In 2021, one of the member organisations of the Digital Public Goods Alliance, UN Global Pulse, conducted qualitative research to understand the enablers and challenges of implementing and scaling digital public goods (DPGs). While this research focused specifically on health related DPGs, the results were broadly applicable.
Among other findings, this research identified a need to support DPG owners in scaling their innovations through access to experts. Last month, they conducted a survey to better understand this need, particularly to gauge interest in a DPG support programme that would connect subject matter experts with owners and implementers of DPGs. The survey was open from 22 March – 8 April, 2022 and nearly 150 DPG product owners were invited to participate, yielding approximately 40 respondents. This potential support programme would draw on a pool of experts in a broad range of fields such as intellectual property, licensing, governance, sustainable financing, and more.
The survey objectives were to:
- Understand what challenges DPG owners identify as priorities
- Understand how DPG owners would use a support pool
- Validate the need for a community of practice (CoP) on scaling DPGs
- Identify participants and topics of interest for the CoP
- Understand the value of these two new offerings to current and potential DPG owners
The results of the survey helped capture the unique challenges faced by DPG owners. At the top level, we heard that:
1. Financing is both the greatest challenge and top priority for DPG owners
For DPG owners, key challenges were financing and sustainability of their products. Sustainability could be viewed from a range of perspectives, but from the survey comments appears to mostly focus on achieving a sustainable business model. A third core challenge that surfaced was also demand from implementers. While technical challenges included interoperability, licensing, and governance, these fell far below the nearly 65% of respondents that chose financing as their priority above all else.
2. DPGs are built by small, agile teams
The survey revealed that respondents were mostly working alone, or within a small team on their DPG. This underscores the need for an expert resource pool, or for accessible support to take advantage of opportunities to scale.
3. Those implementing DPGs share concerns around financing, market incentives and data security
In order to scale DPGs, a resource pool of experts could also help assuage the concerns of implementers. Particularly, any hesitancy around a lack of technical expertise available and to help underscore the value of open source products and digital public goods.
The survey revealed several insights about DPG product ownership beyond what we have shared above. See UN Global Pulse’s full presentation of findings in this slide deck.
UN Global Pulse is developing its innovation scaling offer which includes the scaling of digital public goods (DPGs). This work is in support of the UN Secretary General’s commitments in his report ‘Our Common Agenda’. Keep an eye on their blog for updates soon.