Digitalization At The Core Of UNDP’s Work As A Key Tool For Efficient Public Service Delivery And Acceleration Of The 2030 Agenda.

April 3, 2024

Digitalization is at the core of UNDP’s work as a key tool for efficient public service delivery and acceleration of the 2030 agenda.


The term "Small Island Developing States" (SIDS), while capturing the geographical and developmental context of the Caribbean islands, inadequately portrays the dynamic and multifaceted nature of these nations, especially in the context of digital transformation. Despite the constraints traditionally associated with SIDS, the Caribbean countries have demonstrated significant advances towards integrating digital technologies into their national frameworks. This progress underscores a critical shift towards leveraging digital innovation for sustainable development, thereby necessitating a more nuanced understanding and approach to their development narrative.

The Caribbean has made notable strides in digital transformation, as evidenced by various initiatives and projects aimed at improving digital access, infrastructure, and skills across several islands. Programmes like the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project, the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) or initiatives like the CANTO 37th Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition have highlighted the progress in digital evolution across the Caribbean. 

Recognizing the critical role of digital transformation in the sustainable development of Caribbean SIDS, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with technical support from UNCDF, and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Trinidad and Tobago (MDT) and key development partners such as CAF Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is spearheading a regional process to further accelerate this transition in what is called the SIDS 2.0 initiative. 

This "SIDS 2.0: Defining the pathway for Small Islands DIGITAL States in the Caribbean" High-Level Conference, scheduled for April 30th to May 1st, 2024, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, aims to address the imperative need for digitalization in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Recognizing the pivotal role of digitalization in promoting resilient prosperity, economic growth, and access to public services, the regional conference hosted by the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Trinidad and Tobago seeks to establish a common framework for a rapid, efficient, and equitable digital transition. 

The conference will gather key stakeholders from government, civil society, academia, and international organizations to define the concept of "SIDS 2.0" or the Small Island Digital States and formulate pathways to achieve it. Discussions will revolve around five dimensions: infrastructure, government, cybersecurity and regulatory framework, economy, and people. The expected outcomes include agreement on key benchmarks and metrics for digital agenda advancement, definition of coordination mechanisms and support, and showcasing of best practices for knowledge exchange and collaboration among countries.

Participants will include representatives from twenty-five Caribbean countries and territories, along with experts from UNDP, CAF, IDB, and strategic partners such as the EU, IMPACS, CTU, ACS, ECLAC, UNCTAD and CARICOM. The conference will provide a platform for policymakers, social innovators, startups, private sector investors, academics, and civil society organizations to engage in dialogue, share experiences, and catalyse efforts toward a digitally transformed Caribbean region.

As a concrete example of supporting the digital agenda at country level, the Trinidad and Tobago Digital Project is a crucial initiative aimed at facilitating a whole-of-society digital transformation, which serves as a fundamental enabler for social inclusion and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through the project, emphasis is placed on leveraging digital technologies to enhance citizens' access to government services and information, particularly benefiting individuals residing in remote or underserved areas, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized segments of society. By fostering a digitally transformed environment, the project aims to ensure that all members of society, including the most vulnerable, have equitable access to services and resources, ultimately enhancing their well-being and resilience to external challenges.

Aligned with the Ministry of Digital Transformation's mission, the TT Digital project focuses on upgrading government service offerings through the development and integration of digital applications. Partnering closely with the National Information and Communication Technology Company Limited (iGovTT), the project seeks to enhance the ease, efficiency, and security of service delivery while promoting inclusivity, particularly targeting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, women, girls, and rural residents. With a committed value of USD 8,221,700 and a duration of three years, the project aims to achieve three inter-related outcomes, including the establishment of a project management dashboard, the implementation of an Electronic Identification (e-ID) digital application, and the transformation of operations within the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services. By collaborating with key stakeholders and implementing partners such as UNDP, SIGOB, and the Ministry of Digital Transformation, the project endeavors to foster a comprehensive approach to digital transformation, ensuring that the benefits of technological advancement are accessible to all, thereby advancing societal progress and leaving no one behind.

Moreover, UNDP Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten multi-country office is working with other ministries and partners in areas related to digitalization. This includes the Ministry of National Security in the effort to strengthen the work on trafficking in persons and youth crime. By promoting the use of digital technologies and providing crucial resources and technical support, CariSECURE 2.0 aims to strengthen investigations, screenings, and prosecutions of trafficking cases in the country. Additionally, adopting a human rights-based approach, the project collaborates closely with governmental bodies, non-governmental organizations, and international partners to address the root causes of youth crime. Through these initiatives, CariSECURE 2.0 endeavors to create safer and more resilient communities, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of justice and security.

