Special Edition | Digital Transformation is accelerating SIDS' development

Digital Transformation enables SIDS to leverage the unique benefits of our countries and communities. Smallness can enable agility in exploring new technologies, and drive innovative thinking and practices. Digital can make geographic distance irrelevant, allowing SIDS to incubate and lead global digital efforts.  Furthermore, the lack of outdated legacy systems and processes – a burden of many higher economy countries – can actually accelerate the deployment and scaling of digital solutions within SIDS.


SIDS are a 'special case in development' (to use the language of the SAMOA Pathway) due to their innate potential, and proven ambition, in driving digital transformation within and beyond their shorelines. They are leading the implementation of digital in the context of the Pathway, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and in pursuit of national and other global priorities. Digital is already a key driver of SIDS development, foundational to tackling climate change and other challenges - but it's not just about surviving. Digital is a key tool that can shape new industries and opportunities in SIDS to mitigate climate disasters. It can catalyse the Blue Economy, public services, and digital products and services which could continue to improve financial inclusion across SIDS. 


As this bulletin highlights, the pace of digital transformation is only increasing. The start of the COVID-19 pandemic saw 'two years of digital transformation in two months' - and this trend is continuing. SIDS cannot be left behind from the opportunities and potential that digital can offer. But, it's not just about swimming with the digital current. SIDS also are shaping the 'rules of the game' - driving the technical standards, governance and policy frameworks, and other foundations that will shape the benefits of digital for decades to come. This includes ensuring that SIDS do not become 'testbeds' for Big Tech, but continue to be equal partners on this digital journey.


Most importantly, the benefits and strengths of digital for SIDS are not solely found in the platforms, or solutions, or technology of the digital era. It is not just about Big Data, 5G, AI, high-tech, or more frugal innovation. As this bulletin highlights, SIDS' greatest asset is human capital. Digital is an enabler, catalyst, and amplifier of the talent of SIDS' citizens and communities - and not a replacement or substitute. As H.E. Mr. Satyendra Prasad, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations, notes in our exclusive discussion with him in this bulletin: 'Digitalisation offers the best prospects in a generation for reversing the brain drain'.

Image: UNCDF Asia-Pacific 


(h/t Custom Wordle)

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Keywords:  Rising Up For SIDS, digital, Digital Public Goods, digital economy, data, Big Data, Metaverse, SDGs, green recovery, digital currency, innovative finance, sustainable development, machine learning, gender equality, inclusive, digital transformation, drones, AI, blockchain, testbeds, private sector, digital government


Leveraging digital in SIDS

Digital and its associated opportunities - from digital transformation of governments and public services, to leveraging the potential of the digital economy - can be a complicated and complex space. The below five considerations are drawn from the digital learning and experience of SIDS, and other countries. They are not sequential actions, but key components to ensure that SIDS countries can use digital to improve lives and livelihoods.


1. Building a SIDS digital advantage

Digital increasingly is not constrained by borders - from cross-border data, to the emerging Metaverse. Whilst Singapore's Digital Economy Partnership Agreements are a new step into framing international digital interoperability. But, is there scope to shape a digital comparative advantage for SIDS - leveraging a combined and collaborative effort – and what could this look like? What could be the new 'domain name' digital opportunity for SIDS, and what other opportunities exist to build an international digital offer?
The foundations needed for digital transformation are largely similar across countries. From underlying connectivity, to open data and other protocols. This infrastructure can have important benefits for all SIDS. As an example, the new Digital Earth Pacific analytics platform is tapping into freely-available environmental data to support countries in preparing for natural disasters, and to better address other longer-term challenges. Built on Microsoft’s Planetary Computer it uses AI to access, analyse and model data from multiple sources to assist Pacific Island governments in making better choices and decisions.

Recognising this potential, there could be scope to combine funding of open or foundational digital hardware or infrastructure - a model that works in other sectors. This could even extend to regional or SIDS-wide financing vehicles, Including learning from national digital Venture Capital funds. Identifying key SIDS industries or sectors that have regional and global relevance could also prove important. For example, the network effects across Africa’s Orange Economy are demonstrating the potential of country collaboration and partnership. A digital comparative advantage may not need to be tangible, though. There may be scope to use digital ethics as a comparative and competitive advantage - as some non-SIDS countries are exploring in the context of emerging technologies. 

