by 2028, as well as a fund-raising campaign which targets $400 million to support over 100 countries developing DPI.

The UN agency also unveiled a digital ID governance framework at the close of last year.

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