Podcast Transcript: Talking Digital Public Infrastructure

DIGI Report Authors Discuss Financing DPI and Approaches to Sustain Digital Transformation
Blog Post
Source: Talking Digital Public Infrastructure podcast
June 8, 2023

Silvana Rodriguez, fellow at New America’s Digital Impact and Governance Initiative; Jeffrey Saviano, Global Tax Innovation Leader and leader of the Cambridge Advanced Technology Lab at EY; Fernando Morera, senior manager of the Cambridge Advanced Technology Lab at EY; and Jordan Sandman, associate at Co-Develop joined host Sarthak Satapathy for a recent podcast episode, “Financing Digital Public Infrastructures.” Satapathy’s Talking Digital Public Infrastructure podcast is housed at the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. This episode was recorded and produced in March and April 2023 and posted online on May 30, 2023.

The authors discussed their 2022 report, Financing Digital Public Infrastructure: Approaches to Sustain Digital Transformation. Over the course of the podcast, the authors assessed existing DPI funding models, examined the challenges underlying sustainable financing approaches, made recommendations to improve collaboration across the financing ecosystem, and underscored the need to keep inclusion and equity in mind when funding DPI initiatives.

The following is a clean verbatim transcription of the podcast episode.

Sarthak Satapathy, Podcast Host

What do you imagine when you hear someone say public infrastructure? Railroads, highways, public buildings? While they represent the first wave of public infrastructure in the modern world, life today is powered by a much more expansive version of this term. Mobile technology and broadband connectivity are critical digital infrastructure that touch every aspect of our life, and are currently catalyzing a whole new class of digital public infrastructure like identity, payments, and data exchange systems that we see across so many countries now.

I am your host Sarthak, and this is a podcast series on demystifying the universe of digital public infrastructure, its key stakeholders, and the governance of this entire ecosystem. In this episode, we discuss financing models of DPIs and challenges with the same. Our focus today is the paper, “Financing Digital Public Infrastructure,” published by New America.

We have all four authors of the paper on the episode today, and I'm very excited to be hosting all of them and learning the insights they have shared in the paper.

We have Jeffrey Saviano – Jeff is the EY Global Tax Innovation Leader and leader of the Cambridge Advanced Technology Lab. He's a principal with EY and a member of the EY Global Innovation and Tax Leadership teams. Jeff is also a lecturer at the Boston University School of Law, where he teaches innovation, technology, and law.

Then we have Silvana Rodriguez, who is a fellow with the Digital Impact and Governance Initiative at New America. She was the director for strategic partnerships in the Americas at ConsenSys, a global blockchain company. Prior to that, she served as a U.S. diplomat with the State Department from 2006 to 2018.

We also have Fernando Morera, who is a senior manager at the EY Cambridge Advanced Technology Lab, focusing on technology policy and governance. As a Stanford Transatlantic Technology Law fellow, he conducts research on the governance of open source software innovation and the regulation of digital assets in the United States and Europe.

And last but not least, we have Jordan Sandman, who is an associate at Co-Develop and former senior program coordinator with the Digital Impact and Governance Initiative at New America.

Welcome Jeff, Silvana, Jordan, Fer. I am really excited to have you on podcast today.

So largely, we'll be discussing how financing works and the DPI ecosystem. Could you just help paint a picture of the DPI ecosystem for our listeners?

Jordan Sandman, Co-Develop

Maybe we start off by defining DPI a little bit. My name is Jordan Sandman, and I’m from Co-Develop, which is a new fund for digital public infrastructure.

Probably the simplest way to describe digital public infrastructure is as a core service, similar to roads or electricity in the physical world, which helps get everyone where they need to go in the digital realm. We define DPI as a set of technology building blocks that, if they’re built well, are powered by interoperable standards and specs or other enabling rules that drive innovation and inclusion at scale, and hopefully are supported by open and participatory governance in countries worldwide.

