UNDP and partners launch a ‘Digital for Sustainable Development’ Partnership

New initiative aims to drive digital transformation in the Arab States region.

September 22, 2023

New York - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Bahrain co-hosted a high-level side event at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly to launch the "Digital for Sustainable Development" (D4SD) Partnership, a new, robust, and forward-thinking initiative that aims to promote and accelerate digital transformation across the Arab States region.

Founding members of the new partnership, including the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO), the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), issued a Call to Action, pledging unwavering commitment, individually and collectively, to take concrete steps to advance digitalization to help accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

They invited other major private sector organizations working in the field of digital development, to join their efforts, aiming at bridging the digital divide, promoting digital literacy, and forging inclusive partnerships to promote digitalization as a critical enabling force for sustainable and resilient development.

“In many ways, the health and prosperity of societies will be shaped by how people live their ‘digital lives’. Therefore, how the parameters are drawn is now crucial,” said Haoliang Xu, UNDP Associate Administrator. “This pioneering D4SD Partnership will promote equal access to digital technologies, helping people to gain more control over their digital futures and driving forward the Sustainable Development Goals across the Arab States region."

“Our commitment to this new D4SD partnership stems from Bahrain’s unwavering conviction that a digital transformation must be at the heart of our common pursuit of the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said HE Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Undersecretary for Political Affairs. “The Arab States region has the elements of a digital ecosystem. What we need is greater investment and mindset shift to refocus on  inclusive equitable development aligned with the SDGs.”

The Arab States region has experienced a profound digital transformation over the past decade. Digital connectivity has surged, with the online population growing significantly, from 28.8 percent in 2012 to a remarkable 70.3 percent in 2022, bringing the number of Internet users to 327 million.

The momentum accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic and had steadily maintained pace since, underscoring a growing commitment to digital transformation. Governments across the region have been quick to recognize the urgency of adopting digital technologies and solutions, leading to fundamental changes in societal dynamics and institutional frameworks.

However, nearly 30 percent of the population of the region remains digitally excluded. Creating a collaborative digital ecosystem at the heart of this initiative, will drive policy reform, research and development, and promote digital literacy and inclusion, to address existing exclusions and help leave no one behind.

For more information on the new partnership, please visit our website, and for media inquiries, 

kindly contact: Fatma Elzahraa Yassin, UNDP Regional Communications Advisor, Fatma.yassin@undp.org