The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is launching an ambitious new Digital Strategy to help create a world in which digital is an empowering force for people and planet.
Ensuring equitable digital futures for everyone
Posted February 15, 2022
A bold new plan is being launched today to support countries and communities to use digital technology as a lever to help drive down inequality, support inclusivity, tackle climate change, and open-up economic opportunities. With its ambitious new Digital Strategy 2022-2025, UNDP aims to get ahead of the ever-evolving digital reality to accelerate work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As one of the three enablers of its new Strategic Plan, digitalization will help UNDP meet its ambitious goals. That includes supporting 100 million people to escape poverty and assisting 500 million people to gain access to clean energy. Digital technology can advance democracy and human rights by boosting civic engagement and political participation, for instance. Or consider digital public goods that countries can use for identification, data exchange, and payments while reducing opportunities for corruption. And artificial intelligence and digital technology could bring a 10-20% reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
“Digital technologies are driving new ways of working and thinking while opening-up opportunities that we could not have imagined,” says UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “For instance, it can assist policymakers to better understand how our natural world -- such as forests, coral reefs, or glaciers -- are changing in real-time and where to take action. Look at UNDP’s Data Futures Platform for example, it provides policymakers with the latest data and analytics to inform key areas like vaccine inequity.”
UNDP is already supporting communities to develop and use digital technology to surface a wide range of much-needed development solutions. In the space of just one year, UNDP assisted 82 countries to adopt over 580 digital solutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included everything from leveraging digital finance to facilitate cash transfers to people unable to leave their homes during lockdowns; to helping countries develop digital readiness assessments; to providing robots that are serving in COVID-19 wards.
“Over the past year, demand has grown among our partners to provide strategic support on national-level digital transformation,” says Robert Opp, UNDP’s Chief Digital Officer. “At present, UNDP is supporting 35 countries on their digital transformation journey – a strong signal in the trust and confidence placed in our organization to provide the cutting-edge support needed.”
The strategy will also help guide the organization in its efforts to tackle the emerging challenges associated with our new digital world. If left unchecked, digital technology can exacerbate existing inequalities and reinforce biases. And while some progress has been made in closing the digital divide, 2.9 billion people – mostly in developing countries, and mostly women, remain without access to the Internet. “We’re committed to a rights-based, whole-of-society approach to digital transformation that leaves no one behind. We want to make digital work for everyone, everywhere – this generation, and future ones,” added Robert Opp.
The strategy outlines how UNDP will assist countries in reaping the benefits of digital technology with a three-pronged approach:
- First, UNDP will amplify development outcomes by embedding digital into its work; experimenting with new approaches and tools, scaling promising solutions, and applying foresight to understand possible futures.
- Second, it will support societies in their efforts to create more inclusive and resilient digital ecosystems, ensuring they are rights-based and leave no one behind.
- And third, UNDP will continue to transform and lead by example to meet current and future technological needs. That means prompting #FutureSmartUNDP personnel to continue upgrading their digital skills and using data strategically – helping to future proof the organization.
UNDP will also engage with global and local businesses and entrepreneurs, academics, researchers, young people, and policymakers to foster collaboration around the responsible and sustainable use of technology. This necessary conversation will feed into the work of the UNDP Accelerator Labs network as it surfaces and scales up local development solutions – many of which are digital.
Anchored in the UN Secretary-General's Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and the framework presented in the Our Common Agenda report, the strategy complements the UN's global efforts to expand access to affordable broadband and enhance the digital capacity of key groups includeng women and people with disabilities – ultimately creating new opportunities like jobs while boosting human development.
“This latest Digital Strategy demonstrates that UNDP will not stand still. With the Global Goals serving as our guiding stars, we are looking beyond the immediate horizon to help ensure digital futures for everyone,” added Achim Steiner.
More information at: digitalstrategy.undp.org