Similarly, there could be scope to scale learning or successes across SIDS. Could local-led innovations like community currencies be scaled as a regional offer - or even digital currencies more broadly? Bequia, a Caribbean island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is looking to embed cryptocurrency payments across the island. The Caribbean is one of the biggest global proponents of digital currencies, particularly recognising their potential role to overcome challenges faced by island communities excluded from mainstream banking facilities, SIDS could be leaders in shaping the policies, frameworks, and technical architecture to drive digital currencies around the world. 
The COVID-19 pandemic could also offer valuable learning here. Fixing the issues of vaccine inequity ahead of the next pandemic could result in shared procurement infrastructure. This could be an enormously important investment for SIDS, providing economies of scale and reducing the asymmetry between Big Tech firms and SIDS - the latter featuring small(er) customer-bases that can increase procurement costs. Continued remote-working is also seeing digitally-driven and ‘smaller-scale’ innovation ecosystems beginning to rival their larger counterparts. SIDS are well-placed to leverage this opportunity - including in combination with e-Residency or other initiatives. 

However, two aspects will need to be front-and-centre. First, what does ‘sovereignty’ mean in the context of digital and digital collaboration? Second, how can we protect, support, and enable our scarcest and most valuable resource: human capital - for the benefit of all SIDS.

2. The need to test, learn, and adapt

Being agile in exploring new solutions or policies is not a new concept (see this 10-year old paper on implementing Randomised Controlled Trials in public policy, which remains a useful guide, and the boxout below). But digital provides new opportunities to meet the needs of citizens, as well as new challenges (including the shift and drift of digital models and platforms, and ensuring inclusion and representivity in a digital setting). Being responsive is going to be an essential attribute for governments and their partners.
As a starting point, how responsive are our institutions? This new barometer from the Dutch government is a very useful reference and addition to a growing evidence-base. In particular, it highlights the importance of assessing our internal capacity - and engagement - with innovation. It's not just about being data-driven. We also need to embed experimentation – and perhaps broader policy entrepreneurship - in our governments. For SIDS governments (and others), gaining senior political and official buy-in is important in driving this institutional change. This includes learning from what works, and recognising that sometimes it’s not about scale – but about context (or ‘mediating scale’). Learning from failure is also important and obsolescence can bring its own insights. Digital innovations that 'fail' often create the foundations for other innovations, policies, or approaches. (For example, could we learn about the 'new' platform economy from previous digital innovations? Readers of a certain era may remember the GeoCities platform..!).
Responsiveness is something that SIDS countries have demonstrated during the pandemic, including through offline innovations such as tactical urbanism. Reaffirming the digital agility of SIDS, both the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean development banks were among the first countries to launch digital currencies - with Jamaica following very closely behind.  SIDS are also leading efforts to explore and implement other technologies. In the Dominican Republic, UNDP is supporting an eHospital app to offer medical care for rural people through remote consultations with doctors – whilst in Tuvalu, LiDAR technology is being used to monitor sea-level changes.

For governments, digital and data are going to continue to be key assets (including the SIDS Data Platform, as a resource for decision-makers and innovators). We're also seeing a growing number of Global South datasets that are being developed as Digital Public Goods, which SIDS can leverage to accelerate their digital development - including using this open data to drive decision-making and policymaking. The Eastern and Southern Caribbean, plagued by high levels of violent crime, is one example of insights-driven policymaking. The region is transforming its approach to addressing the root causes of violence, especially among youth, through the CariSECURE initiative. This aims to strengthen evidence-based decision making, by providing Caribbean public institutions - and their partners - with quantitative and qualitative data, and accompanying tools for analysis.

Digital products, and services, can provide SIDS with unprecedented insights (a topic discussed further below in the context of partnerships). This includes the role of tools such as digital analytics (more on its role in SIDS in a future issue) – including how we can leverage digital channels to build feedback loops to inform policy and service design. But, fundamentally, it’s about people – and trust. This includes building transparency into how we use digital and data, and closing the ’trust gap’. Part of this also comes from demonstrating the role and importance of digital in positively improving lives and livelihoods. In Timor-Leste UNDP supported the National Tabulation Centre with computers and a new national platform to provide more than 10,000 citizens with fair and accurate information on elections, during the most recent national election - bringing credibility, efficiency and public safety to the process.

Measuring success in a digital context

Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) have been a key part of understanding what does and doesn't work offline - for decades. The above diagram demonstrates their importance. By dividing citizens into randomised groups, we can identify - and attribute - the impact of policies, services, or other interventions. The diagram shows the impact of a 'back to work' policy on employment. RCTs have become a 'Gold Standard' (although not the only standard), and still have a role in a digital setting. For example, SIDS governments running digital public services can use tools such as Google Analytics to run 'variant' tests. These, for instance, can measure uptake and engagement amongst citizens accessing government or other websites.

