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Digital Public Goods


Following the economic concept of Global Public Goods, these originally combine three basic characteristics: non-rivalrous, non-excludable and available world-wide.

Digitalisation underlines these features in its promise of accessibility – where necessary infrastructure is provided. The UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation defines digital public goods as: “open source software, open data, open AI models, open standards and open content that adhere to privacy and other applicable laws and best practices, do no harm, and help attain the SDGs.”

Digital Public Goods play an essential role in unlocking the full potential of digital technologies and data to attain the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular for low- and middle-income countries.

In times of big data aggregations in a globalised world, it is useful to stay connected and learn from each other. For example, during the 2014–2015 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, insights drawn from aggregated data, which were made public and shareable, played a crucial role in containing the virus. Digital public goods supported identifying new disease outbreaks, counter xenophobia and disinformation and measure impacts on vulnerable populations.

Six years later, digital solutions are also being deployed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and already existing platforms have been adapted.
For other health crises in future, an open-source digital data package can be envisaged to accelerate case detection and open educational resources during school closures.


Access to digital solutions is often limited through data security, copyright regimes and proprietary systems. Most existing digital public goods are not easily accessible because they are often unevenly distributed in terms of the language, content and infrastructure required to access them.

Best Practices

The following initiatives support the development of common standards on open data that can guide the private and public sectors on how to provide open access to data sets, ensuring that more data become available as digital public goods, while respecting privacy and confidentiality. Central to the implementation of digital public goods are robust human rights and governance frameworks to enhance trust in technology and data use, while ensuring inclusion.

To ensure the public sector keeps up and makes the most of technology, the World Bank Group launched in 2019 the GovTech Global Initiative. It aims to promote the use of technology to transform the public sector, improve service delivery to citizens and businesses, and increase efficiency, transparency and accountability. GovTech is a pillar of the Digital Economy Framework, providing necessary technology to foster economic growth, reduce poverty, and boost shared prosperity.

The Digital Public Goods Alliance  is a multi-stakeholder initiative with a mission to accelerate the attainment of the sustainable development goals in low- and middle-income countries by facilitating the discovery, development, use of, and investment in digital public goods.