An important point is that public infrastructure tends to be guaranteed by public institutions, and they help anyone—citizens, entrepreneurs, consumers—participate in society. The components of DPI tend to be things like digital ID, digital payments, and data exchange, but can also be additional pieces like commerce and sector-specific pieces of infrastructure, too.

Silvana Rodriguez, New America

This is Silvana, and I'm a fellow at New America.

One of the challenges that we found in this space while writing this report is that you can find differing definitions or interpretations of what DPI really is. What Jordan just described is that focus on the solutions and the systems that provide these functions or services, which the public and private sector can build on top of. He mentioned a few of them like identification verification, payments, data exchange, and others.

Something interesting is that in this space, sometimes you also see people who are talking about DPI refer to it much more broadly in terms of the enabling ecosystems—so all the other parts that need to be in place for DPI to be able to function. Those are things like standards and technical components and services; also the institutional framework around it, so things like the policies or regulations that enable the use of it and put guardrails around things; and some of the organizational structures and processes, like management and financing or procurement processes and things like that.

The reason we're here today is to talk about one of those enabling elements, the financing mechanisms behind DPI.


I think that helps us put together a really comprehensive vision of the DPI ecosystem.

Silvana, I know you mentioned financing. Can somebody help deep dive into the financing landscape within the DPI ecosystem?

Fernando Morera, EY

This is Fernando Morera at EY’s Advanced Technology Lab.

Our paper identifies six financing sources, which can be grouped into three main categories.

Number one is philanthropic funding, involving pure philanthropic capital from private foundations or a mix of philanthropic capital and self-sustaining financing mechanisms.

Number two is public sector funding, which can involve one or multiple governments coming together on DPI projects.

Number three is diverse funding streams, which generally involve multilateral organizations or academic institutions acting as orchestrators for multi-party financing schemes.

Of course, all of these financing models have pros and cons. For instance, philanthropic funding tends to be suitable for early stage development of DPI, acting as seed funding to derisk early stages of a project or pilot. An example of this model is Mojaloop, which is a digital payments platform currently deployed in Rwanda and Tanzania. Mojaloop Foundation, which is the legal entity that manages the initiative, initially gathers funding from donors like foundations and also charges members and organizations a membership fee. Collectively, these funding streams allow the foundation to support the initiative in the longer term.

Philanthropic capital can be combined with self-sustaining monetization strategies where the DPI platform itself is monetized to provide a recurring funding stream into the future. This is the case of ProZorro, an open source public procurement platform in Ukraine. It was initially funded by philanthropic contributions from small and medium-sized enterprises and is now monetizing access to the platform through access fees. That being said, although philanthropic capital is suitable for the early stage of development, it's typically not enough to sustain long-term, at scale deployment of DPI, which is one of the biggest downsides of this form of capital.

Which brings me to the second form of financing structures involving public sector capital. As highlighted before, there can be a single government funding DPI, or there can be a consortium of governments pooling capital to sustain initiatives in the longer term. An example of a single government DPI project is Aadhaar, which is India's digital identity platform. This platform, which is open source, has given access to bank accounts, benefits, and subsidies to hundreds of millions of Indians, particularly during the early days of the pandemic when they needed the support the most.

Governments can also come together and form a consortium to fund DPI initiatives. This is, for example, the case of X-Road, which is an open source solution for secure data sharing between organizations from multiple sectors. It was initially funded by Estonia and Finland, and then Iceland came into the picture to help scale the initiative beyond the borders of the three jurisdictions.

Public funding comes with some disadvantages. It’s typically slow. It requires budgetary allocation or earmarking tax revenues to sustain specific DPI initiatives. This makes it not a great candidate for early stage development, where more nimble sources of capital, like philanthropic capital, may be more suitable to sustain these initiatives in the early stages.

Public funding is also subject to outdated, siloed procurement processes, which albeit necessary and generally required by law, can create significant friction and reduce visibility into DPI projects that may otherwise benefit multiple jurisdictions at once. And truth be told, certain governments may not have the political appetite and incentive to scale a project beyond their borders.

