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Digitization is transforming countries. But is it being done right?

Digitization has enormous potential to catalyze development and improve the lives of hundreds of millions around the world through access to financial services, health care, and education. 

Equally so, digitization can cause unintentional, and intentional, harm to people and communities. This can happen through:

  • Limiting competition and exacerbating inequality by consolidating decision-making power among a limited number of powerful actors.
  • Undermining trust in critical institutions through data breaches, government surveillance, and targeted disinformation campaigns.
  • Reinforcing biases through algorithms. 

At the Digital Impact Alliance, we believe the difference between a positive digital future and a negative one is largely dependent on two criteria factors: 

  1.  Foundational digital platforms – like consent management, identity, payments – are intentionally designed, implemented, and governed to benefit everyone, everywhere.
  2. Data produced through digitization is governed in ways that enable trusted data sharing, thereby maximizing its value for people, governments, and markets while also ensuring privacy is preserved and data is protected.

However, getting these right is no easy feat.

Policymakers, technologists, and those that support them are faced with increasingly complex choices and those still to come as technologies, business models, and consumer expectations evolve.

New research series

To help people working at the forefront of digital transformation navigate those choices, we developed two new research series designed to provide practical guidance and actionable insights.

Series 1: How to design, scale, and govern digital public infrastructure to drive inclusion and trust

Digital public infrastructure can help government agencies and private companies deliver the essential services people need. However, these systems can be haphazard – developed and offered by a fragmented group of companies and public sector agencies – and end up marginalizing and / or excluding the very people and communities they seek to serve.  

As countries around the world accelerate their digital transformation efforts, it is critical digital public infrastructure is designed, scaled and governed to maximize trust, security, and empower everyone, everywhere.

The first paper in this series – How India is Reimagining Consent to Empower People examines the topic and role of consent, and dives into early lessons from India’s first implementation of its data empowerment and protection architecture, specifically on how new approaches to consent can engender trust by equipping people with greater agency over their personal data.

Series 2: Exploring the implications of the evolving technology landscape on data governance

The rapid expansion of the Internet of Things and the increasing use of machine learning and algorithms is driving the accelerated transformation of traditional development sectors, such as health, education, and agriculture. 

The first paper in this series – In Machines We Trust? – examines the impact of algorithms on emerging economies, specifically digging into the question of data and who has, and should have, access to and control over it.