Digital Public Infrastructure – what is it, and why does it matter for libraries?
04 January 2024
IFLA’s latest briefing focuses on Digital Public Infrastructure, a concept which has become prominent in the last year, under the leadership of India as G20 President and the UN Development Programme. It sets out key parts of a definition, provides an update on current priorities for work in this area, and suggests how libraries can engage.
It is not news that the internet and digital tools and services in general are playing a growing role in almost all elements of our lives.
Not only are many previously analogue processes now taking place primarily or exclusively online, but new possibilities are emerging to do things that were previously unimaginable, and which can make a real contribution to development.
A crucial part of making this happen is to ensure that there is the infrastructure in place for services to be offered and activities to take place, that works in a way that allows everyone to be included and protects human rights.
This is the idea behind Digital Public Infrastructures (DPI). The idea has been championed in particular by India, whose Aadhar digital identity system, Universal Payments Interface, and systems for sharing personal data safely have seen major increases in access to public services and banking, as two examples.
Recognising this, the UN Development Programme and others have taken up the idea, looking at how all countries can benefit from this potential, and through it, deliver for people.
IFLA’s new briefing offers an overview of DPI, and the work being done at the global level to support uptake and spread good practice. It also sets out how libraries can get involved:
- Read more about DPI on the UN Development Programme website. This includes lots of links off to different aspects of UNDP’s digital work, as well as a compendium of examples and a Playbook on DPI.
- See if your country has a UNDP office (follow the link to your region from this page). Take a look at the work they are already doing, in particular around digital issues. Maybe they are already working with libraries?
- Make contact with your local UNDP office and suggest a meeting or call in order to think through how libraries can support this work. Make sure that you have a good argument to make and story to tell, potentially using the ideas above, or match your inputs to their Digital Transformation Framework.
- Think more broadly about who you could work with, such as Internet Society chapters, IEEE sections, or national Internet Governance Fora (to note, some are more active than others). You might also look at the network of UNDP Accelerator Labs (see our story of a successful engagement in Türkiye for example!)