These constraints bring me to the last funding category that we identified in our paper, which we call diverse funding streams. Here we have an orchestrator, that can be either a multilateral organization like the United Nations or the World Bank or an academic institution, coordinating several sources of capital to fund DPI endeavors.

One example is the World Bank Identity for Development (ID4D), which has $1.5 billion in commitments to build digital identity platforms in 35 countries around the world.

The Inter-American Development Bank is also working on a project called LACChain, which is a blockchain ecosystem for the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Lastly, there sometimes can be academic institutions acting as orchestrators. This is the case with DHIS2, which stands for District Health Information System 2. This is an open source health management system currently being deployed in multiple ministries of health around the world. It is housed within the University of Oslo, and it has funding commitments from the World Health Organization, development agencies like NORAD, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, and philanthropic capital as well.

The key insight emanating from our research is that the sequencing of funding is key, so that the right investor is aligned to the right stage of development and is given the right economic and social incentive to participate in and sustain DPI initiatives in the longer term. If we get the sequencing of funding right, we can increase the probability of success of the project in the longer term. We can also solve the so-called “pilotitis” issue, which is pervasive in the DPI ecosystem, and refers to the inability of a DPI project to move beyond the pilot stage.


One of the funders that’s noticeably missing in the list of six models is the private sector as the lead majority funder in the categories that we looked at.

While we didn't include them as a majority funder in a lot of the existing DPI initiatives, it’s important to note that the private sector does have a role to play here. When you think about infrastructure, private capital is often assumed to be the main financier of infrastructure projects. That’s certainly the case in a lot of digital transformation that’s happening around the world.

The issue that we see is that a lot of foundational layers of technology are capital intensive, but you might not see that ROI, that return on investment, until you get to the application layers. There’s also the issue that the private sector is looking to invest in places that are commercially viable; that’s their role in the economy. But the reality is when you're thinking about DPI as a public good that is accessible to everyone, it's possible that at certain stages of development or in certain geographic areas, it may not be commercially viable.

That's one of the reasons why, when you’re looking sheerly at the financing aspect, you need different sectors, partners, and stakeholders to come together. That's where their role comes in, being able to pitch in with the advantage of their sector, to be able to extend that coverage to all sectors of society and to every stage of development. That could come in the form of local government, philanthropies, or other actors committing funds to derisk certain stages that are harder for one sector or another. It might mean providing support to convene, coordinate, and scale efforts. It might also be about creating the enabling environment for financing to work where government has a bigger role, like regulations or policies that help enable that financing to take off or the incentives to invest. So I might put that as a caveat or explainer for why we embrace a multistakeholder approach in our recommendations.

Jeffrey Saviano, EY

We didn't have a chance to dive too deep into private sector contribution in our paper. We gave it a lot of thought, and it is ripe for future work. I would add that we see a number of members of the private sector that are acting as philanthropists and that you have a layer of financing of the private sector as philanthropists that is a contribution to this space.

Another great example is the Aadhaar system in India. It took a government investment to create the digital rails for a digital ID and payment system. Then we saw the private sector coming in after that, building applications that were relying upon those digital rails. It's a great example of the integration of government funding to create a DPI, and then the private sector using those assets to build viable solutions for governments and for citizens.


That's interesting. What are some of the tradeoffs that these different funders have to make?


That's a great question. Touching briefly on governments, that's the prototypical funder of these kinds of projects. One of the biggest tradeoffs we see is that, although they may have the capital to fund these projects, sometimes they're a little bit risk averse. They want to see some level of derisking of the investment at the beginning, to be able to chime in with more longer-term patient capital to support these initiatives. They may try to see if there are any private sector actors that may want to fund a pilot to derisk the initial stage for them to be able to chime in with longer-term capital.

The paradox here is that the private sector sometimes may not be patient enough to see the ROI derived from these initiatives, and may be looking to governments to actually derisk the funding. So that’s the paradox and hence the importance of sequencing the financing structure to the right stage of development.

