Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced its endorsement of the Charter for Digital Public Goods. Digital technologies play a crucial role in addressing global challenges, and the Charter is a global call to action to advance access to digital public goods and encourage countries to build the technologies needed to provide safe, trustworthy and inclusive public and private services.
For nearly two decades, USAID has supported the development and use of Digital Public Goods (DPGs) as a catalyzing force for sustainable development and to collaboratively address urgent global challenges such as hunger, pandemics and climate change. Today marks another step forward in USAID’s commitment to enabling governments, civil society, and others to choose and use the best technologies that empower citizens in a responsible, rights-respecting manner.
First announced by Administrator Samantha Power at the Summit for Democracy in December 2021, the Digital Public Goods Charter sets forward a positive vision of what can be achieved if governments, donors, non-profits, academia, industry, civil society, and other stakeholders align together to build a robust, mature, and responsible digital ecosystem. The Charter, developed in consultation with 67 public and private sector organizations in over 30 countries, lays out a community-informed framework for how this vision can be achieved inclusive of relevant, well-designed, and secure open source technologies.
The international development community can and should do more together to foster continued dialogue to strengthen the ecosystem for digital public goods. USAID welcomes further work with international partners to develop a better shared understanding of DPGs, including in the following areas:
- Enhancing Safeguards: As we cooperate to further advance the development and use of digital public goods, it is important to discuss appropriate safeguards to ensure the protection of human rights, privacy, intellectual property rights, and cybersecurity. This will help to build trust, foster an inclusive technology ecosystem, and meet the needs of local populations.
- Developing DPG Standards: Recognizing that open standards are the foundation for how digital public goods will be designed, developed, and used, USAID supports the continued development of voluntary, consensus-based indicators and requirements to better clarify what products and content can be considered a digital public good while limiting potential harms and risks associated with deploying DPGs. Multi-stakeholder-driven, voluntary, consensus-based open standards are crucial to support appropriate use of these technologies and encourage continued innovation in their design and use.
- Governance: There can be tremendous potential for societal progress with the greater adoption of DPGs, yet technology in itself is not inherently good or bad. Policies and governance around the design, development, and use of DPGs are needed to help ensure these technologies are meeting the needs of all people.
- Mitigating potential misuse of digital public goods: As reinforced at the second Summit for Democracy in March 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to countering the misuse of technology and digital authoritarianism globally. USAID supports the open nature of these technologies and encourages further dialogue to guard against them being used in ways that undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms.
USAID is proud to contribute to the Charter’s commitment framework through our ongoing digital development work in health, food security, humanitarian assistance, democracy and governance, climate and the environment, and inclusive economic growth. Here are just a few programs USAID is already delivering around the world:
- Finance: USAID has invested widely in development, maintenance, and use of digital public goods in our health-related work for almost every aspect of frontline service delivery, disease surveillance, patient engagement, supply chain, and health system management. The $130 million Digital Square USAID mechanism focuses on both the development and implementation of these technologies which are deployed in almost every country where USAID works. USAID supports 35 different products through the mechanism in coordination with 18 other donor and private sector partners, who in turn have contributed an additional $40 million+ to support the effort.
- Design, Share, and Deploy: In 2020, Ukraine created and adopted its Platform of Registries and the Diia (“State and Me” in Ukrainian) e-governance platform, with support from USAID. Though the war has disrupted these systems, the Ukrainian government has shown its resilience by adapting Diia to meet war-specific needs, such as registering internally displaced persons and war-related property damage and targeted social payments so that citizens can continue to receive financial support. In addition to USAID’s initial and continued investments in developing Diia, in January 2023 Administrator Power announced plans to support Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation (MDT) with $600,000 in funds to scale their digital approaches to other countries.
- Learn and Advocate: In June 2022, USAID joined the Digital Public Goods Alliance to work toward alignment with the DPG community in our investments and activities. In December 2022, USAID announced its intent to join the GovStack Initiative, an alliance of international donors, nonprofits, and multilateral organizations that supports governments to digitally transform their government services and processes. USAID remains engaged in ongoing conversations with donors, NGOs, partner governments, and other international stakeholders on how best to collaborate and align efforts internationally.
USAID looks forward to continuing our robust engagement on DPGs and working to strengthen open, inclusive, and secure digital ecosystems around the world.