Statement by Kate Wilson, CEO of the Digital Impact Alliance on the UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s report and recommendations

Washington, DC – The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) commends the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation on their work over the past several months, which included gathering input and insights from us and many others who care about harnessing digital technology for global good.  

DIAL is committed to streamlining the use of technology in development, unlocking markets, and accelerating the rate at which country governments and non-governmental organization (NGO) implementers can deploy digitally-enabled services. We warmly welcome the report, which makes five recommendations that aim to strengthen cooperation in the digital space. In particular, the Panel’s first recommendation calls for everyone to have affordable access to digital networks, as well as ‘digitally-enabled financial and health services’ in support of the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This underscores the critical importance of cooperation to create “digital public goods.”  

We agree that, in order to achieve the SDGs, digital technology needs to become a seamless part of service delivery for governments and development practitioners. DIAL has worked with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to identify a common set of technology “building blocks” that governments can use to build a whole-of-government approach to their investments in technology. DIAL conducts in-country work in Africa to develop models that leverage mobile phone networks and data services to inform solutions to development challenges.  

We note the recognition in the report of the dearth of human and institutional technological capacity. We look forward to seeing governments and international bodies follow the Panel’s leadership in proposing digital help desks, but believe that we must go beyond reactive support, to strategic resourcing and investment in local technology competency and capacity in the field. DIAL’s Open Source Center (OSC) is focused on building capacity with technology designers to advance open source software and global public goods. A corresponding investment in technology for development capacity is needed in low resource countries to support national digital transformations. 

We welcome the focus throughout the recommendations on human rights, dignity, safety, and trust, and look forward to continuing to contribute to maturing governance structures at country, regional, and global levels, including through the proposed Global Commitments for Digital Cooperation, and Trust and Security. It is critically important, as we begin to institutionalize the responsible use of data for decision-making and resource allocation, that we understand and continue to monitor the risks and opportunities inherent in our action.  

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