IGF 2021 - Day 1 - OF #24 The GovStack Initiative - digital government cooperation

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> We all live in a digital world.  We all need it to be open and safe.  We all want to trust --

>> And to be trusted.

>> We all despise control.

>> And desire freedom.

>> We are all united.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Dear speakers, partners, and honored guests, it's my pleasure to welcome you to the IGF Open Forum # 24 on GovStack Initiative and global digital government cooperation.  My name is Nanjira Sambuli, a Tech Policy and Governance Analyst and Board Member of the Digital Impact Alliance.  We're proud to hold this event with such inspiring speakers that share perspectives on global digital government cooperation and digitalization of government services.  It is our understanding that there is a strong need for digital government services and digital public infrastructure to leverage the full potential of the digital transformation and to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

To achieve this goal, strong global cooperation and partnerships are crucial.  Only through sharing knowledge and joint investments that are guided by human rights standards, and based on the citizen needs, can we foster a digital and green digital transformation that serves the people around the globe.

The GovStack Initiative founded by BMZ, the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Government of Estonia, the International Telecommunication Union, Smart Africa, and the Digital Impact Alliance, as well as the Digital Public Good Alliance as an innovative example of digital cooperation taking the next step to provide access to digital building blocks and digital public goods to a global community.

Before I hand over to our speakers and our panelists who I will introduce in turn, I just want to say once more on behalf of the panel organizers, welcome.  And it's wonderful to see so many of you virtually because I cannot quite see -- oh, well there is one person in the room in Katowice. 

And so without much further ado, we'll get started, and I don't know.  I'm just going to check real quick if we have Ms. Metz with us?  If not, I will warmly welcome Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the International Telecommunications Union or ITU and Secretariat of ITU-D.  Doreen, I pose the question to you.  Global partnerships and cooperation are critical if we're to achieve the investments in infrastructure, applications, and capacity necessary for digital public infrastructure to reach their potential.  So, in your view, what are the keys to successful global partnerships in the context of digital transformation; and how can different stakeholders align the needs into shared priorities to accelerate progress towards DPIs or Digital Public Infrastructure.  The floor is yours, Doreen.

  >> DOREEN BOGDAN-MARTIN:  Thank you so much, Nanjira.  I guess you can hear me okay.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Very well.

   >> DOREEN BOGDAN-MARTIN:  Super.  Good morning.  I think it's still morning for some.  Good afternoon and good evening, everyone.  This morning in the Opening ceremony the Polish President stated we all live in a digital world and the digital transformation is a must.  He challenged us to be bold and GovStack is bold.  It's innovative, and I think it can also be a major game changer in the way that we approach digital transformation.  I'm pleased to have the opportunity to share our work on this partnership with the broader IGF Community.

GovStack and its collaboration is all about accelerating the design and the delivery of government digital services using what we call a whole-of-government approach that will ultimately benefit the whole of community.  This is an approach that follows the principles that we set out in the ITU DIAL STG Digital Investment Framework published back in 2019.  The GovStack concept emerged from observations that despite significant efforts and investment in digital technologies and applications to drive global development, the results just weren't materializing.  Instead, progress was actually being hampered by a lack of coordination and particularly by fragmented siloed approaches, which effectively reinvented the wheel over and other again, which is something that many of us, of course, in the development community see far too often.

So, to make real and rapid progress, we really need a much more collaborative paradigm, and that's where this partnership piece comes in.  Successful global partnerships are founded on a shared strategy, a shared vision, and a common understanding of digital development priorities and of the barriers that we need to overcome, to make digital transformation a reality.

Just last week, and I think you followed this, Nanjira, ITU released new figures that showed that the 2.9 billion people have never ever used the Internet, and of course helping these people get connected is going to require very different strategies, very different models, and it's not going to be business as usual that's going to connect this last 3 billion.

So, to bridge gaping divide, we need to work cooperatively to co-design digital initiatives hand-in-hand with countries and of course with local communities, and that local piece is a key, key component.  The emphasis on collaboration cannot be overstated.  No one can do this on their own, and that's why ITU took the initiative to launch our Partner 2 Connect digital coalition on the side line of this year's UN General Assembly we launched our first piece of connecting people everywhere at the IGF, and this year's global partnership platform is about making commitments, it's about ambitious connectivity commitments to get the job done.

