Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) refers to a set of open and interoperable digital platforms designed to facilitate innovation and address large-scale societal challenges. These platforms serve as a foundation for various digital services and applications that can benefit the general population. The widespread and profound digital transformation that is occurring globally underscores the importance of adopting Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) approaches. These approaches are crucial for both maximizing the opportunities that digital technologies offer in accelerating the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also, mitigating the potential risks that come with these technologies.
Principles of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)
Mapping DPI across the SDG’s
The approach of Digital Public Innovation (DPI) has the remarkable potential to catalyze exponential progress across diverse sectors and societies, propelling us towards the rapid achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Eradicating poverty through DPI
- Solve multi-dimensional poverty by introducing standard technology building blocks across government departments: A multi-pronged approach leverages data across traditional silos to yield a more profound understanding of poverty while bolstering economic resilience.
- Embed DPI in government public service delivery programs: Governments can embed DPI design into social protection programs and other public services, such as payment to smallholder farmers, etc. DPI offers seamless data sharing across departments, enables cooperation in government among departments, and delivers integrated services for people. Often, governments are leading users of DPI for targeted public service delivery.
Aadhaar is India’s DPI that establishes trust by democratizing the foundational capability of authenticating that the individual is who they say they are. Aadhaar empowered underprivileged people by facilitating direct benefit transfers during the pandemic and democratizing access to other essential public services such as education, public food distribution, and public sector wages.
Ending hunger through DPI
- Drive public and private sector actions to invest in DPI for agriculture: Given agriculture’s intricate complexities and intersection with every other sector, such as finance, supply chain, manufacturing, water, and chemicals, break down data silos and create shared technology infrastructure together to translate the vision into reality to end hunger worldwide.
- Build integrated services and engagement with smallholder farmers: Handle large volumes of diverse agricultural datasets and employ tools such as video, voice, and vernacular translation to enhance farmer engagement. By doing so, it fosters platform economies and enables a wide array of digital innovations spanning the entire agri-food systems value chain, ultimately benefiting smallholder farmers.
KAOP (Kenyan Agricultural Online Platform) is an innovative online platform that serves as a hub for gathering and aggregating various types of data related to crop performance, climate patterns, and soil health. The platform is a collaborative effort with the Kenyan Government and has expanded its operations to multiple countries, benefitting over one million farmers.
Fostering good health and well-being through DPI
- Drive accessibility in the last mile: Last-mile reach is critical to expanding the delivery of health services. Governments and stakeholders must focus on optimal last-mile workflow management systems that support tools for accessibility and integrate seamlessly with open and integrated healthcare systems. Capacity building and sensitivity training must be provided to workers.
- Integrate with health-adjacent systems: Countries can ensure that investments in digital health promote the adoption of broader DPI that can serve a range of health use cases. These approaches to funding can be built on existing approaches and principles, such as the Principles of Donor Alignment for Digital Health.
OpenELIS (Open Enterprise Laboratory Information System) is a laboratory information management system (LIMS) designed specifically for Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). It aims to provide a comprehensive solution for managing laboratory data and processes at an enterprise level. In Mauritius, during COVID-19, it managed labs for processing virus tests.
Achieving quality education through DPI
- Leverage education for broader outcomes: By integrating upskilling and learning as critical components of public rails, policymakers unleash gains across a spectrum. Holistic education powered by DPI supports the verification of educational attainment for economic and other credentials, promotes civic engagement, fosters entrepreneurship and economic growth, and improves education outcomes.
Singapore’s OpenCerts, built on DPG OpenAttestation, is a blockchain-based platform for issuing and verifying digital academic certificates. It has been used to verify 5,000 education credentials monthly. As an open and interoperable platform, it supports storage and verification across different institutions.
Achieving clean water and sanitation through DPI
- Adopt a Stack Approach To Manage Water: Access to water is essential for the functioning of sectors such as energy, agriculture, and industry. Creating a web of services linked to water availability promotes efficient water management by assessing resource availability and linking this data to farmer subsidies. Multilateral organizations, banks, and the international community can integrate these approaches into their programs for pandemic response in the future.
mWater is an open-source software platform that tracks real-time water data (water quality, water supply and sanitation data). It is one of the most widely-used data platforms in the water and sanitation sector, with over 100,000 accounts in 184 countries. mWater can realise its full potential and become DPI by affording linkages to other digital tools and technologies for interoperability and by rapid scaling.
By harnessing the capabilities of advanced technology, DPI stands as a beacon of change, offering solutions that are not only innovative but also accessible and scalable. The convergence of digital tools, data analytics, and connectivity empowers us to address intricate challenges with unprecedented precision, paving the way for targeted interventions that yield substantial outcomes.
The article is based on the report: Accelerating The SDGs Through Digital Public Infrastructure: A Compendium of The Potential of Digital Public Infrastructure | United Nations Development Programme (undp.org)