It is critical to increase transparency across ecosystems, so everybody knows which stage of development is currently happening. Tying the right incentives to the right funders and the right stage of development is critical. Those are the tradeoffs that we observed.

The nature of capital may be impatient for ROI, and therefore may not be interested in funding early stages of development. Or they may be patient for growth and want to come in later in the process. Nevertheless, you're lacking an early stage founder that may get this off the ground.


The narrative around the DPI ecosystem is evolving. We’re in a very nascent stage. Often, DPGs and DPI are used interchangeably. How does the financial sustainability of DPGs particularly correlate with that of the DPI? What are the dynamics there?


Another challenge that we see is that governments struggle to procure open source technologies; they're much more comfortable buying proprietary solutions. Many of these open source technologies, which are known as digital public goods, can be thought of as the tools of the ecosystem to build digital public infrastructure. For example, MOSIP, the Modular Open Source Identity Platform, is a DPG that can be used for digital public infrastructure. It's currently supported by grants. Another tradeoff of this space is that a lot of it is supported by philanthropic investment, which in the long run is probably not the most sustainable.

Now, DPGs are an emerging tool that governments are using to build their core digital public infrastructure. The advantage of DPGs is that they can be implemented in one place and taken off the shelf and be implemented in other countries. Given that governments want confidence in systems that have been implemented elsewhere, DPGs can be a mechanism to help governments take something that's already been proven. It's really important that those DPGs are financially sustainable before governments implement them as a core national piece of infrastructure.

A challenge that we're wrestling with in the philanthropic sector is that the private sector would never release a product without a development roadmap and a way to sustain the financing of a product. The same goes for the nonprofit sector. We're looking at how DPGs can move toward some kind of stability model that provides revenue for the core maintenance and product enhancement.


There's a lot of focus on the build and implement stage of DPGs, especially from a funding point of view. There is not so much on the feedback loops, the maintenance, and the future development roadmap of the entire process. I want to get your thoughts on that.


There's been a lot of investment and experimentation, particularly in the philanthropic sector, as this is a new space. We now have proven models of DPI at scale, whether it’s in India, Estonia, Rwanda, or other countries. There's not been a concerted approach until pretty recently to take those DPI examples to scale.

That's a core problem that we're trying to tackle at Co-Develop – to take the existing systems that have been proven and models from certain countries, and help a much broader set of countries learn from that and implement those successes.


What we find is that for optimal technology development, you need professional development teams that will continue to maintain and improve the systems. Sometimes with open source systems, the benefit we have is that it's available to all. But do we have those professional development teams that are going to be around and are going to be there to help move from pilot to scaling technology using the best agile practices? We use the term in the paper – “pilotitis.” It's like a disease when we get through the pilot stage of a technology solution, and for one reason or another, it stops and it doesn't get to scale.

It's my belief that rather than building a technology asset once and trying to extend it later to other countries, bring in other countries sooner in the pilot MVP stage in order to help ensure that those governments and those countries will be there when it's time to scale. It’s right to highlight that that has been a critical challenge. We do highlight other challenges facing the scaling of DPI in our paper.


I want to go back on one of the things that you mentioned, especially about how the funding focus is on the pilots and the early build stage. Do you think one of the reasons, or one of the core roots, of why this thinking still exists is because it's often the cross section between how international development works and how the software industry functions? Do you think we're still coming in from our international development funding lens, where we’re funding programs and not so much focusing on the technology and how we build the technology? Do you think that plays a role at all?


It could be an obstacle in this space that among some funders, if DPI is seen as solely an international development issue, then it tends to silo the conversation in terms of who's talking about it: which stakeholders, which part of government, which part of any organization – public or private. That often does silo the funding to more foreign assistance types of funds.

One of the many challenges we mentioned in our paper is how funding often tends to be sector-based; choose any sector – education, agriculture, what have you. That's a bit of a disservice when you’re looking at DPI, which needs to be a cross-cutting foundational layer. That's one of the disservices if we only look at it through a development lens. In the course of writing this report, we talked a lot amongst ourselves about the value in thinking about DPI at a global level for the benefit of individuals and societies, regardless of income level.