So, the GovStack partnership, which is directly linked to that, I think is an excellent example of an innovative approach that we're trying to achieve through our Partner 2 Connect.  GovStack is a learning ecosystem for digital teams so that they can see how technical specifications were developed.  That's a key integral piece of GovStack, how they're continuously updated, and how to meet country needs, and wore also creating a sandbox environment for digital teams to test specifications, building blocks, and we have a mentoring piece that comes in with technical experts for each building block, and our priority is that we provide our Member States can something that is concrete, something that's implementable, and of course something that is sustainable to accelerate digital service design and delivery.

And just quickly on the last point in terms of stakeholders and how they can align their needs, because that alignment is absolutely critical, I think this scale and the scope of digital transformation is going to require, as I mentioned before, a strategic approach that can help us to maximize opportunities and, of course, to reduce risks.

So, we are looking at this in terms of economies of scale and of scope and for governments effective digital service design and delivery needs first and foremost making digital transformation a national policy priority.  We need that political commitment, we need that government-wide commitment, and that will serve to be an overarching collaborative framework for partnership around digital service delivery and design.  That means an integrated digital agenda, it means a designated authority that's responsible for coordinating and overseeing the implementation and it also means having a multi-disciplinary team to put all of these pieces into action.

We need to be simple and straightforward.  We need as I said, to focus on the needs of people so that we get that rapid user uptick, and of course we need to be, we need to be collaborative.  So, by joining resources and working within this collaborative framework, we can achieve, in fact, that scale.

With that, I do want to take this opportunity to thank our GovStack partners, GIZ, BMZ, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, DIAL, all of our partners for their commitment and hard work to make GovStack a platform for digital collaboration that can be used by any government across any sector.  Thanks so.  Nanjira, back to you.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you, Doreen.  Thank you for highlighting some really interesting principles that hopefully we can bring to the discussion of how to have the political will over and above the guardrails or rules of the road, and how we organize our governments to work differently, given that digitalization is now suddenly, I guess during the pandemic, shown us that it's not just a thing that happens on the side or ICT, but it's permeating across the board.

Before we get to that, I want to introduce Laura-Teresa Kreuger, Senior Policy Officer of Division of Governance Rule of Law and Democracy of Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany.  Laura-Teresa, the pandemic exposed the role that digital technologies can do in digital challenges and rebuilt a lot of government challenges on this potential, so in your view, why is now such an important moment for digital government and what needs to change to fully leverage the potential of digital transformation?  And also, what is the role of GovStack in establishing global digital cooperation be and how can the initiative support digital transformation of government services?

   >> LAURA-TERESA KREUGER:  First of all, it's great pleasure to present the GovStack Initiative and work of practice within the digital practice at this year's IGF.  The German Government is delighted to be part of this digital global partnership and support the important work, the important effort of work towards a sustainable and green digital transformation of government services by developing digital public goods.  Global challenges, as you've mentioned, Nanjira, the COVID-19 response shows makers collaborate even more on digitalization in order to build forward better, and we've seen that the public sector's response to the pandemic has fueled exceptionally rapid change in administrations.  So still, but still governments have struggled with the upsurge in the demand of digital services over the past month, I think we've seen worldwide.  Lessons learned during the pandemic are that we need to further scale digital instruction.

We stand at a moment of great opportunities, but as always in these moments of change, we also face risks that we need to mitigate, so to fully leverage the potential of sustainable digital transformation, we need to make sure that we, indeed, leave no one behind.  Digital infrastructure needs to be accessible for all and worldwide.  Firstly, that means setting standards for human-centered digital services is vital and this is what the GovStack is doing and BMZ is proud to be part of the initiative.

Secondly, we need to truly work together and leverage the GovStack partnership to overcome silos, and at times investments are not coordinated and remain fragmented and therefore they are neither scalable nor sustainable, and this results in a loss in time and resources for our partner countries.

That is why we need to provide access to digital public goods for the global community.  One way is the development of a learning platform to show how digital public goods can be used and contribute to transparent and efficient government processes worldwide.  This is where the GovStack collaboration with and among others, Estonia, ITU, DIAL, and Smart Africa, and our approach known as Digital Building Blocks will truly power digital transformation.  It aims to give governments the chance to build and deploy their digital services, platforms, and applications in an accelerated and integrated manner.  Our vision is that in five years, all governments and particularly those in low-resource settings, can take ownership of their digital futures.