However, digital transformation is leading to new opportunities and challenges in identifying success. This growing digitalisation means that public services are becoming ‘always on’, reaching wider and more diverse groups of citizens, and generating unprecedented amounts of data. This ‘revolution in data’ provides exciting and new opportunities to improve the relevance and impact of public services – and to ensure that no one is excluded. However, using this data to drive better public services – and to understand what does and does not work – requires new tools, and new ways of thinking and working. It requires ‘digital analytics’, a topic that will be featured in an upcoming edition of the SIDS Bulletin.


3. Engaging with emerging tech

Why CAPTCHA Pictures Are So Unbearably Depressing
they force you to look at the world the way an AI does

Do you know your DLTs from your DAOs, DeFis, and NFTs - and how your country fits into the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Although building digital foundations is important, SIDS also need to be engaging in parallel with the potential – and potential challenges – of emerging technologies. A number of SIDS are already exploring emerging technologies – such as Fiji’s use of radio-frequency identification tags and QR codes to monitor its tuna supply chain, and Vanuatu’s use of drones and GIS technology for rapid assessment of post-disaster damage. This highlights that digital transformation is not a linear pathway. Indeed, as UNICEF recently noted, it may be ‘irresponsible’ to not engage with, and shape, these new tools and ideas.
An important part of engaging with emerging technologies, is being able to create the rules of the game – and not just be subject to them (particularly as research, standards, and other components of emerging tech are often shaped in just a handful of countries). This also includes how SIDS can engage with the relevance of global initiatives such as an emerging ‘Internet of Rules’ for global trade, which could simplify the international trade architecture for the benefit of smaller countries. This engagement also extends to ‘decolonising’ new and innovative technologies and ensuring that they work for the benefit of all SIDS. For example, the Marshall Islands is aiming to become a global hub for Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) incorporation - a DAO is a type of organisation with its  rules and governance encoded in a digital format. The country has also become the first sovereign nation to recognise DAOs as legal entities.

The global digital community can also benefit from the vibrancy, creativity, and dynamism of SIDS - including in shaping the norms and structures of these new digital initiatives. These newer technologies can also often reach populations that governments can't and may even have the potential to change assumptions and narratives regarding SIDS and other countries. On a smaller scale, perhaps images from our beautiful countries could even make CAPTCHA pictures less ‘depressing’.

Future editions of the SIDS Bulletin will explore other emerging technologies, but AI is one garnering significant interest and debate. From the risks of defining the ‘wrong’ AI, to the AI dangers and opportunities facing the Global South. The former highlights the complexity of agreeing definitions and regulations across countries (including SIDS). More broadly, there is a catalytic role for government in shaping AI and other emerging technologies. This is a useful overview in thinking about the key tenets of government in the context of emerging tech. Governments may need to be risk-based, should look to build on existing foundations, and also look at the whole technology ‘lifecycle’.

There’s also a need to be realistic, with many AI systems still in their infancy (recognising perhaps that AI is neither 'artificial' or 'intelligent') – and be alert to risks. For example, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), an approach to digital property rights, could provide valuable and protected income for SIDS creatives – but male artists are still the main beneficiaries. Female artists accounted for just 5% of all NFT sales in a 21-month period, and NFTs may also entrench other inequalities. SIDS can also learn from the emerging technology explorations of other countries.

4. The importance of partnerships

The digital economy is a collaborative effort, and needs to be founded on an ecosystem approach. More broadly, though, technological innovation is only one component of economic transition. Looking at the era of mass production (or the earlier industrial revolution), technology is only one factor of progress. For the former, efforts in shaping welfare states, and improvements in consumer credit and labour laws, were crucial drivers - and just as important as the technologies driving new and faster production. This framing is important for SIDS. It highlights the many facets that can drive digital transformation, including how SIDS can leverage global research to accelerate these efforts.
An important foundation for these digital collaborations is about understanding our roles and responsibilities. The private sector is a builder of much-needed digital products and services (particularly in a context of US$1 trillion in lost GDP due to digital exclusion). They also play a key catalytic role (including through assets such as Big Data). SIDS need to shape an enabling environment to support the private sector (whilst also protecting fundamental digital rights, including data privacy). Talking of catalysts, the unsung heroes of the digital economy may yet be our national statistical offices – and those shepherding data portals. This highlights the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to digital transformation that SIDS need to be pursuing.

