DIAL at the United Nations General Assembly

Some events DIAL attended:

Broadband Commission Beyond 2030
Annual meeting of the EQUALS Global Partnership
Executive Lunch Briefing on Digital Transformation for UHC 2030 Coalition
Contracts for Data Collaboration Workshop
Concordia Annual Summit
The Case for Good ID Reception
SDGActionZone Lightning Talk and Exhibition
Data for Health Equity: Unlocking Health for All

Last month, the streets of midtown New York resembled an interpretation of Nelson Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation”. People from all over the world descended upon the city for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and all the events organized around it. Amidst the motorcades and security blockages for queens and presidents, a myriad of meetings, presentations, product demonstrations, and receptions brought together a wide variety of people focused on the most under-served and marginalized communities of the world and how best to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) has increased its presence at UNGA over the last couple of years, and this year, we participated in several events and activities, focusing on how to better leverage digital technology and the data it enables for global impact. Great global inequities persist, and we face increasingly complex and inter-connected social challenges – poverty, climate change, disease, conflict, migration – that cut across borders. While the global community is indeed alarmed by the risks misuse of digital technology causes, we hear great optimism for its potential. Technology can help us understand the complexity, find and prioritize those missed by critical services, and optimize resources and solutions for greater impact. DIAL joined leaders of nongovernmental organizations, major technology companies, government officials, international donors, civil society advocates, and United Nations agencies to exchange ideas, concerns and solutions.

The Broadband Commission focused on how to reach the remaining unconnected in low-income countries, ensuring universal access to the information and opportunities the internet can enable. We also joined the partners of EQUALS to discuss how to bridge the gender divide in global digital technology access, skills and use as well as the Concordia Summit’s strategic discussion on digital transformation. We explored how digital ID systems can help populations access critical services with a trusted identity, and how better guidance and policies can make it easier to exchange and use relevant data responsibly to understand and answer critical social questions.

We heard repeatedly about the persistent need to overcome fragmentation of investments in digital initiatives, emphasizing the importance of communities and resources like the Principles for Digital Development, the Donor Alignment Principles, and the digital donor communities of practice DIAL stewards. The digital ecosystem wants and is seeking opportunities for this kind of collaboration and cooperation. In the UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, the report specifically mentions the need for the community to come together to strengthen our collective efforts and help governments better regulate and deliver services to citizens who need it most. DIAL is committed to continuing these collaborative efforts. At the SDG Action Zone, CEO Kate Wilson spoke to this collective investment in achieving the SDGs through technology and pooled financing for digital building blocks like digital ID and mobile messaging, tying the conversations had throughout the week together.

There is interest in and momentum on how to address market failures and sustainability challenges to make valuable digital products, policies, and practices accessible, affordable and appropriate to effectively accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. However, these dialogues and emerging initiatives are largely sector-focused, limiting opportunities to learn from others, realize efficiencies and scale impact. DIAL plans to leverage our cross-sectoral mandate, partnerships and guidance like the SDG Digital Investment Framework to further explore innovative mechanisms to finance procurement of digital solutions for public sector needs.

Active engagement from the private sector in these discussions focused on serving the poorest communities and addressing inequities highlighted DIAL’s view that we share common challenges and can find great shared value in public-private collaboration. DIAL’s work to date with mobile network operators and aggregators has modeled that potential.

And, notably, we commend the increased presence and engagement of youth voices in discussions of solutions to move the global development sector forward to ensure a better future.

Whether we were on the noisy streets of New York, the bustling Sustainable Development Action Zone, or the soaring heights of the World Trade Center, the chance to engage diverse perspectives on critical topics facing the digital development field was invigorating.