Through the use of ICT building blocks, governments can provide more effective and cost-efficient digital government services.  We are excited by the progress made within our initiative in the course of 2021 to reach this goal.  The GovStack Initiative has set up 11 technical working groups working on specifying ICT building blocks, such as payment or digital ID, and furthermore a global community has been established with more than 60 experts onboarded from Civil Society, the Open-Source community, academia, and the private sector.

Global digital cooperation is key to support a holistic approach to digital government service delivery and ensure the implementation of digital public goods, and that's why we're very proud that GovStack joined forces with the Digital Public Goods Alliance and having established the GovStack community of practice, jointly with the Digital Public Goods Alliance, GovStack supports the alignment of ecosystem stakeholders and harmonization of activities around implementation of digital public goods.  Another promising potential for the initiative is an evolving partnership with Smart Africa but also partner countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, and Ukraine.

So, to summarize, we appreciate the existing partnerships and the great spirit that has been turning ideas into action, and we welcome the cooperation between those who agree that digital transformation needs to evolve around people, and we look forward to jointly put forward digital public goods for all and everywhere.  Thanks.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much, Laura-Teresa for laying out what GovStack is offering at this point.  I now turn the floor to Ms. Nele Leosk for Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Estonia.  So Nele, as global leader in digitalization of services, what made the Estonia approach so successful and what advice would you give to other countries?  And related to that is what role do you envision for Europe, and how can Team Europe approach be such a thing and European values which we hear a lot about in policymaking, strengthen the digital cooperation or digital governments as we envision?  Thank you.

   >> NELE LEOSK:  Thank you for your kind introduction and I'm really humbled to hear from Estonia's experience and has got so much attention around our neighbors but also invite, and we'll try our best to keep up with this digital technology because it is clearly becoming more difficult, not only because so many other countries are doing great things and have been also doing great things over the past 20 or 25 years but also it's actually increasingly difficult for a small country but not obviously small countries like Estonia to keep up with these technological developments, and I would actually like to start with saying how much actually Estonia needs GovStack to continue its own digitalization because a lot of innovations all over the world are not unique, and they're not only put in practice in very unique circumstances.  By actually innovations that could carry from one country to another and Estonia has been open for digital innovation to be sort of test to pilot different innovations but not necessarily be born only in Estonia but also in other countries.  We have our government stack that we make public to the others, but we're also using other country's experiences.  So, this is all actually a learning platform for us, but now to come back perhaps to Estonia I would say transformation story because digital technologies have not only made us the most digital or one of the most digital countries, but they have actually transformed the way Estonia used to operate.  It was not so long ago when we were not known as modern, effective, open and secure but rather something different, but when we look now back to this development, and why I am really glad and why Estonia government is supporting GovStack Initiative and is very happy to collaborate with our founding partners from Germany, ITU, and DIAL and hopefully also expand this network of first collaborate, it's actually the core principles of GovStack and these have really helped Estonia throughout this process, and one of them is actually sharing and reuse.  And it was a very early realization by Estonia Government that actually the needs for digitalization across the government sectors but also private sector are not so unique because all agencies need to collect data, maintain data, share data.  All agencies need to sign documents digitally, and they have to sign let's say administrative processes digitally, and -- (audio breaking up) -- has changed realization and many of these platforms -- (audio breaking up).

They have been used for everybody to use, but not only for money, because actually this was also the way to enable security across government and private sectors because it's also done equally well or digitalized or have the same capacity, but it has been the government to make sure that all of it is secured the same way and they all comply with the safety interoperability and all of these systems have been opened and there are several issues -- several problems and iterations that we often try to avoid.  All of these issues that we are currently facing.

