The Road to Resilience: Changing human outcomes through digital collaborations

In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Many of these goals – taking on the climate crisis, ending poverty and hunger, giving all children access to education, good health and well-being, rely on our ability to deliver services to people. While not an explicit goal, digital technology has been called out by Secretary General Antonio Guterres as one of the key tactics which, if properly used, can positively affect human outcomes and help societies be more resilient in the face of crises. The Secretary General has also highlighted international cooperation around digital strategies as key. 

 

Digital collaboration 

Recognizing that governments and development organizations have limited resources, organizations from around the globe have united to learn lessons from other countries, pool investments, and unite technical collaborations through the GovStack initiative. GovStack was formed by the Governments of Germany and Estonia, the International Telecommunications Union and the Digital Impact Alliance under a simple premise – every country can digitally transform more quickly, cheaply, and safely if countries, technologists, implementers, and multilateral leaders pool their knowledge around how to connect reusable digital building blocks (e.g., identity, payments) and use common standards to better serve citizens.   

Knowing that countries learn better from one another, Germany recently hosted a panel discussion for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation featuring leaders from Peru, Ukraine and the digital identity platform, MOSIP, to discuss how they were using digital infrastructure to serve their citizens. Here are their stories. 

 

Ukraine: digital infrastructure tested in crisis 

Represented by Maksym Shkilov, Digital Transformation Executive, Ministry of Digital Transformation, Ukraine 

The Ministry of Digital Transformation in Ukraine was formed with four main goals: achieving 95% high-speed connectivity coverage; making 100% of services available online; boosting digital literacy among the population; and increasing the IT sector’s share of national GDP to 10%. The first three goals are inextricably linked – having connectivity without services doesn’t move the needle, just like having digital literacy without connectivity is meaningless.  

In the effort to offer all digital services online, the Ministry didn’t aim to just digitize services, or take a physical, paper-based process and move it online; but to undergo true digital transformation – a rethinking of how interactions between people and their government could be reconstructed to be more convenient and more productive. According to Maksym, the way to do this is to first examine each phase of your user’s life, thinking through what must be done to make the person happy. From this angle, research the existing business processes that deliver this happiness, questioning whether they are logical or not, resourceful or not, etc. From here you can recreate services that make digital transformation most effective.   

Just three years ago, the digital infrastructure of the Ukrainian government was composed of more than 100 registries, that did not work together. There were over 90 different interfaces and websites with which citizens had to interact. The Ministry created the Platform of Registries, the back-end infrastructure to connect all these registries and allow them to interoperate. The Ministry also focused on the building blocks that would become the foundation for the rest of the digital transformation: digital ID, eSignature, and data exchange. To tie it all together, they developed their flagship product Diia – the public interface and one-stop-shop for all documents and public services. The application has over 18 million users and now offers over 15 public services in the app and more than 70 in the web portal, accessible to all citizens no matter where they may be.  

This has proven crucial this year as the war rages on and 11 million Ukrainians have fled their homes. Thanks to the existing Diia app, even if your documents have been lost or stolen, you can apply on the app to register your displaced person status and receive payments and assistance. On the first day of the feature, Ukraine received 1 million applications. The service offers automatic payments with just a few clicks and 8 million Ukrainians now use the service. 

Similarly, as the war leaves damaged homes and properties in its wake, the new Damaged Property feature allows people to report this damage. The Russian attacks have also destroyed a number of TV towers. Diia TV and Diia Radio provide uninterrupted access to information, where the population can follow the news and even watch Eurovision.  

The existing digital infrastructure and specifically the Diia application has been key to keeping the country running, connecting it with its citizens, and will prove crucial to future reconstruction efforts. Ukraine is now focused on sharing its open-source technologies as digital public goods so they can be implemented anywhere in the world.  

 

Peru: an inclusive, people-centric strategy 

Represented by Marushka Chocobar, Secretariat of Government and Digital Transformation, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Peru 

While countries face challenges unique to their geographies and cultures, common challenges – and the potential for common digital solutions – unite them. Similar to Ukraine, Peru’s greatest challenge were a lack of internet connectivity and digital literacy among the population. As they work to connect more areas of the country, they are also focused on the centralized development of services most requested by citizens including health, education, justice, and telework services.  

Since these services share common components such as digital identity, payments, digital signature, and user consent, Marushka and her team focused on building a common back-end platform that could quickly be leveraged by all individual sectoral services, leveraging solutions they already had deployed.  

Peru also emphasized inclusivity, placing strong targets around the need to listen to people, promote citizen participation in public decisions, and facilitate open public exchange on data privacy. A second key strategy was engagement with the private sector. The Ministry recognized early on that the private sector could move quickly to develop new services that would provide the greatest benefit to users, so they engaged them throughout the process.  

Once the Covid crisis hit, demand for the deployment of large-scale digital services sky-rocketed. One of the most important services Peru rolled out was digital pension payments to children who lost parents or guardians to Covid-19. Peru’s arsenal of reusable software components allowed them to deploy this service quickly and responsively. And to be most effective, it was essential that the service was carried out simply, with clear information for those affected and for the officials who guided them. 

 

MOSIP: the pre-requisite for digital public infrastructure 

Represented by Ramesh Naranyan, CTO, Modular Open Source Identity Platform, MOSIP 

What Ukraine, Peru and most countries share is a need to build on top of key digital public infrastructure components – most notably – a digital ID. As a flagship digital public good for Digital Identity now deployed in many countries and with over 70 million people registered, MOSIP shared the common themes it sees countries face: 

  • Crises are escalating: Over the past two years alone the Covid pandemic and climate crisis – not to mention war and famine – have upended the planet. 
  • Social protection schemes adapting: As these crises grow, many countries are pursuing social protection programs – pension systems, social protection, direct benefit transfer, etc – to help their citizens cope. The presence or absence of a Digital ID and a common payment platform can mean the difference between a life-saving energy subsidy reaching a destitute woman in India in minutes versus outdated systems in the West that send paper checks to displaced persons. 
  • Reaching everyone everywhere: As these schemes adapt, governments recognize that increased inclusion and broader access to services is essential. 
  • No matter your political affiliation, the need to support safe, inclusive digital transformation that protects and does not harm people needs to be taken seriously 

Many countries have tried and failed at building digital identity systems in the past. According to Ramesh, the problem has been that most government investment and development has been point-specific, targeting a single use case, typically by one sole department. These solutions meet a specific purpose, but don’t create a country-level solution that can be leveraged by every department for any requirement. Mosip aims to save countries time and effort by moving existing solutions to interoperability and broader use.  

The digital technology itself – and especially Digital ID – is an essential underlaying part of what Ramesh calls digital trust infrastructure. A well-executed national ID system can build trust between government and people. When people can get access to services, be included in society, and have real cost savings and benefits in their dealings with the government, it goes a long way to building comfort with the government. Digital ID is a pre-requisite for other digital services – payments, to education and beyond. It is very important to take this first step of creating a trusted national digital identity system.  

At GovStack, we believe that sharing these stories, these platforms and these policy approaches with everyone globally through an open community system is the key to fostering safe and inclusive digital public infrastructures globally. Through this approach, we recognize that while we face common challenges, no one country has all the answers. Instead, we recognize that each one of us has a role to play in this effort and that great ideas can come from anywhere. For that reason, we continue to advocate for more global knowledge-sharing on implementation, use cases, and service design.  

If you want to get involved in the movement, contribute your expertise and experience, and learn from global experts, join the GovStack community.