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Digital public infrastructure encourages empowerment, inclusion, and resilience

By Alice Cazzaniga

The spread of digital technologies has radically transformed the lives of millions. Be it registering the birth of a child, filing income taxes, or incorporating a new company, people can accomplish virtually any bureaucratic task online from any location, simplifying compliance and reducing paperwork. When combined with widespread internet access, digital infrastructures like digital ID platforms, online banking systems, electronic payment apps, and e-government portals empower individuals by giving them independence, possibilities, and unprecedented convenience. The effects of the digital revolution stretch far beyond economics, fundamentally altering the daily lives and livelihoods of people across socioeconomic strata in life-enhancing ways through greater access to services, information, and opportunities.

Digital public infrastructure, which refers to foundational technological solutions and systems that enable essential societal functions and services, forms the backbone of these transformative experiences. Identification systems are a primary example, as they allow both individuals and businesses to securely verify their identities along with complementary trust services like electronic signatures and verifiable credentials. Enabling simple and secure transfers of money between individuals, businesses and governments is also a key role of digital public infrastructure through payment platforms. Furthermore, digital infrastructures facilitate seamless data flows between the public and private sectors with appropriate measures to protect individual data privacy and security, including consent mechanisms for data sharing.

Other elements of digital public infrastructure include cloud platforms that host vital government applications, interoperability protocols that facilitate machine-to-machine communication, governance frameworks that build trust in digital solutions, and standards that enable networks to connect and exchange information. Collectively, properly designed and inclusive digital public infrastructures can foster innovation, cross-sector efficiencies and equitable access to services while mitigating risks related to areas like cybersecurity, data protection and inclusion gaps. Therefore, governments play an important role in developing, promoting and regulating digital infrastructure to maximize their social and economic impact responsibly.

Digital public infrastructure has the power to transform how people access services, opportunities and how governments serve citizens. In addition to improving existing services and enabling new products, it can make them more inclusive by removing physical, financial and digital barriers.

In an increasingly digital world, robust digital public infrastructure is essential for resilience, service delivery and innovation. It is imperative we build this foundational infrastructure serving multiple sectors so that everyone - from an entrepreneur in the city to a farmer in rural areas - can securely participate and thrive in the digital economy. Just as physical infrastructure like roads and railways were instrumental in the past, digital public infrastructure is critical today. When accessible to all, it can extend economic and social benefits to the most marginalised, ensuring nobody is left behind in the digital transformation.

A well-designed digital public infrastructure focused on inclusion can help overcome the lack of necessary digital skills, devices, network access and literacy that exclude disadvantaged groups. Standards for accessibility, interoperability, and portability can boost competition and innovation while reducing technology barriers. For governments, digital public infrastructure makes service delivery more responsive, effective and inclusive. Ultimately, achieving an equitable digital future requires a robust and inclusive digital public infrastructure that empowers all citizens.

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