So, our government has made the decision that all the digital developments need to be open, and of course this has several reasons and that we have been supporting and it's going to be more widespread throughout the countries.  Coming now to the second part of the questions and concerns team approach, of course it has already been mentioned here several times and none of us can do these things alone.  The more aligned we are on this matter, the more we have understanding of how much to make synergies between very different initiatives.  Because I have been now in the government for a bit more than a year and it has been quite a difficult task to map all of these different cooperations and mechanisms and networks that our governments and private sectors are involved in.  It may concern cybersecurity, digital development, many other mechanisms and then how to now streamline these.  It's a huge task and I see the partnerships that GovStack has established with the Digital Public Goods Alliance and perhaps in the future some other UN digital cooperation mechanisms but also hard in Europe and these are all small, small steps toward more coherent and digital developments that we are wishing for.  Here within my intervention, I'm looking forward to very much our discussion and but of course also our work at GovStack.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much.  So many things we can possibly come back to including the ways that Estonia thinks they need GovStack and you pointed out a really important point around the multiplicity of initiatives.  We can imagine if governments are finding it difficult to keep up with initiatives, how it is for other stakeholders and how do you make sure we can streamline these, and hopefully we can get to that conversation.

Now I want to welcome Ms. Lucy Harris a co-founder of the Digital Public Goods Alliance and Lucy, how are the joint forces of the GovStack Initiative and DPGA, the Digital Public Goods Alliance, especially in the GovStack community of practice, advancing digital cooperation and contributing to the DPG ecosystem?  And maybe as part of your reflection, you can also let us know what are some of the added value propositions that a community-based approach brings and how that helps accelerate the whole of government digital transformation approach that other speakers have spoken to?  Lucy, the floor is yours.

   >> LUCY HARRIS:  It's wonderful to be part of the GovStack work and to be here today.  I coordinate the Digital Public Goods Alliance which is an initiative are with goal of attaining sustainable development good through assignment of digital public goods.  Together we also convened the community of practice that brings together experts from a variety of organizations to support and advance digital public goods with relevance to a whole-of-government digital transformation approach, also known as the GovStack.

Before I get into the role of DPGs in the GovStack, let me take a moment to define digital public goods.  This original definition came from the UN Secretary-General in the roadmap for Digital Cooperation he said digital public goods are Open-Source software, open content, open standards, open AI models that advance the Sustainable Development Goals, adhere to applicable laws, follow best practices and standards, and do no harm.  That's quite a mouthful, but at the core of digital public goods there are three main components.  The first is that they're digital, which means they're harnessing the power of the Internet to deliver solutions that anyone can access globally.  The second is they're Open Source, which means they're licensed in such a way as to be a shared resource that anyone can see, use, and modify to meet their needs, the last lastly is they were designed to advance the Sustainable Development Goals and do no harm, which means they were built thoughtfully to build common problems and mitigate common harms.

So, this concept of digital public goods is important because there is growing recognition that although technology itself doesn't solve societal problems, we can solve them using technology, and the way the technology is designed and developed matters.  I was in another IGF panel yesterday as part of the Internet Commons Forum where one of my co-panelists said Open Source is not enough.  I think that's correct.  When we talk about digital public goods, we're talking about more than Open Source.  We're talking about digital solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals that are open not just in license but in their documentation, in their commitment to interoperability, and that are designed and developed to avoid and mitigate harm.

Coming back to the GovStack community of practice, with this group of experts, we're looking to build on the work of the GovStack Initiative, which Laura-Teresa explained so well earlier, and thinking about a set of technologies that can work together and interoperate as a set of building blocks to enable digital government services at a national level.

And from a digital public goods perspective, huge benefits are unlocked when underlying infrastructural solutions that have such incredible potential to power society are also digital public goods.  Digital public goods can be freely modified to implement the needs of the implementer, giving the governments control over the tools that are shaping their digital lives and avoiding duplication and redundancy.  Moreover, when someone's access to government services is enabled by digital public goods, they can more easily build on top of the platforms to meet their local needs, and then those local innovations can be shared and built on in turn, stimulating innovation and empowering people to problem solve and create for themselves.

The aim of the GovStack community of practice is to explore this intersection between the GovStack and digital public goods through four objectives.  Together we work to understand and extend existing work that facilitates the discovery, development, use of, and investment in digital public goods for the GovStack.  We also identify digital public goods that are likely to also serve as those building blocks, as well as digital public goods that are already functioning in that capacity.

