UN Digital event mobilizes global leadership and US$400 million to support digital public infrastructure

The contributions will empower 100 countries with people-centred DPI solutions by 2030

September 18, 2023

Digital public infrastructure was selected by the UN Secretary-General as one of 12 high impact initiatives with potential to put the Sustainable Development Goals back on track.

Photo: UNDP/Zoe Cox

New York - As part of the SDG Action Weekend led by the United Nations, countries, leaders, philanthropies and multilateral organizations pledged their support to build a safe and inclusive digital public infrastructure (DPI) for 100 countries by 2030. Co-sponsored by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Development Programme as part of SDG Digital, the high impact initiative session on DPI kicked off efforts to secure financing and technology for DPI design, development and implementation at scale. 

DPI is a critical accelerator of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and was selected by the UN Secretary-General as one of 12 high impact initiatives with potential to get the SDGs back on track. The recently issued G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration further echoes this vision, emphasizing the opportunity for entire communities to benefit from a growing array of life-changing digital solutions.

Key contributions and highlights: 

  • Brazil reiterated its commitment to inclusive DPI development and shared three of its examples: CadUnico, the unified registry that identifies low-income families; CAR, the rural environmental registry for regulating sustainable land use; and Gov.br, a digital ID that facilitates access to 5,000 digital services.
  • Egypt discussed the need for exponential impact, while pledging to undertake green transition initiatives and create a better structure for DPI strategy aimed at transforming our relationship with the environment so that communities and economies can effectively address the global environmental crisis. 
  • Estonia announced 20 million euros for open-source, reusable artificial intelligence (AI) solutions and building blocks as digital public goods (DPGs). 
  • Finland highlighted its leadership of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation and pledged its commitment to supporting the advancement of DPI as an important enabler of people’s welfare.
  • India announced its commitments to global financing and technical assistance support via the One Future Alliance, as outlined in the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration that calls on countries to take collective action to support low- and middle-income countries. 
  • Malawi committed to be one of the first countries in Africa to achieve SDG target 16.9 (providing legal identity for all, including birth registration), thereby providing the foundation for building the country’s DPI.
  • Sierra Leone announced its commitment as part of the upcoming 50-in-5 Campaign, a global advocacy effort with the goal of bringing 50 countries together over the next five years to share learnings and best practices, as well as leverage built-for-purpose technologies - including DPGs - to develop their DPI capabilities.
  • Spain announced a $300 million Green & Digital Fund for Technological and Knowledge Transfer for Latin America, to fund connectivity, digitalization of companies, digital skills and prepare for new and emerging technologies such as AI, prioritizing rights-based approaches. 
  • The Inter-American Development Bank’s President pledged to lead dialogue and actions among Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to combine their financial instruments to increase the mobilization of capital to finance public infrastructure gaps. 
  • Patrick J. McGovern Foundation committed $75 million through to 2023 and called on philanthropies to expand their toolkit to support frontline communities and civil society in order to lay the foundation for representation and diversity in AI and data models that can create transformative DPI for trust and service delivery.   
  • Nandan Nilekani, Chair and Founder of Infosys and Founding Chair of UIDAI, called for more actions on DPI for green transitions, highlighting five areas of action by COP30. Namibia is an early adopter of DPI for green transitions, implementing one of the five areas, i.e. the DPG-based carbon registry to strengthen access to carbon markets. 
  • United Cities & Local Governments constituency, representing 240,000 towns, cities, regions and metropolises, committed to working together with all stakeholders to accelerate DPI approaches and ensure that data and AI in DPI is safe for people. 
  • The Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology and UNDP launched the ‘Universal Safeguards for Digital Public Infrastructure’ initiative, including the 2030 Safeguards Action Hub.  The initiative brings with it a commitment to protecting everyone, everywhere, as well as the planet, while accelerating the achievement of the SDGs. It unifies and builds upon the work done in this critical area by the ecosystem of experts and institutions globally, leading into the Summit of the Future in 2024 and beyond. 
  • Launch of the Model Digital ID Framework: Developed with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Model Digital ID Governance Framework was built with 30 experts and more than 80 ID governance best practices made accessible for the first time through a Chatbot. The plan is to make it available across all countries. 

These initial commitments were made towards the five priority areas identified by the UN around safe and inclusive DPI for the 2030 Agenda. These include: universal safeguards, innovations for last-mile inclusion, DPI that is affordable and open; DPI that is sustainable and green; and financing DPI for sustainable development. 

“Inclusive and rights-based DPI can deliver value and high impact that leaves no one behind. By 2030, the High Impact Initiative on DPI aims to empower 100 countries with DPI solutions that are safe, accessible, affordable, green, fully-funded and future-ready,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU Secretary-General further highlighted that, “combining technology and public-private innovation, DPI offers countries unprecedented agency over their digital journeys.”

Participating stakeholders at the kick-off of the UN High Impact Initiative on DPI included Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands (United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development), high-level representatives from the governments of Brazil, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, India, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Togo, and leaders from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank, United Cities & Local Governments (UCLG) network, Coalition for Digital Environment Sustainability (CODES), Linux Foundation, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Indigenous AI, Carnegie India.

Media contacts

Victor Garrido Delgado (UNDP). E-mail: victor.garrido.delgado@undp.org. Tel: +1 212 906 5310 (New York)

David Hirsch (ITU). E-mail: pressinfo@itu.int​​. Tel: +41 22 509 2730 (Geneva) 

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 undp.org or follow at @UNDP.

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. For more information, visit: www.itu.int