A group of 11 countries have agreed to participate in a digitization program led by the United Nations Development Program that will feature a strong focus on digital ID. The UNDP describes the “50-in-5” campaign as a collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure, Co-Develop, and the Digital Public Goods Alliance, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank, GovStack, and UNICEF.
The aim of the program is to accelerate the adoption of “digital public infrastructure”, or “DPI” — a concept detailed in the most recent G20 Leaders Declaration, from September. The UNDP explains that this concept encompasses a “network of components such as digital payments, ID, and data exchange systems,” all of which are seen as helping countries to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In particular the 50-in-5 campaign has set of target of having 50 countries design and implement at scale at least one DPI component “in a safe, inclusive, and interoperable manner” by the end of 2028. The “First-Movers” that are participating in this campaign from its outset are Bangladesh, Estonia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Moldova, Norway, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Togo.
The involvement of the Gates Foundation will come as little surprise to those following the rise of digital identity around the globe. The philanthropic organization has been a key backer of DPI, having announced a $200 million fund for such efforts in September of 2022. Melinda French Gates has highlighted the potential for mobile devices to play an important role in digital ID, noting that it can foster the spread of digital accounts and other aspects of DPI.
India, meanwhile, may come to play an outsized role in helping other countries to implement digital identity technology. The country’s national biometric ID program, Aadhaar, has emerged in recent years as the world’s most ambitious digital ID program, and covers almost all of India’s population of 1.4 billion.
As The Economist reports, at the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India’s political leadership managed to obtain endorsement for a plan to establish a global repository of DPI products—including from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the UNDP and the World Bank. India is expected to mainly target potential client countries in Africa and Asia over the next year.
November 13, 2023 – by Alex Perala