Lastly, we try to accelerate discovery of these solutions by exploring concepts like digital marketplace.  We hope that this community approach to combine GovStack and digital public goods will help ensure that the next wave of digitalization which we're all working to bring about creates opportunities for millions of people around the world not just to be consumers of technology, to become builders, maintainers, and creators of their own digital environment.  Thank you so much 6789.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you.  And, again, so much with that we could possibly come back to and personally, I'm very interested in hearing some ideas about how this approach would enable people, and especially those who are yet to be connected, and Doreen started us off with a huge statistic there, 2.9 billion, and how we cannot only connect them, but connect them in a manner that makes them what I call consumers, they're consumers but also producers or creators, so that will be very interesting to come to. 

But before we get to that, let me also have, give the floor to Dr. Thomas Zielke, the Head of Division, National and International Standardization Policy at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany.  And I think in short is BMWI who is also joining us today.  So, Dr. Thomas, first of all, what is the role BMWI, as I'll shorten it in establishing global digital cooperation and how can the initiatives support digital transformation of government services?  And also in your view, why are global efforts and partnerships required to address challenges in the digital transformation of markets and governments?  The floor is yours 6789.

   >> THOMAS ZIELKE:  Thank you, Nanjira.  Thank you to everyone.  Good day.  Yes, the Ministry is not to be mixed up with the car maker because the names are very similar.  We're responsible for the economic aspects of the Internet and as such, of course, are dealing a lot with the businesses and, of course, with consumers as well 6789.

So, I think I'm kind of preaching to the choir here when I highlight that digitalization is changing our world immensely and we're experiencing a digital transformation of the whole society that provides us with many opportunities and changes.  The Internet can be used widely to decentralization, openness, fairness, one of our topics, nondiscrimination, among many other things.

At the same time, we're also more than ever reliant on digital solutions, and to foster economic growth and prosperity, to combat climate change and reach our Sustainable Development Goals, we also look to digitalization as an instrument and as a toolbox.

And while many countries or even ministries are still working in silos, digital transformation is cross-border and cross-sector cooperation which is needed to provide the benefits that it surely can.  This is why I'm very happy to be here today and to exchange with you on this important initiative for the acceleration of digital transformation in government and economy.

The Ministry, as I pointed out, in this regard is working closely with international partners, and in particular with Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan, Mexico, and Singapore, in the framework of bilateral digital dialogues, and these digital dialogues address a wide range of matters related to Internet governance economy, and digital innovation.  In short, the framework of composition society and business environment.  We also maintain dialogues on standardization topics with some of the countries mentioned before plus with China Euro-Asian Economic Union and United States in the framework of the U.S. German Standards Panel, and all of these activities are combined under the network headline quality infrastructure global, and these among others are how internationalization contribute to smoother and inclusive technical progress, avoiding unnecessary frictions from different standard setting, certification schemes, and equity systems on the national level.

We have learned that this is important for industry 4.0, 4.0 and startups as well and of course for consumers worldwide.  I'm again personally very glad that this exchange has led to for example India being very much engaged in the GovStack Initiative now too.  Mr. Abhishek Singh was here today on behalf of the Indian Government and will address us in a moment.  Internet access and reliable public digital infrastructure are the basis on which we can build digital services, I guess.  We believe strongly that aligned international standards and frameworks are needed to create reliable connectivity and to help countries on the digital journeys.  The ITU plays a crucial part in this international effort.  ITU-D initiatives like GovStack and as well as through the standardization and regulation work, that is being done in the ITU-T and ITU-R sectors, and so direct contributions to the digital transformation of the global society and economy are achieved every day.

Germany fully supports all of these initiatives.  Some of you may know already that I myself have the honor to run for the post of ITU-T director next year and my aim is to build bridges within the ITU and beyond and focus on important initiatives.  Some of them have been mentioned but there is even more potential, for example in shaping conditions for Smart Cities or enhancing standardization and standardizing remote and advanced Internet-based medical solutions worldwide 6789 GovStack is a perfect example for such a fruitful initiative, and I appreciate the work and effort.  The initiative jointly with other global partners such as the digital impact work alliance and frontrunners such as Estonia, India, and Singapore in this context.