Estonia is a great example of a more advanced economy that is showing some of the incredible benefits and efficiencies that happen when you base your services off of this more advanced digital approach, and how it can be affordable and efficient. DPI is not just for lower and middle income countries. It's not just for an international development space. It’s really something that can be applied to any country.

It is interesting that even among some donor countries with more advanced economies who are big funders of DPI in the “developing world,” they may not actually be embracing or adopting DPI at home in their own country. I think there's a bit of a chip that we might need to change in terms of how we think about DPI. Stepping back, it speaks to a lot of the broader ecosystem challenges that we're thinking about.


I really enjoyed the process of connecting with digital public good owners and DPI owners around the world. There was one that jumped out to me. We spent some time with the District Health Information System 2 (DHIS2), which is used by ministries of health around the world and is governed through the University of Oslo. I thought it was a simple, effective mechanism to identify and discover demand for technology in certain jurisdictions. In a very streamlined annual process, they would bring donors in and they would hear directly from jurisdictions about how this technology and solution was needed. They came together in a board meeting, and they agreed on how they would fund it in different stages. The purpose of that story is that we looked at many different models, and what I loved about the DHIS2 model is that you had diverse funding from different sources and multiple countries. Now it’s being used and is effective in multiple dozens of countries. So many different challenges were faced. There are some great examples in the world about scale; that's one from the work that really left an impression upon me as a highly effective system.


We've already gotten to some of the alternatives or approaches and recommendations of how we should be looking at it now, given all the things and context that we've discussed. What other recommendations and approaches do you think countries and other players in the ecosystems should be considering?


We have talked about quite a few of the challenges that are facing both DPI and DPG scaling. To jump right into the recommendations, there were three primary recommendations that we made and I'll just name them quickly and then we can spend a few minutes going through each.

First, was to create what we're calling a unified funding mechanism, addressing how we're actually pooling funding for DPI.

The second is the pivot to a self-sustaining business model, so we're not always looking with our hand out for philanthropic and other financial contributions. Over time, it will be self-sustaining.

The third really exciting opportunity is to create open market places for DPI.

Those are the three; let’s spend a few minutes on each.

First, this unified funding mechanism could be an opportunity to pool what otherwise are very disparate funding sources in some kind of a common framework. We need greater coordination. At times, it can be a bit chaotic. How can you create the opportunity with new frameworks to actually bring those diverse funding sources together? Fer, could you talk about one specific example of unified funding?


There are existing financing mechanisms that can be leveraged for DPI. One of them is what's called a financial intermediary fund. The easiest way to describe these is to think about the prototypical private equity or venture capital fund that blends together different sources of funding. But instead of there being a partnership, it becomes a trust fund that is managed by an international organization such as the World Bank.

These funding mechanisms have been deployed in other contexts, such as vaccine development. There's one particular case called the International Finance Facility for Immunisation that was responsible for pooling together different funding sources from governments, making them binding commitments that can be used to underwrite subsequent bonds that are released in the capital markets and can be used to fund development of public goods–in this particular case, vaccines.

So if you think about that example, how can we extrapolate that into the DPI arena? You can think about a trust fund devoted to developing DPI at scale where there is some coordination connecting different funding sources to different stages of development to make sure that the incentives you invest are properly aligned. At the center, you could have an NGO or multilateral institution governing how the capital is raised and deployed, having visibility across the entire ecosystem and across the entire funding cycle.


That kind of fund offers some innovative financing approaches that are powerful when you have a lot of different stakeholders.

Another interesting element to consider here is that different funders and investors are going to have different ways they can invest, different requirements around their money, different timelines around what they can give, and how. The power behind this unified mechanism idea is that it could accommodate traditional contributions that might come in the form of donations or grants, and it also can accommodate those innovative mechanisms that can give you a ton of benefits to leverage the resources you have today for longer-term payback.