As part of this, civil society is an essential partner in ensuring inclusion and true citizen engagement. For example, Cabo Verde has joined the citizen science micro-plastics monitoring network ‘Our Blue Hands’. Volunteers in the country collect data to monitor microplastic presence on beaches - sharing this information in order to better protect marine areas and coastal zones globally, and to support participatory decision-making in tackling this pollution. Similarly, Fiji, Palau and Samoa are using a data aggregation and analysis tool to support health workers in some of the most remote settings in the world to improve coordination of health supplies and to track outbreaks, disaster response, and improve service delivery.

Demonstrated by all of these initiatives is the fact that successful collaboration requires transparency and a commitment to shared objectives. The scale and seriousness of challenges facing the international community reaffirms the importance of this alignment. Similarly, recognising the global nature of many of these challenges, these partnerships must be outward-facing wherever possible. Many SIDS are leading these efforts. Cabo Verde, Sao Tome and Guinea-Bissau joined a Portuguese speaking group of African countries in partnership with the largest innovation hub in Rio de Janeiro. The initiative is focused on strengthening and developing a Lusophone innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Collaboration also requires flexibility, including recognising the many and varied routes to innovationThis includes the usefulness of learning from outliers, or ‘Positive Deviants’ (highlighted in the diagram above). And what are 'Positive Deviants'? In many countries, including SIDS, particular individuals, groups, or communities achieve better results than their peers (despite facing similar challenges and limitations). Digital tools can support in identifying and scaling these practices - for the benefit of others in SIDS (and beyond). However, regardless of approach, collaboration in digital (and development) also demands humility, and a focus on engagement and awareness. We need fewer ‘ego-systems’ and more ecosystems.

5. Thinking beyond digital

The value of digital is more than technological tools and solutions. (For example, drones can be an entry-point to GIS mapping, programming, image processing, and countless other skills). Fundamentally, this value is about how digital positively impacts on lives and livelihoods. Communication of digital is an important part of how we achieve these benefits (including the importance of attributing ‘agency to the human actors building and using the technology, never to the technology itself’). Less ‘Big Data’ and more ‘Thick Data’ – and learning how digital can positively shape behaviour.
As mentioned above, it’s also about identifying the most valuable role for governments. From shaping the enabling environment through tax and other levers, to embracing open source solutions, to building crucial digital and data foundations, and embedding standards. Government can also shape broader benefits from under-recognised aspects of digital. For example, how Right to Repair could drive community engagement within traditionally 'left-behind' villages and towns. This is a particularly important consideration for many SIDS, in the context of import tariffs and other challenges that pose difficulties in accessing digital components.
This broadness highlights the importance of focusing on outcomes, and not just technology or solutions. For example, aiming for ‘meaningful connectivity’ - whereby we measure the extent and quality of the digital experience, instead of 'just' focusing on getting our citizens to have basic access to the internet. For countries on the frontlines of climate change, SIDS can also lead discussions to ensure that digital technologies move beyond preserving GDP and other economic indicators as sole metrics of success. Notably, many SIDS are focusing on using digital and technology to achieve important and tangible outcomes. Mauritius is using mobile technology to tackle gender-based violence, the BlueFISH tool is connecting Barbadian fisherfolk with the global economy, and Grenada is using data to tackle crime and to support young people at risk of falling into crime.

Digital also isn't a siloed consideration. It relies on a wide-range of policies, frameworks, structures, and other assets. National ID is a particularly important foundation. In Vanuatu UNDP has supported the implementation of national digital ID cards. These are now being used not just for voting, but also for police clearances, passport applications, drivers' licenses, domestic travel, opening a bank account, and education enrolment. When a Category 5 cyclone hit the country in 2020, these national ID cards helped with delivering domestic services and identifying displaced persons for early response and recovery efforts. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of ID for delivering government subsidies and other types of support. 

This wider thinking also includes engaging with the negative externalities (to borrow one economic term) of digital: from tackling the energy usage of data centres (which contribute about 7% of Singapore’s electricity consumption) to reducing the emissions that result from training AI and machine learning models. Reaffirming the potential for a global SIDS comparative advantage - and the climate impacts of all aspects of digital development and implementation - could SIDS define a global approach for a sustainable and inclusive digital economy?

