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While 2023 has been a pivotal year for digital transformation, 2024 can be transformative. It’s up to us.

3 mins read

Our lives are increasingly powered by data and digital technology. As our reliance on these tools continues to grow, so does the importance of putting people first – and ensuring that no one is left behind – in the digital revolution. 2023 was a pivotal year in the quest for a positive digital future, and 2024 is poised to be even better. As we look to the new year, it is important to pause and reflect on the moments that have set the stage for positive progress. With that in mind, here are a few of my key takeaways from 2023. 

  1. Safe and trusted digital public infrastructure (DPI) can be an important driver of inclusion, competition, and empowerment. Across the ecosystem, 2023 has brought a welcome acknowledgement that embracing a DPI approach – especially when paired with meaningful safeguards – can thwart some of the dangers of digitalization; namely exclusion, monopolistic tendencies, and data misuse. Between the G20’s agreement on a definition of DPI and the UN’s recent Universal Safeguarding Framework initiative, we have seen measurable global progress in the past year. As we look ahead to 2024, it is essential to understand whether the DPI approach and complementary safeguards are taking hold and how people are faring. Going forward, our team will support these efforts in a number of ways, including surfacing real-world stories of DPI’s impact on people across the world, building and testing practical safeguards, and uncovering existing gaps in the way we measure people’s lived experiences of digital transformation.  
  2. Data is a strategic asset – infinitely reshareable – that can be harnessed in service to people, communities, and the planet. Over the past year, the power of data has become increasingly evident as a driver of innovation and economic development. This is evidenced in the astounding ways that data-rich AI models are changing the lives of people all over the world. But, as our partners have warned, too often data models are unrepresentative. Without the digital infrastructure to support wider data generation and permissioned data sharing, these advancements can be a source of widening inequality. Yet, 2023 has also seen increased awareness of – and calls to remedy – these concerns. At COP 28, panelists (including our own Kay McGowan) emphasized the importance of unlocking data in the fight against climate change. And, the Africa Data Leadership Initiative (ADLI) has united experts across the continent, promoting data exchange to spur innovation and inclusion. In the coming year, we hope to build on these efforts. Our work will include a suite of case studies analyzing the impact of unlocking data for social and economic progress, alongside a recently launched joint learning network to promote data exchange for climate action, among other initiatives. 
  3. Collective learning and exchange are crucial in advancing positive digital transformation. So far, no single country has succeeded in realizing the three opportunities a DPI approach can bring: full inclusion; widespread trust (especially in data-sharing); and an ecosystem that supports thriving innovation and competition. But, by sharing knowledge, insights, and discussion, we can foster progress at a rate that would otherwise be unthinkable. This is why international convenings like our Horn of Africa workshops have been crucial in 2023. By bringing together government actors with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, these sessions allowed us to pool our collective knowledge in pursuit of equitable, inclusive digital transformation. We hope to draw on these successes in 2024, leaning into our role as a trusted thought partner. We aim to advance people-centric data exchange with funders by hosting regular roundtable sessions and workshops focused on data-sharing and governance models through our Digital Donors Exchange community and beyond.

We’ve made real progress in 2023. Let’s keep this momentum going in the new year.

As the interest and investment in digital public infrastructure and data governance grows, I’m excited to see where our collective efforts take us in the coming year. In 2024, the Digital Impact Alliance will continue to act as a global resource and convener – and dive deeper into the issues we care about, especially how DPI and data can be a driver of climate action and gender equality 

Positive change requires collaboration around a shared vision. As we welcome the new year, let’s work together to promote a world where digital technology benefits people, communities, and our planet. The development community has an enormous opportunity to embody the values, actions, and aspirations we wish to see reflected in digital transformation more broadly. An equitable, sustainable, and inclusive digital future is possible – but we must seize the moment.