The need for digital capacity-building is extensive given how the achievement of real and sustained progress in the various dimensions of digitalization requires skills development and effective training, in particular in developing countries. This, in turn, is necessary to unlock the benefits of technology.
One of the primary challenges to date is that a large part of digital capacity-building has been supply driven as opposed to needs-based. Insufficient investment still persists as a significant limiting factor. A further limitation is that digital capacity building has to be tailored to individual and national circumstances, which in many cases is not. Trying to overcome these current challenges requires the emergence of two aspects: greater coherence and coordination in capacity-building efforts and concerned effort at scaling up solutions.
The need to promote inclusive approaches aimed to bring together existing initiatives, United Nations entities, regional and subregional bodies that promote digital capacity-building as well as governments, is of the utmost importance. There is a proposition by the Panel on “digital help desks” as one potential solution that could leverage regional institutions and platforms. Since the issuance of the Panel’s report, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have begun an initial mapping exercise of existing digital capacity-building initiatives to assess gaps and inform forward-looking solutions. The exercise will be expanded to include a detailed needs assessment component to support capacity-building providers in targeting their services more effectively to meet stakeholder needs.
To invest in knowledge development and experience sharing is a priority of the United Nations to reach the goal of improving the lives of people in rural areas through digital transformation and innovation. Reducing disparities and collecting best practices to be implemented to improve digital inclusion in rural and urban areas is thus another focus. Digital transformation should cross along territories and unify people around innovation, to make a positive impact on people lives.
The coordination work set out above requires matching efforts at the national level, especially through the United Nations presence on the ground. United Nations country teams, through their resident coordinators, could serve as the system’s in-country focal points on digital cooperation. Country-level support could also be amplified through engagement with local college graduates and other young professionals who could work closely with United Nations actors in launching and managing various rural-centric initiatives to advance broadband access, adoption and meaningful usage.