While, like many, we were eager to end 2020 and look towards the new year with new energy, it is important to take time to reflect on the achievements made, the challenges overcome, and the opportunities presented in 2020.
For the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), reflecting on 2020 actually begins with our roots – the 2019 United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation report calling for the establishment of a broad, multi-stakeholder alliance, to facilitate access to and use of digital public goods. In December 2019 the DPGA was launched to answer that call, which meant kicking off 2020 with a lot of momentum.
Throughout 2020 significant steps were taken to support and accelerate the discovery and development of digital public goods that tackle real world challenges. We started the year off with two main goals, (1) establishing the foundations of the DPGA as a strategic entity with the potential for long-term impact and sustainability and, (2) to produce valuable outputs with immediate utility for the DPG ecosystem.
With these two goals in mind, and strengthened by the June 2020 Roadmap on Digital Cooperation, the DPGA achieved significant milestones in 2020. Here is an overview of our top four achievements:
1. Defining Digital Public Goods
The DPGA coordinated with other stakeholders to provide input to the definition of digital public goods that was published by the UN Secretary-General in the 2020 Roadmap. This definition contributes to a universal understanding of what constitutes a digital public good, laying the groundwork for how the DPGA can support open projects.
Building off this momentum, the DPGA thereafter operationalised the digital public goods definition into the DPG Standard, a set of nine indicators that comprise a comprehensive and shared assessment criteria for identifying projects as digital public goods. This standard is itself an open project and has benefited from several iterations. The DPGA is thankful to the communities and individuals that have helped support its development by contributing their thoughts and endorsements including CHAOSS, Creative Commons, DIAL, and Mozilla. The DPG Standard has also been featured by the Open Source Observatory and opensource.org.
2. Launching the DPG Registry
The DPGA mission includes promoting the discovery of digital public goods. To that end, in 2020 the DPGA significantly evolved the DPG Registry, which started as a prototype in early 2019. Today, the DPG Registry contains 471 nominated projects, and 20 verified digital public goods that have been assessed against the DPG Standard.
Our work relies on the ethos of open source. So, in December 2020 we launched a community sourcing experiment asking for public participation to review nominated open projects against the DPG Standard with the ultimate goal of distributing and expediting the process of determining if a project qualifies as a digital public good. This experiment will run through January 2021 and has already had engagement from teachers, students, tech practitioners, and many more. We continue to invite public participation in the experiment at validate.digitalpublicgoods.net.
3. Engaging Experts in Sector Specific Communities
In 2020 the DPGA began facilitating Communities of Practice (CoPs). CoPs convene thematic experts with the aim of identifying, assessing and advancing high-impact potential projects that work towards the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Thus far, CoPs have focused on technologies for enhancing Early Grade Reading skills, Financial Inclusion, Digital Health, and Climate Change Adaptation. These groups include more than 60 experts from 40+ different institutions including NGOs, governments, think tanks, international banks, and funders.
In 2020 the CoPs began making an impact. In November, we released a paper on the relationship between digital public infrastructures (DPIs) and DPGs, and the particular relevance of their intersection for driving financial inclusion. In addition, an assessment of nine early grade reading projects was completed. 2021 will take the efforts of the CoPs even further.
4. Launching Country Engagement Pilots
Eager to document and share learnings that can help facilitate the impactful implementation of digital public goods, in late 2020, the DPGA developed an initial approach for piloting country engagements in low- and middle-income countries. In 2021 we will begin deploying short-term pilot activities in partnership with DPGA co-founders.
No 2020 year-in-review would be complete without a reflection on the challenges we all faced as a result of the global pandemic. While COVID-19 brought near-insurmountable challenges, it also illustrated how digital technologies can both create and prevent inequities, ultimately highlighting the need for countries to accelerate digital transformation. The need for quality digital public goods that are accessible, adaptable, and deployable is clearer than ever.
The increasing awareness of COVID-19’s long-term economic impact added urgency to international conversations about digital public infrastructures, sparking new energy and interest in understanding, assessing, and promoting digital public goods with the potential for countries to deploy as part of their digital foundations.
In 2021 we hope to capitalise on our early successes and build on the momentum in the DPG ecosystem. There is more clarity now than ever before on the urgency of digital transformation and we have a unique opportunity to scale up international cooperation around digital public goods.
Read more about our year in review here.
To learn more about the Digital Public Goods Alliance:
Join our mailing list.
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Nominate digital public goods through this form.
Participate in the community sourcing experiment.