Unlocking digital potential: UNDP's support to Egypt's digital transformation

October 4, 2023

Digital transformation brings unprecedented opportunities to accelerate the achievement of all 17 SDGs. it increases efficiency, productivity and competitiveness; promotes innovation, allows delivering a moredynamic and responsive public services; and supports an informative decision making through data-driven insights. Digital transformation also helps to deliver top notch and innovative products and services across sectors including health, education, agriculture, energy, and water. A twin digital and green transition approach can accelerate global response to climate change.

However, there are also concerns associated with digital transformation, including the potential for increased inequality and exclusion, disruption of the labour market and social security, erosion of privacy and security, conflict with moral and legal standards, and fragmentation of international governance.

In the heart of Egypt, digitalization has taken off in recent years. There has been growing awareness and prioritization in the country, realizing the benefits resulting from the power of technology and innovation.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had joined forces with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to drive digital transformation.

Defined by UNDP's Digital Strategy 2022–2025, this partnership has been guided by the need to create inclusive local digital ecosystems. Recognizing the importance of an inclusive whole-of-society approach, the partnership between UNDP and MCIT aimed to address the core pillars of digital transformation including government, infrastructure, regulation, business, and people.

This approach provides a practical model that can solve some of the country’s pressing issues, using technology and digital solutions for sustainable development while addressing accelerating severalSDGs particularly SDG 9 industry, innovation and infrastructure and other goals.

The ICT sector in Egypt is continuously growing. During the period 2021-2022, it grew at a rate of 16.7% and contributed 5% to the country’s GDP. To ensure that this growth benefits all citizens, UNDP and MCIT have collaborated on seven projects that focus on holistic digital transformation. These projects cover the five main pillars of digital transformation: government, infrastructure, regulation, business, and people. They serve as a roadmap for UNDP's efforts in Egypt and its support to the country in its steady steps towards achieving the national digital transformation strategy.

To build a digitally competent society, MCIT and its affiliates, with UNDP’s support, have implemented ICT awareness raising campaigns, training programmes, and capacity-building initiatives. They focused not only on building the skills and knowledge of ICT professionals but also on empowering citizens, especially those in remote areas, women, and persons with disabilities.

 Through UNDP’s collaboration with the Information Technology Institute (ITI), 1,000 IT professionals were trained on emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, and cybersecurity on annua basis, and 1 million received IT training through Mahara Tech online platform. Moreover, UNDP facilitated the training of more than 400,000 young women and men, with a strong emphasis on women participation, in digital literacy and freelancing skills, through the “Qudowa Tech” initiative.

In their efforts to bridge the digital divide, UNDP and MCIT joined forces with several partners such as the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS), the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development(MoPED), and the National Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (NIGSD). They conducted specialized programmes to enhance the digital skills of women and girls, ensure financial inclusion, and empower persons with disabilities. “She for a digital tomorrow” programme has been delivered to around 2,000 women government employees with focus on digital literacy and financial inclusion. Cloud computing capacity building program was conducted in partnership with the private sector. By launching the National Network for Persons with Disabilities Services, UNDP and its partners aimed to enable PWDs to unlock their true potential in the labor market.

 The transformational power of technology could only be harnessed with a resilient digital infrastructure. UNDP worked closely with the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) to strengthen Egypt's ICT infrastructure, provide high-speed internet services and ensureconnectivity for all citizens.

 Egypt’s position had moved up 5 places between 2020 and 2021 in the Inclusive Internet Index 2021, ranking 73rd out of 120 countries, and 4th out of 29 African countries (IDSC in April 2021). Egypt ranks 73rd out of 131 economies, 8th within Arab States included in the Network Readiness Index 

The monthly drive test measurements supported by UNDP and NTRA ensured the quality of mobile connectivity, while the issuance of governing rules and the establishment of data centers supported the country's move to the New Administrative Capital.

 To establish a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework, UNDP and NTRA worked together to foster fair competition in the telecommunications market. Measures were taken to resolve disputes between mobile operators and facilitate mobile number portability. Additionally, UNDP supported the integration of digital services into Egypt Post, making basic services more accessible to low- and middle-income citizens.

 Digital transformation also sought to improve digital public services. MCIT launched Digital Egypt Portal with support from UNDP, to provide e-government services, with more than 130 services available online. Furthermore, the modernization of post offices provided citizens in remote and rural areas with convenient access to these services.

 Ensuring that Micro, Small, and Medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) could also benefit from this digital transformation, UNDP worked with the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (MSMEDA) to automate the One Stop Shop (OSS) and develop the SME national cloud infrastructure. This facilitated the creation of enterprises and empowered them by providing cloud-based e-services.

Recognizing the critical role of ICT enabled innovation-driven entrepreneurship in digital transformation, UNDP has collaborated with the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) to foster an environment that nurtured talented ICT entrepreneurs through establishing innovation clusters, providing training, and offering financial support, UNDP and TIEC helped create more than 30,000 jobs and supported the establishment and growth of startups and SMEs.

The success of this digital transformation was only possible through close collaboration and partnerships between the government, NGOs, and the private sector. UNDP ensured that all stakeholders were involved in the decision-making process, particularly NGOs working with vulnerable groups and those involved in supporting innovation and entrepreneurs.

As Egypt continues to harness the power of digital transformation, UNDP-MCIT partnership can be a beacon of hope for an inclusive and digitally competent society. Digitization holds great promise for the country, empowering people to take advantage of technology and thrive in the digital age. COVID -19 has shown us the power of digitization to remove bottlenecks, connect people, and support development efforts when hope seems impossible.