The challenges with data (availability, accessibility, and analysis) in the Caribbean region are well documented, however as we approach 2030, work to achieve the SDGs in this region has continued, as it must. To facilitate a data-driven social protection system the UNDP TT MCO has supported the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services in the design and development of a National Register of Vulnerable Persons (NRVP) for Trinidad and Tobago

The NRVP was created utilising the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) approach, insofar as the vulnerability and deprivation scores for individuals would be estimated using the MPI approach.  This process involved estimating the MPI for Trinidad and Tobago using the SLC2014 dataset to determine which poverty and vulnerability cut-offs were robust for Trinidad and Tobago for a predetermined list of dimensions and indicators.  The dimensions, indicators and business rules were selected based on the literature and discussions with the MSDFS to ensure that they were relevant for Trinidad and Tobago. 

The NRVP is a digital platform that will provide citizens at an individual and household level with a vulnerability score which would be considered by the ministries/agencies providing social protection grants/programmes.  The MSDFS has accepted the design of the NRVP and are ready to commence with its population and the implementation of its use.  This will require a series of inputs including the population of the NRVP and capacity building. 

UNDP plays a pivotal role in conducting digital readiness assessments across the Caribbean, ensuring countries in the region are equipped to harness the benefits of digital transformation. By partnering with local governments, institutions, and stakeholders, UNDP facilitates comprehensive assessments to evaluate each country's digital infrastructure, policies, and human capital. These assessments provide valuable insights into strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, guiding the development of tailored strategies and interventions to enhance digital readiness. Through capacity-building initiatives, knowledge-sharing platforms, and technical assistance, UNDP empowers Caribbean nations to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape effectively, fostering inclusive and sustainable development. By fostering digital resilience and readiness, UNDP contributes to building more resilient societies that are better equipped to address the challenges of the digital age while maximizing opportunities for growth and prosperity in the Caribbean.

Energy and digital technologies, combined, represent one of the most powerful transformative forces of our time. This alliance has the potential to change the future of this planet and our societies the way we know them. This interaction, illustrated by the digital technologies' transformative effect on energy systems and energy's facilitative role in digital advancement, is a double-edged sword that can accelerate global warming or act as a catalyst for sustainable progress. Unlocking the combined potential of these technologies is pivotal for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and forging a future that is both sustainable and equitable. Within this synergy lies the blueprint for building a resilient world, where the aspirations of the Global Agenda can materialize into concrete outcomes.

Trinidad and Tobago's proactive strides towards digitalization underscore the nation's commitment to inclusive development and technological advancement. Through a series of initiatives aimed at modernizing regulatory frameworks and expanding digital services accessibility, the government has demonstrated dedication to shaping a dynamic digital landscape.

Trinidad and Tobago has been actively pursuing efforts to transition towards cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. The nation recognizes the importance of reducing dependence on traditional fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy alternatives to mitigate environmental impact and ensure long-term energy security. Through initiatives such as promoting solar and wind power generation, exploring energy-efficient technologies, and investing in research and development, Trinidad and Tobago is positioning itself as a leader in the Caribbean region's energy transition journey. These efforts underscore the country's commitment to fostering a greener and more resilient future for its citizens and the planet.

These efforts align closely with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in the realm of energy. As the world approaches the 2030 deadline for achieving the SDGs, the significance of ‘energy’ as the cornerstone to facing global challenges and opportunities cannot be overstated. Energy serves as a catalytic factor in achieving all 17 SDGs, from poverty eradication to sustainable urban development. Digitalization emerges as a key enabler in this transformative journey, holding the potential to accelerate decarbonization efforts and enhance energy efficiency.

Digital technologies play a crucial role in catalyzing energy access and transition. Increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy mix is critical for expanding energy access while maintaining low emissions. Digital tools such as geospatial technology and blockchain enhance transparency in project development and assessment processes, reducing investment risks for external entities. Additionally, innovative financing mechanisms like crowdfunding and Pay-As-You-Go systems facilitate the initial costs of sustainable energy projects, promoting equitable access to energy.

Enhancing energy efficiency is paramount, especially amidst increasing global cooling demands and climate change concerns. Digital technologies such as Remote Monitoring Systems and Internet of Things sensors optimize energy production and consumption, contributing to overall energy efficiency. Moreover, energy system flexibility enabled by digital technologies addresses supply and demand challenges, ensuring grid stability and reliability.