Singapore Global Centre


The current pandemic is more than a health and socio-economic crisis. It has also accelerated digital transformation around the world. The nature of how we live, travel, work, learn – and receive medical care – has changed. In the early response to the pandemic, many countries leveraged digital tools to undertake contact tracing, deliver support to citizens and businesses, and to shift to remote learning and working. Digitalisation will certainly prove even more important in driving and supporting COVID-19 recovery, including in building forward better and shaping inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.  

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines will also require wholesale digital transformation – from building vaccination registries, through to communications campaigns, and supply-chain management. 


The Challenge

Digitalisation presents opportunities to catalyse development and to re-set progress toward achieving the SDGs. However, digitalisation, if not applied well, can create, entrench, and exacerbate inequalities and challenges. The UNDP Global Centre is working with public officials and citizens to define problems and challenges and identifying the role of digital in improving lives and livelihoods. This work is founded on access and inclusion and focused on creating an environment in which the transformational potential of digital can be realised. 

This is driving our focus on mainstreaming digital. Digital is not something to be separated or siloed. It is a foundation to meeting the needs of people. It is about building products, services, projects, and programmes to transform lives – for COVID-19 recovery, and beyond. 


Our Digital Offer

Following extensive discussion, collaboration, and experience of working with international development donors and partners, we know the difficulties of engaging in the complex, fast-moving, and crucial digitalisation space. For donors, in particular, it can be difficult to dedicate expert resource to engaging with these shifts and trends – especially with a sizeable existing portfolio of grantees or projects.  


This is why we shaped the COVID-19 Digital Offer, a comprehensive digital transformation programme for selected countries – accompanied by a broader suite of prototyped and ready-to-scale initiatives. The offer is led by a team that is setup to manage a portfolio of digital-focused projects, and with the technical expertise and experience to provide or broker solutions.  

The UNDP Global Centre brings digital-focused international development skills that are not often available within donors and other development organisations – from practical and proven digitalisation expertise, through to Theory of Change design, strategic assessment abilities, and strong digital-focused M&E backgrounds. More broadly, the team can function as a Technical Helpdesk – providing digital products and services (including leveraging open-source) where possible, or signposting or contracting partners to support countries in their digital transformation. The UNDP Global Centre has already demonstrated this approach – particularly in the context of COVID-19 response – across more than 25 countries during the course of 2020. 


Our Approach

Throughout the pandemic, the UNDP Global Centre has supported countries on their digital journeys, working closely with Country Offices from idea inception, through to prototyping, and testing. This approach is leading to better designed products and services that meet the needs of citizens; more efficient solution development; and significantly improved collaboration with the private sector partners who can help build on well-scoped prototypes and scale for broader success.  

We use a cohort approach – building on the UNDP Global Centre’s successful track record with deploying this method in shaping a global network of smart city initiatives, in driving a peer innovation cohort via its pan-African ‘multi-city challenge,’ and the success of the UNDP Global Centre’s global COVID- 19 Detect and Protect Challenge.  

The Digital Offer provides applied and specific collaboration to countries on their digital transformation journey. In particular, the digital offer: 

  • Is founded on local needs identified through a digital needs assessment, and more focused gap analysis and comparative exercise to build on best practice;  

  • Helps each country to create a digital strategy and accompanying roadmap to translate research into implementation;  

  • Leverages a proven Technical Helpdesk, and accompanying support on responsible technology experimentation, to ensure digital is applied inclusively and successfully; and 

  • Is more than the sum of its parts. The Digital Offer has been shaped to generate scalable projects, initiatives, and insights in the digital development context. It is founded on digital–specific methods and approaches, including monitoring and evaluation leveraging digital analytics 


Key Initiatives

The UNDP Global Centre is well positioned to help enable digital transformation efforts based on its track record in a number of areas. 


Technical Helpdesk

Advising on the integration of digital across sectors. This includes the role of digital in public service delivery, citizen engagement, and catalysing the digital economy. The team supports UNDP Country Offices – and their partners – in identifying and assessing the opportunities of incorporating digital solutions (including ecosystem mapping and strategy development), provides applied and actionable guidance for successful implementation, and measurement of impact using digital-focused methods and approaches. 


Digital Solutions and Partnerships

Drawing on our network and expertise – facilitating the selection of relevant, useful, and inclusive digital tools and expertise. This includes curating and promoting a range of proven open-source and proprietary digital tools in order to meet local needs and realities. The team has worked with a number of UNDP Country Offices to identify, contract, and implement solutions – including brokering partnerships with external experts and service providers. 


Support in Responsible Experimentation

Recognising the importance of piloting, iterating, and scaling digital technologies. The team have worked with UNDP Country Offices on the role of Big Data, Lean Data, Design Thinking, monitoring and evaluation, and behaviour change – including providing virtual training, bespoke and commissioned capacity building, and guidance, and aiming to build new ways of working and thinking. 


The UNDP Global Centre is also focusing on the broader role of digital in international development. This includes identifying seven digital foundations that are crucial for public service delivery – and the digital economy. These foundations are set out below. 


Partner with Us

The UNDP Global Centre's digitalisation programme is founded on collaboration with UNDP Country Offices in order to provide their partners with the technical expertise, knowledge, and partnerships needed to drive sustainable and inclusive digitalisation projects and initiatives. Each of these services are offered remotely, and in-country, and through working with partners around the world. 

Although COVID-19 required many countries to accelerate their digital journeys, progress was uneven – and foundations remain incomplete and shaky. We need to build on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reposition and accelerate progress toward achieving the SDGs. We hope that we can work together to achieve this. Reach out to us if you are interested in partnering.