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Digital Public Infrastructure Efforts Promise Safer, Connected Spaces

Digital Public Infrastructure Promises Safer, Connected Spaces

As societies become increasingly interconnected and reliant on digital tools, governments are recognizing the need to adapt and innovate to meet the evolving needs of their citizens.

In this context, the concept of digital public infrastructure (DPI), defined by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as “a critical enabler of digital transformation,” emerges as a framework through which governments can harness the power of technology to drive sustainable development, improve public services and empower communities.

While its definition is evolving, the UNDP points to a “growing consensus on [DPI] being a combination of networked open technology standards built for public interest, enabling governance, and a community of innovative and competitive market players working to drive innovation, especially across public programs.”

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, three pillars are foundational to DPI’s effectiveness: digital identification, payments and data exchange. Together, these elements enable a cohesive digital network empowering countries to create secure and efficient economic opportunities while delivering essential social services to residents.

Governments and organizations rely on vast amounts of data to understand citizen needs, improve service delivery, and shape policies that address societal challenges.

For instance, governments worldwide, from Hong Kong to Israel and Italy, used mobile phone data to aid in crisis management and public health response during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the role of data in safeguarding communities.

Complementing the role of data is digital ID, which provides individuals with a secure and convenient means of accessing services, conducting transactions and asserting their identity online.

Moreover, digital IDs enable personalized experiences, tailored services and targeted interventions, thereby improving efficiency and efficacy across various domains, from healthcare and education to finance and eCommerce.

The trend is evidenced by the growing adoption of mobile driver’s licenses across over 20 U.S. states. States like Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Maryland now support mobile IDs on Apple Wallet, while Utah, California and Iowa have each issued state-sponsored mobile IDs on their native platforms.

These IDs, accepted by the Department of Homeland Security for domestic air travel, signify a shift toward secure and convenient digital identification solutions.

However, challenges surrounding government-issued digital IDs, including standardization and privacy risks, remain, prompting the National Institute of Standards and Technology to launch the Accelerate Adoption of Digital Identities on Mobile Devices initiative in August.

Mike Brock, CEO of TBD, a business from Block, also discussed the digital ID adoption challenge in an interview with PYMNTS in November.

“We never really thought about what [it means] to identify a person on the internet in a way that is portable…,” Brock said.

“Nothing is really practicable without a strong way to do identity,” he added. “… You have to know who people are, and you have to know who you can trust. All the roads in are around digital identity.”

The seamless integration of data, digital ID and payments into public infrastructure promises synergistic outcomes, unlocking new possibilities, fostering digital transformation and empowering communities worldwide.

Building upon this vision, the Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure plans to launch a new program to facilitate DPI project rollout within three to six months using pre-packaged solutions.

Slated for launch this summer, the initiative, termed DPI-as-a-Packaged Solution (DaaS), aims to streamline procurement and implementation, particularly benefiting countries with smaller populations, according to a paper co-written by DPI experts for Carnegie India.

As the authors stated, “[DaaS] is a new way to think about rolling out solutions that incorporate the DPI approach at scale and speed. It is fully packaged, easier to adopt, cloud-ready (meaning it can be deployed within private and public cloud environments), well-productized and suited for all countries, especially ones with smaller populations.”