That's a great example of what we're calling unified funding mechanisms.

Why don’t we shift to the second of our three recommendations, this idea of having a self-sustaining business model. It's difficult if we need to, on a periodic basis, continually look for funding and continue to have our hands out as DPI owners in order to finance the continued maintenance and development of a solution. So a self-sustaining business model is incredibly important.

In our work, we found a particular example that jumped out to me. It came from Ukraine, the ProZorro solution, and it started as philanthropic seed funding to derisk the development of the public procurement platform. Over time, it transitioned into the self-sustaining model by charging small transaction fees every time there was a transaction on the system. They felt that having this digital public good for the private sector and for government who is actually responding to RFPs and going through the procurement process, was a way to have a better system. It became self-sustaining by charging transaction fees on those services and projects that were approved for the system. It's an example of a project that started as a philanthropic effort and ultimately moved to become self-sustaining by charging fees on transactions.

Our third recommendation was to create an open marketplace. We talk about a three sided marketplace for funding digital public infrastructure. It would be open. It would be transparent. We envision that it would be a digital version of this – think about eBay for digital public infrastructure. You're connecting the technology providers who are actually building solutions, governments and jurisdictions that demonstrate the need, the users of systems ultimately extending to citizens, and the financiers themselves. A single place to go, an open system.

We saw that there was an area in our tax world with tax credits, where there was a need to bring together buyers and sellers of certain credits that were transferable. There was no market that existed. It was created, and we felt that it provided great transparency. So we have examples outside of DPI that we'd like to leverage, and we think this open marketplace is needed in order to bring greater transparency and connect those three sides: the developers of technology, government users, and financiers.


How do we ensure that funding for DPI typically strengthens the values of inclusion and equity, and carries out the do no harm principle?


So as funders in this work, an important principle is that we take an equity and inclusion lens on everything that we fund, and work with governments that we feel are committed to doing the right thing and taking an ethical approach to building these systems.

One thing to note is that exclusion work (note: the speaker may have said “exclusion”, but he is speaking about inclusion work), as we build a DPI system, happens immediately. So as soon as you implement a system that is intending to get to population scale, that work needs to happen immediately. Safeguards work to ensure that good design principles that protect privacy and other critical components are maybe less immediate, but also equally important. These are things like data minimization, that’s present in the Aadhaar system, or protecting against the use of facial recognition versus other biometrics like fingerprints that may be more privacy preserving.

It's also important to note that the impact of DPI can really only be assessed over a 50-year period. You might build a system that's great, but this is something that is a stock and a flow such that trust and safety inclusion are built up over a period, but they can also change over time. They're things that need to be maintained. That's how we think about safety and inclusion in our work.


What would you say are some of the opportunities to advance DPI in the next few years? You all come from different spaces and have been looking at this from different lenses. It would be great to get your thoughts on how we advance this conversation for DPI in the next couple of years.


I do think that there are different angles as to why we should talk about DPI now.

So much of what’s been happening in the world over the last couple of years is reminding us that we all need service delivery that is effective and resilient. This is anywhere from what we all lived through under the COVID pandemic and this reliance on digital services that we all had to deal with and sometimes struggle with, all the way to what we’re seeing happen in Ukraine now. These are visual reminders that resilience and efficiency are just paramount right now.

The second angle is that there is a sense in the digital space of unease or malaise about the fact that there is a lack of accountability, accessibility, or equity in the way our digital infrastructure is currently working. You're not seeing positive benefits for everyone, even though there is, at the same time, tremendous innovation that’s happening right now. So there's a push in a lot of different sectors for digital infrastructure that could be tied to more openness, transparency, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. That’s another important angle.

We're also starting to see a lot of momentum in different sectors to start institutionalizing this architecture to look at DPI. In September coming out of the UN General Assembly, you had representatives from different sectors coming together to pledge nearly $300 million to start looking at this DPI issue. The important point is that now is the time that we should be making important decisions about how our digital infrastructure is financed, and the governance around it. That’s going to dictate a lot about the health of our societies moving forward.