Do we need to think more like '21st Century Economists' to leverage the potential of digital - moving beyond economic indicators such as GDP as our sole metrics of success?

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SIDS Perspective

The digitalFIJI strategy aims to develop a $1bn digital economy in Fiji by 2030 - matching the size of the country's tourism industry.

In this exclusive interview, His Excellency Mr. Satyendra Prasad, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations, highlights why digital is not optional for SIDS.


In what ways can digital catalyse the last two years of the SAMOA Pathway?
We have two short years remaining of the SAMOA Pathway. We have only eight years to achieve the SDGs. We probably have less than eight years to adapt our economies and societies for an above 1.5°C future. The stakes could not be higher, and digitalisation must be at the centre stage of these efforts. Fortunately, the silver lining of the COVID pandemic has been a rapid uptake and recognition of digital as a central tool for modernising government, accelerating public service development and inclusion, and driving transformation across industry and government.
In Fiji we are realising the potential that digital brings. Our digitalFIJI strategy is strengthening our digital foundations to deliver development results across the board. Our Ministry for Health and Medical Services has worked in tandem with the University of the South Pacific to develop the My Kana mobile app to address high rates of non-communicable diseases. We are tackling illegal tuna fishing by registering catch on the blockchain, offering consumers the ability to track the ‘story’ of their store-bought tuna: when and where it was caught, by whom, and by what method.
Across the Pacific we are seeing a diversity of innovative applications of technology to solve pressing development challenges during normal times; following disasters; and in the context of climate catastrophes. In Vanuatu, drones are being used to improve delivery of vaccines to children in remote islands, overcoming logistical barriers and high costs of delivery. There is no reason why this technology cannot be extended to provide a range of services to communities living across thousands of islands across the Blue Pacific – a region that covers around 15% of the surface of the planet. In Tuvalu, LiDAR technology is helping to monitor changes in sea level and to better plan for climate adaptation. Save Tuvalu and you save the world. This is the frontline of the frontline. Digital technologies must become both enablers and drivers for adaptation.

How can we ensure that young people are drivers of digital transformation across SIDS? 
Young people are at the heart of digital transformation across the Blue Pacific. The Blue Pacific is heavily investing in education - with many countries, including Fiji, nearing 100% literacy rates. Young people are first movers in adopting technologies; in innovating. They are driving innovations because there are so many problems that are ready and waiting for technology solutions. How can a young person in a capital city transfer money to her parents living on an island where there are no banks, or post offices? How can a young person send money to relatives on distant islands following a volcanic explosion or cyclone - quickly and with confidence?
Young people are not afraid to test solutions; to adapt technologies. They are excited by emerging technologies. They are connected to the global world of ideas like never before, so they also know and see what being left behind could mean. Because of this, they are imagining and driving a different future. Do not forget the Pacific is Blue – but even more than that, it is young; youthful and brimming with innovation. Sadly, though, many of our youth in SIDS depart to study abroad and do not return home. We must ensure that they have opportunities to participate and indeed drive digital transformation. We must take measures to create innovation ecosystems that expand digital skills and incubate and support start-ups. Digitalisation offers the best prospects in a generation for reversing the brain drain. Digitalisation offers the best prospects for Fiji and the Pacific to attract international investors and companies. Fiji is already committed to developing a $1 billion dollar digital economy by 2030 – an industry that can be as large as, and compete with, its world-class tourism industry.
But we also know that not all young people are digitally-savvy. Opportunities in the future job market will be severely constrained for young people who lack basic or intermediate-level digital skills. We must ensure that digital skills training is incorporated into our schools at all levels and that all people have access to affordable devices and reliable connectivity to give all of our children a chance to thrive in this fast-changing job market. This is where digital partnerships with our development partners and the private sector must come into play.

What role can - and should - government be playing to make the Fourth Industrial Revolution useful and relevant for SIDS?
With the private sector driving much of the innovation, governments are often seen as lagging behind in the digital space. Governments must also be driving and harnessing technology wherever they can. From shaping a transition to green shipping, to building national ID systems, to delivering bundles of services, and deepening financial inclusion - especially for women. SIDS governments cannot sit on the sidelines.
We need to be part of shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For example, blockchain technology is shifting traditional and institutional power dynamics. As SIDS we can be at the forefront of this shift, taking advantage of our small size to be a testbed and incubator – and leading the rollout of new and emerging technologies. Governments can provide fiscal and other opportunities to attract global finance and tech companies, often more easily than larger countries. Governments can incentivise innovation; and should be collaborating with the private sector to develop pro-innovation and pro-citizen regulatory frameworks.
With this last point in mind, governments also have a responsibility to ensure the benefits of the digital transformation significantly outweigh the risks. Governments must protect citizens, provide sufficient safeguards and enforcement against cybercrimes, and protect intellectual property rights and data. These require new capacities and capabilities within and beyond government. But, they will all also create new jobs and opportunities as well. Governments – and, indeed, civil society - have an important role to play in supporting citizens from an early age with building digital skills, providing affordable access to devices and connectivity, and building a digitally-aware and digitally-savvy citizenry. I hope that the UNDP will be able to work with Pacific governments on this journey.

