Digital for Sustainable Development

Enabling a Digital Arab States Region to Advance SDGs Agenda

Over the past two decades, the Arab region has witnessed a remarkable surge in its online population, with the number of Internet users reaching 327 million users, marking a significant growth from 28.8 percent in 2012 to 70.3 percent in 2022.1 . This rapid increase in digital technology adoption, particularly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has spurred an urgent need for digital transformation, compelling governments in the region to prioritize the swift adoption of digital technologies with special emphasis on addressing the digital divide to leave no one behind. The persistent digital divide remains a pressing concern, marked by unequal access to the internet and disparities in ICT (Information and Communications Technology) utilization, bandwidth distribution, and demographic divides. This includes gender, urban-rural, and accessibility for people with disabilities. Around 30 percent of the population remains offline, with women, rural inhabitants, elderlies, and persons with disabilities being disproportionately affected and represented. These challenges have not only hindered the widespread adoption of ICTs in society but have also posed significant risks and barriers to digital transformation and successful implementation of digital government initiatives. Addressing these challenges and bridging the digital divide is thus crucial for the Arab region to unlock the full untapped potential of digital transformation. This requires comprehensive efforts to foster inclusivity and ensure equitable access to digital technologies for all segments of society.

In light of this, the risks as well as the benefits of digital transformation have been thoroughly addressed in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Strategic Plan (SP) 2022-2025 with three fundamental directions of change: structural transformation, leaving no one behind, and building resilience. Within this setting, digitization was identified as a key enabler for sustainable development, along with strategic innovation and development financing.

Recognizing the need for collective action to implement the UNDP Strategic Plan, collaboration among international organizations, private sector organizations, and governments is imperative. Such collaboration creates an environment conducive to sustainable development by promoting inclusive and responsible digital solutions.

Fostering collaboration among digital industry players, governments, and other stakeholders can help drive the transition towards a more sustainable and resilient future. Digitalization holds immense potential to support efforts towards economic diversification and inclusive growth through financial services and solutions, supply chain connectivity, and creation of new jobs especially for youth and women.

The partnership between UNDP and various stakeholders from the digital and private sectors plays a crucial role in driving positive change and fostering sustainable development worldwide and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through these strategic collaborations, UNDP aims to implement concrete initiatives that address pressing global challenges, such as poverty, inequality, climate change, and access to quality education and healthcare. By leveraging the expertise and resources of both the public and private sectors, these collaborations  have proven to be highly effective in developing localized solutions to address specific national and regional issues.


327 M

Internet users in Arab region


Internet users growth in 2012


Internet users growth in 2022

Following the success of birth and death records digitalization, Ministry and UNDP staff are exploring the potential for electronic records to simplify other kinds of government business.
RBAS looks at the 2023 UNGA as a key milestone to deepen partnership discussions within the region concerning Digital Enablement to support SDGs advancement.

UNDP RBAS is planning a Digital side event titled Digital for Sustainable Development (D4SD) for the digital ecosystem during UNGA78 2023. The regional roundtable will be hosted by UNDP RBAS, with GSMA, IsDB, ESCWA, ITU and DCO as co-conveners. Furthermore, in line with its prominent efforts to enhance digitalization through the implementation of its Digital Government Strategy 2022, the Kingdom of Bahrain will co-host the event and sponsor the call for action.

The event aims to bring together CEOs and leaders from the digital ecosystem, along with high-level country representatives. As conveners of the Digital for Sustainable Development (D4SD) initiative, we call upon all our partners in governments, inter-governmental organizations, the private sector, civil society, international organizations and the entire digital society, to join us in this call to action to harness the power of inclusive digital transformation to accelerate progress in in the Arab States region towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the aim of building resilient societies.

Our collective action will mobilize and empower an equitable and inclusive digital ecosystem and develop a roadmap for digital cooperation on sustainable development. We pledge our ingenuity to build a solid digital initiative encompassing different projects, and to align our programs and efforts to support the timely achievement of the SDGs and 2030 Agenda.

By joining this call of action, we affirm our commitment to cooperate on the following actions:

    Supporting national agendas by facilitating the transition to a digital economy within the context of Sustainable Development Goals.

    Establishing a data base for digital initiatives to enable SDGs, create a pipeline of projects on country, regional and global levels.

    Identifying and prioritizing specific initiatives with the potential to generate significant impact and achieve widespread adoption. Develop a 3-to-6-year roadmap to implement different initiatives with key partners. We will embrace the road map to harness digital innovation leading to the progress of the countries’ economies, and people welfare, enforcing global rights of peace and prosperity.

    Establishing a dynamic network for sharing success stories and exchanging experiences among different countries. Fostering digital cooperation among different stakeholders and initiatives, especially public private partnerships, to minimize redundancy and optimize resource allocation.

    Recognizing the importance of managing and accessing impact and establishing and promoting a framework of best practices and excellence.