So, this cooperation provides not only good evidence for the effectiveness of digital innovation, but it is also a proof of meaningful collaboration with our partners worldwide.  The concept of the ICT building blocks of which it is based promotes secure, reusable, and open standard software, and this appears to be the right path to a free and open and interoperable Internet.  We are to travel down this road accompanied by those institutions that form the digital ecosystem for sustainable digitalization.  Germany will to know to strengthen the ITU development sector to drive the digital transformation and to promote sustainable economic growth.  Thank you very much for listening 6789 is.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much.  Thank you for mentioning cross-border and cross-sectoral approaches to standardization.  I think of whatever current industrial age we're in and if we can manage to go into the next age, our similar charting portals, for example, I travel in five of them or something, and that would be a good start and share that kind of cooperation that I think you're speaking to.

Well now I shift gears and get to the country perspectives into how GovStack as an initiative could offer value.  And I will give the floor to Mr. Abhishek Singh mentioned earlier who is the President and CEO of the National E-governance Division in India joining us today to share the experiences of India and experiences of transformation of digital government services.  Mr. Abhishek, what would you advise first and foremost other countries on digitalization of government services and what are the lessons India learned so far, and related, what are some of the challenges that you've seen in countries adjusting this experience to their respective local contexts?  The floor is yours.

   >> ABHISHEK SINGH:  Thank you.  I compliment the ITU and this entire team for taking the initiative of GovStack that can go a long way in achieving objectives and achieve the SDG goals.  When we look at the governance and when we look at user technology for improving governance under the view of public services or ensuring that citizens get what is due to them, the first and foremost thing we have experienced in India is to keep the citizen in focus of whatever we do.  Like whatever is designed, think of it from the point of view of the citizen and in every initiative, just structure it around the citizen rather than around technology.  And when we do that, perspectives change and very often this whole-of-government approach comes actually from there because the citizen does not look at the Government of silos.  The government is divided into various departments, various agriculture, health care, for the convenience of the way we implement projects.  When it comes to the citizen, they look at the government as a common whole.  So, whether we're given, the initial experience was to implement the department-wide, sector-wide projects but later on we realize that there is a need to interlink these initiatives and ensure that the citizens are able to access all of the services to accommodate them.  So that has been one of the things which leads to platforms of services and what we do is that, to achieve this India, of course, has its complex challenges because of sheer size and complexity, 3 billion people, languages, and plus so whatever, so whatever we do we have to customize for everyone and to ensure that everyone is covered.  So, for that we started with building the basic building blocks and one of the key initiatives across that is markedly successful and all of our initiatives is the project which we took off providing a biometric and unique identity to each and every citizen, and that ensured that everybody was able to access services and did not need any document to prove who they are, and that led to financial inclusion, they were able to open bank accounts, which led to access to credit, and financial services.

And then the other initiative that was done is to enable digital payments because digital payments was one of the focus areas and with very simple innovation, we can seamlessly transfer of funds from any institution to the UPI, unified permanent interface was implemented, and that connects all the banks seamlessly, and again it's really simple interoperable piece which brings together different players from common standards and common architecture.  And digital payments has like been adopted to an extent that last month we crossed $100 billion of digital transactions which is almost like 100% jump from what we had in normal 2020, and that also -- that was great relief to us during the pandemic because the government wanted to transfer funds, and because we knew which person has which bank account linked to which ID, it was really easy to transfer funds directly rather than the typical way of transferring funds to middlemen and through checks in which there is a lot of leakage and a lot of corruption and lack of transparency.

The other thing that we've been doing is that to improve the interface, very often citizens interact with different government systems just to get certain documents which then they submit to other systems.  Like, for example, birth certificate could get from the municipal authority or health care institution, and then the birth certificate is primarily used for getting school education admissions.  So, data which is already there, the government is exchanging another system to the citizen and the citizen ends up being the messenger of one document to the other ecosystem.  And to achieve that, what we have done is since we have that entity piece which connects to the databases, we have brought in the document which is called the digital locker which all documents accessible to not only him but even his to any other authority.  So, for example if somebody has to apply for a passport, he may not submit his data or proof or address proof.  He can utilize the digital locker to share with the passport system.  It becomes paperless system, and these three building blocks ensured that we have been able to build up a system of cashless, faceless, paperless kind of governance system and really transform the way we implement.

