ITU and UNDP join forces with the European Union to harness open-source technologies for digital public services

March 22, 2024

From the left to the right: Ms Carla Montesi, Dr Cosmas Zavazava, Ms Camilla Bruckner holding a 3D-printed, open-source and free to print at any scale cubic plant pot symbolizing growth, capacity building and the OSEE project visual identity.


On the 2nd of February, at last month’s Open Source Policy Summit, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the generous support from the European Union (EU) presented the ‘Open Source Ecosystem Enabler’ (OSEE) -- a forward-looking initiative aimed at building digital public services through the adoption of open-source technologies.  

This EU funded initiative follows ongoing work by ITU and UNDP to strengthen digital foundations in countries by creating thriving local ecosystems. As shown in a recent report by the two organizations, digital technology aids about 70 percent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets. It creates opportunities, strengthens connections, and encourages partnerships.  

Building the capacity of people and governments to effectively harness open-source technologies is critical for enabling them to both adopt and adapt to meet national and local needs. From technical to institutional and human capacity, strengthening these areas can help ensure lasting development impact.  

However, despite the advantages of open-source technologies, they have proven tricky for countries to embark upon. Creating digital systems that are inclusive for all - including women, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and those in low-connectivity areas or with varying literacy levels - requires broad societal collaboration and intentional design.  

OSEE will help countries strengthen open-source ecosystems by providing technical support, practical guidance and frameworks, and training. As part of these efforts, programme offices will be set up in countries to create robust and reliable catalysts for socio-economic growth. The initiative is expected to run for an initial period of three and a half years.    


Carla Montesi, Director for Green and Digital Agenda at the Commission Directorate General for International Partnerships, said: “The EU supports the adoption of open-source software to boost digital development. It is not just about technology. It is about privacy, security, transparency, innovation and sovereignty. These values are at the core of the EU Global Gateway strategy. This Open-source ecosystem enabler initiative will allow local and regional public and private actors to use open source and improve digital government services.”  

"The OSEE project, the first of its kind, is an unprecedented international initiative to boost the creation of digital public goods and help countries develop and strengthen their open-source ecosystems," said ITU BDT Director, Dr Cosmas Zavazava.  "The project underscores the importance of open-source to build inclusive digital ecosystems, addressing developing countries’ needs and contributing to the advancement of the SDGs."

“Open-source technologies can improve lives and livelihoods. Implemented by UNDP and ITU with the support of the European Union, OSEE will work to mitigate the risks of these technologies and empower communities to drive impact,” said Camilla Brückner, Director of the UN/UNDP Office in Brussels and Representative of the UN System in the EU.  

"In 2023, UNDP and ITU supported over 100 countries with policy, technical and digital assistance, which boosted connectivity, digital literacy, safe online practices and better public service delivery. The Chief Digital Office is pleased to be stewarding this new initiative with ITU and the European Commission's support to further scale impact across communities," says Robert Opp, UNDP’s Chief Digital Officer.  

The Open-Source Policy Summit took place on 2 February in Brussels and celebrated the 10-year anniversary of OpenForum Europe. The summit is the world’s largest assembly of policymakers, open-source businesses, community members, developers, foundations, and experts engaged in digital policy. A central theme that emerged, and which the OSEE addresses, was around the lack of capacity in operationalizing open source, particularly in developing open-source technologies and Digital Public Goods (DPGs).  


About EU Global Gateway  

The EU Global Gateway strategy provides the framework for the European Union’s external action. It is the EU’s positive offer to partner countries in support of their own strategic autonomy. This offer aims at narrowing the global investment gap with value-driven investments from public and private sectors, supporting global economic recovery and accompanying the twin green and digital transitions outside the EU.  

Across the world, Global Gateway aims to mobilise up to 300 billion euros in investments between 2021 and 2027 with a mix of grants, concessional loans and guarantees to de-risk private sector investments.  

About ITU  

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Established over 150 years ago, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world.  

About UNDP  

UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet. Learn more at or follow at @UNDP and @UNDPDigital.