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Digital public infrastructure has the potential to promote equity, innovation, and choice – for people and communities globally.

Thoughtful, effective digital public infrastructure (DPI) can reduce inequality, spur economic competition, and foster innovation for people across the world. Especially in low- and middle-income countries, where these effects are already becoming clear as the DPI approach showcases its potential to accelerate development efforts by decades.

For example, in India, DPI has facilitated rapid financial inclusion. Online banking has enabled millions of people to carry out essential transactions, such as paying a bill, applying for a loan, or receiving government benefits. In Rwanda, the national Irembo platform provides over 96 public services online, saving time and making life easier for people throughout the country. And, in Jamaica, DPI has proven lifesaving in the fight against COVID-19. During the height of the pandemic, the country implemented digital systems that allowed it to both track vaccine distribution and provide vaccination certificates to people across the island.

While it’s clear that DPI has vast positive potential, it must be thoughtfully implemented.

When done right, the digital public infrastructure approach can foster immense societal benefits. Specifically, good digital public infrastructure is the foundational layer of technology that combines essential digital systems – most commonly digital IDs, payments, and data exchange – alongside effective consent and redressal mechanisms. When these systems are designed to work together (are “interoperable”) and possess the necessary safeguards to protect people from harm, the results can be transformative. 

Yet, with every innovation, there are risks that must be considered. Threats to digital autonomy, data privacy, and identity protection plague people across the world, who fear that technology may simply become a means through which corrupt governments and bad actors wield power and seize control.  

This is why it is crucial that we design, implement, and govern DPI that prioritizes people’s rights, preferences, and wellbeing. Good digital public infrastructure must include both proper data governance in the technical architecture and effective policy safeguards. In particular, the non-digital aspects of DPI, such as data privacy laws and consent and redressal mechanisms, are critical in promoting participation, agency, and trust. And, to ensure that people are considered every step of the way, DPI should be designed alongside those who use it. This way, people’s needs and preferences can be incorporated into the design of the technology itself. These components largely determine whether or not technology is successful in improving quality of life for individuals and communities globally.  

We support DPI initiatives that promote positive digital transformation – and encourage others to do the same.

At the Digital Impact Alliance, we advocate for a world where data and digital technology serve people, society, and the planet –aka- one that prioritizes a people-centered digital approach. By creating the foundational technical layer that can be built across sectors, good digital public infrastructure is central to this vision. By advancing a whole-of-society approach, DPI allows the same components to be applied for different uses, services, and solutions. And, most importantly, it provides people with the essential tools and services needed to foster economic growth, spur innovation, and increase quality of life.  

Our hope is that countries and global funders will continue to invest in good DPI and increasingly recognize its potential to help solve pressing societal problems – all while taking steps to ensure that digitalization is done right. We encourage governments to prioritize whole-of-society DPI initiatives that include both thoughtful technology and safeguarding mechanisms. By advancing a shared vision of the DPI approach, we can ensure that digital transformation truly benefits people across the world.