And when it comes to challenges, I would say the first and biggest challenge we have is language enablement, how do we ensure the various solutions are implemented in multiple languages and to ensure that people have access to that.  The second biggest challenge is inclusion, like digital inclusion.  We are a huge country and almost 700 million people on the Internet connected for online services, but again that leaves around 500 to 600 million people not connected, so how do we provide services to them, and we're very often their choice is limited to, for not having a device, not being able to afford a smart phone, or not having connectivity in the remote areas and rural areas.  And third is even if they have connectivity, and they do not have necessary skills to address that, so that begin becomes a challenge so that we've been working to provide local devices or offering voice-based services, and are where very often people without a smart phone they can also call a toll-free number to access the services in the voice mode and so that is yielding results, and the other of course is providing assistive access.  We have asks in common service centers, 400,000 services, which provide services to the citizens on the fly so people do not need to have anything and they can just go there and pay the service charge and get services, so that's one way in which digital inclusion has been handled.  And there is a lot of digital literacy in order to equip people in learning and that, they need to -- they need to adopt this, I would say they need to from our experience, we need to share something, I would just say that keeping the citizen in the focus and think of digital inclusion, and show that those who are on the side of the digital divide are covered, and design services from the point of view of the citizen rather than just through the government.  These are the few things I would like to share at this stage and maybe during the discussion we can add more points 6789 am.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much.  Thank you for bringing such profound, I would say challenges/opportunities because I think often when people hear citizen centered it sounds like an afterthought.  But you've brought multiple complexities that should be addressed at once, language, language voice assistant, voice assistant, assisted access, assisted access digital inclusion, all of them have to happen in tandem as we digitize services or make them Open Source, and often in too many conversations we make it seem like a zero-sum game.  Thank you so much for that.

We'll hear another country perspective I'm personally very excited to hear about.  I welcome Mr. Telli Koroma.  So, what is your vision of digital government services and what enabling components need to be in place for digital governance is Sierra Leone and what do they see in GovStack for digital partnership and governance.  The floor is yours, Mr. Koroma.

>> TELLI KOROMA:  Thank you very much.  I'm Telli Korma from the Permanent Mission.  So basically, responsible for technology deployments in the countries, and with regards to your question, I envision a scenario where the majority of the services provided by government is digitized and in order to help citizens access the services more efficiently.

And once the services are efficient, you obviously get them -- you get your services that you want in a more timely and of course more secure manner, and when this organization is done right and it is user-centric, that is it's is design from the user perspective, has access that places face when trying to access government services, and to get this right, a good way to start is to consider using a whole-of-government approach and make use of enterprise architectural concepts to ensure the structural and operational elements are present to support the digital interventions that will actually impact and improve lives.  So that is the vision that we have for this.

And this approach for us is a blueprint to promote the interoperability of government systems and ensure government systems that require inter-agency led business processes can do these kinds of things seamlessly.

The value that we see in GovStack is that GovStack enabled us to start small while thinking big and then we can actually expand quickly with what works, that's the value that we see in GovStack.  By leveraging the partnerships, we can actually build for sustainability.  In this case you have a team, you have a community that supports whatever solution you deployed, and then there is always someone that can ask for help.  So, the digitalization space changed really rapidly, and there are challenges for both current and emerging technologies, which obviously in our setting includes problems in coordination, scaling and financial resources, and a lot of silos and duplication of efforts.  So, bearing these lessons from experience, we're now moving toward using an architectural model, enterprise architectural model and using architecture developed model in an intersection that it covers the gaps and potential opportunities that we have identified and leveraging the GovStack would actually help us to stay in line with the process and make the process so much easier.

So that is how we are looking at it.  Basically, it's a public good and we have the public infrastructure set up and the like.  What would actually ensure there is adaptation of the technologies is they're customized for the local setting and context, and also build the local skills and the developing of communities within and this creates also creates a sense of ownership because it's not just for us to use, but also feels like we also help build it, so there will be a sense of ownership and also encourage home-grown solutions that can also be used as public goods elsewhere, so those are the kind of things that we envision.