Some opportunities coming up over the next couple of years:

The G7 Leaders Forum launched a Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, where they're trying to mobilize $600 billion by 2027 for global infrastructure investments in low and middle income countries. That's going to be a massive push, all focused on infrastructure, of which tech is one of the big pillars.

Next weekend, we're going to see a donor's meeting in Washington, D.C. on the sidelines of the Summit for Democracy, that's pulling together donors to start looking at how we can finance DPIs.

At the G20 right now with India’s presidency, digital public infrastructure is an area of focus there. Going ahead, we're going to see a number of opportunities through the United Nations. The UN General Assembly is coming up again later this year, and there's also an effort to launch a Global Digital Compact for the Summit of the Futures in 2024.

These can be frameworks or driving mechanisms where it’s important to plan and think about infrastructure, and specifically DPI, in how we move forward.


One of the critical aspects for digital public infrastructure to be sustainable in the long run, in addition to funding, is capacity building. There's a common misconception that open source software is free and widely available. This is true, but once you grab the open source software and start building, there's got to be capacity in your team to operate open source software in the initial stages and then in connection with long-term maintenance of that technology.

It’s particularly demanding and time consuming, all of those aspects related to licensing management: ensuring that whatever technology you're developing is compliant with specific open source licenses like MIT or Apache licenses, or the more restrictive ones such as new licenses that have very specific obligations that may subject the teams leveraging that code to contribute back to the community for them to be able to use that software properly. It's critically important to reserve a portion of the funding to build capacity in the long term, so that these things can actually be self-sustaining and independent from chronic funding needs in the long term.


Co-Develop is a new fund for digital public infrastructure. We work globally, noting that these problems exist in my home country of the United States as much as they exist in many other countries around the world. Many innovations are actually coming out of lower capacity contexts where getting this right is not optional; it's actually kind of critical.

So Co-Develop will be making grants in the coming years to philanthropic organizations, technical assistance providers, digital public goods, and other research organizations to study, deploy, and help implement in a safe and inclusive way. DPI systems in countries are a critical value-add that we see as an execution focus.

We're really interested in how these systems are being implemented on the ground in a way that is actually safe and inclusive – that's our focus. Of course, there are a broad number of organizations that we work with and attempt to empower, in terms of the World Bank, UNDP, and a broad number of implementers that are working with countries. We're really excited to begin actually doing the work on the ground and getting our hands dirty.


It's an exciting time to be thinking and talking today about technology, solution development, and scaling. We haven’t really talked a lot about the type of technologies that could be used. There's been recent advancements in artificial intelligence. As we record this episode today in March, there is incredible focus in the world around generative AI and the opportunities that AI affords. We're seeing a cliff event happening right before our eyes with incredible opportunities to leverage advanced technologies like AI, but also new distributed systems afforded by blockchain – opportunities for new data marketplaces and data cooperatives and data trusts.

As technology advances so quickly, we're seeing governance not advance as rapidly. We need governance to catch up and to make sure that we're building responsible technology systems. I'm encouraged by new regulations in the world to protect and ensure that you don't have biased outcomes from using AI. In many jurisdictions, you need to be able to explain outcomes from AI, these explainability rules. We think that there's a new wave of government regulation and policy to govern and regulate these advanced technologies.

It's important to me, in the work that we do at EY and our work in our lab around innovation, that these advanced technologies can change the world. It's exciting to see the development, but there are some gaps to fill. The entire community is coming together on governance and responsible regulation to get the most out of these new technology systems.


Right, it’s the idea that they can change the world, and you want to make sure that how they change the world is really the positive outcome for everyone.


Well said. For all citizens and to do it responsibly, this notion of responsible technology adoption is incredibly important.

This episode of Talking Digital Public Infrastructure was recorded and produced in March and April 2023 and was posted on May 30, 2023. To listen to the episode, click here and to read Financing Digital Public Infrastructure: Approaches to Sustain Digital Transformation, click here.