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Resources and further reading

Although focusing on health, this new report on the Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health from the World Health Organization is a useful guide for other public and private sector applications of artificial intelligence. It walks through a number of key policy and ethical priorities and considerations for governments and other actors. The governance section of the report is particularly useful - setting out an emerging framework, and roles and responsibilities, to guide the public and private sectors (and others exploring AI) in their explorations. Similarly, the suggested 'research agenda' for ethical uses of AI also has much broader relevance for AI applications within and beyond government. The opening quote from the late-scientist Stephen Hawking is also an important reminder to those working on digital in development: 'Our future is a race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we use it.' Read it here.

Local and national governments around the world are all exploring the potential of digital and data to improve public service delivery. However, this journey can be complex. The Data and Public Services Toolkit from the Open Data Institute provides a number of resources to support governments in opening-up data and driving broader digital transformation. Download it here.

The comprehensive 2021 Technology and Innovation report from UNCTAD explores the opportunities and challenges of frontier technologies in considerable depth - including nanotech, 5G, and AI. The report also includes deep dives into challenges around automation, inequality and discrimination, and intellectual property. However, it also features detailed discussion regarding the opportunities that these technologies can present for developing countries. As part of this, it includes expansive guides to support policymakers on mitigating the above challenges - and leveraging frontier tech opportunities. Read it here.

The One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100) is an ambitious endeavour, with progress reports on AI due to be published every five years—for the next century. 2021 saw the second issue in the series: a deeper examination of the increasingly personal and emotional ways in which AI is being incorporated into our lives. This report features a diverse set of expert perspectives from across fields and geographies, and hence sometimes diverging perspectives on AI; but along with them come crucial discussions on how such issues can be reconciled. An important read for SIDS engaging in this area. Read it here.

As discussed earlier in this bulletin, digital ID is a key foundation for national digital transformation - and for an inclusive and sustainable digital economy. Recognising this, the Government of Singapore and the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development hosted a masterclass to guide governments on the journey of shaping and scaling digital ID solutions. Watch the presentation above to learn why and how Singapore made a strategic decision to leapfrog digital ID cards - and move to a full-fledged digital ID system. Watch here.


The UNDP Digital Readiness Assessment aims to identify and prioritise digital interventions as part of a country’s digital transformation journey. It provides a rapid diagnostic of a country’s digital progress, in order to drive further digital transformation efforts and to provide high-level insights into a country’s digital strengths and weaknesses.

The Digital Readiness Assessment has been designed to align with – and augment – existing tools and processes used by governments. The UNDP Global SIDS team are leading Digital Readiness Assessments in SIDS countries across all regions. Interested in learning more about the process? Get in touch to discuss running an assessment in your country.


SIDS Data Visualisation Platform

As a new component of the SIDS Offer, the UNDP Data Visualisation Platform for Small Island Developing States accelerates development in SIDS by providing policymakers, research institutions, and country offices with access to updated, standardised, and comprehensive data. The visualisation and analytics features of this platform will help SIDS to respond to the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda by rising up to the urgent challenges of climate change and their Green and Blue transitions. The tool has been designed specifically to feature datasets about Digital Transformation, Blue Economy, and Climate Action. There are three main types of data within the SIDS data platform, including data on the UNDP portfolio of projects and investment in SIDS, country-level development indicators, and geospatial data.

The next phase of development will focus primarily on adding layers of intelligence to the platform to improve automation of analytics, to provide development actors with the ability to explore correlation between datasets, to identify high-risk areas within countries, and to visualise regional development potential across the SDGs. Additional datasets and functionality are being added regularly - making the platform more powerful, more precise, more intelligent, and more useful for development agencies, country governments, the private sector, and for research labs and universities in SIDS - and beyond. The platform will have a public release in Q2 of 2022.

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