So, to also ensure that after you deploy this, it's sustainable, there is always this thing about consultation, and so key for us is always consult, consult, consult, and you have to consult and have continuous engagement between stakeholders to ensure that you keep this sense of ownership around and ensure that the programs are sustainable.  Thank you very much.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much and thank you to the panelists for introductory statements.  I will throw out a question a.m. cabling to many of the panelists here, which is I'll frame it this way.  How has or how can governments and administrations structure or organizations be shifted to drive this citizen-centered and whole-of-government service approach, either based on experience for those who are implementing or those who are researching or bringing the technical expertise together?  Anybody who feels they're compelled to answer, I will invite you to share your reflections.

   >> DOREEN BOGDAN-MARTIN:  Can I jump in?  I just wanted to -- I think it's a great question.  I think sort of the first step for governments, of course if the political will and the government commitment is there to actually lay out a digital strategy, not a separate strategy for the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, but a single digital strategy.  It really needs to be, as we've all said, that whole-of-government approach, so I think that step is the first critical step.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  That's a really good point.  Abhishek?

   >> THOMAS ZIELKE:  Maybe I can add something here.  I think from a governmental perspective, you ought to focus on the needs of the citizens and that is one point.    Strictly on what the needs are and I very much appreciate what has been said before, that the government should not think in silos because the citizens expect them not to do this.  And the second thing is you need a coordinated effort.  All too often at least now countries have different responsibilities shared from different government agencies, and there definitely needs to be a policy that combines all the different efforts to a certain goal.  I think that's very important.  Thanks 6789.

   >> ABHISHEK SINGH:  Yeah.  I would just supplement the same point made by that, like focus on citizen remains and the technology allows us to engage with citizens and involve them in the process of governance.  For example, whenever we're framing a policy for doing something, to give the citizens perspectives by sharing the draft policy with them, get their insight in what ways and who will be impacted, and then design the system so they're really able to address the needs of the most citizens.  And that's actually what democracy is about because it's not that people vote every time on what they want, but if it's something like electronic health records, how does it -- what benefits does it bring, what are the privacy issues involved, and so in such a case, whenever such an IT project or this is taken up, it's always best to spell out the strategy clearly, make the citizens aware of it, get their input of all stakeholders, do the consultations, and then design the idea system.  Because once the requirements are spelled out, then coding and the tech part is easier, and this is because all the more relevant, especially with the coming in force of AI and AI-based solutions, when data comes, data plays a big role.  And like with the abundance of data, what kind of data can be used, how do we analyze it, how do we ensure that the larger public good is remaining the focus point?  So those issues come in, and they typically use AI, the responsible use of AI as we call it, so that becomes very, very important as we go ahead with the IoT and 5G and more and more connected services coming in.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you Abhishek.  I think you raised an important point of how to involve communities and setting standards to a certain level.  Nele, I see you unmuted so I'll hand the floor to you as well.

   >> NELE LEOSK:  Thank you so much.  I perhaps remind that the actually the whole-of-government approach or proactive services, or let's say the life of services are actually not that new to any of us, and these ideas and names have been around for the past 10 years at least if not more, but still we face issues and problems in the implementation and from Estonia experience, what I could perhaps say is what is crucial here is actually data, and it was partly mentioned because it's important to set clear principles for -- and also standards for data collection, maintenance, sharing so that there would be this trust, not only among different public organizations but also between public and private because we would need to share data, let's say, with banks in order for the social benefits to be automatically delivered to people's accounts.  And in order for this digital trust to be created, we have to really make sure that our data is accurate and reliable and safe and so forth.  So, I would say that for Estonia, it has been crucial, the issues around data governance and stewardship.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you.  Let me come to you real quick and tie this back to the Sustainable Development Goals, Lucy.  I think the governments are more attuned to and familiar with, and so in your view, how do we make the link more clear between DPGs or digital public goods and the Sustainable Development Goals or sustainable digital infrastructure for developing countries, especially?

   >> LUCY HARRIS:  Well, I mean, the Sustainable Development Goals span such a wide range of issues, and they were chosen and identified because of their kind of global applicability.  And so I think looking through them, they're the same challenges that are being faced within countries as well.  And increasingly, the Sustainable Development Goals at that kind of global level are the most critical issues within countries as well, for example, climate change.  I think there is a very kind of natural and increasing applicability of looking at those now within the country context.  And digital public goods, which are solutions that were designed kind of for good with that in mind, start often at that global level or trying to solve that common problem, and so are well-suited often to be looked at within the context of a government's digital public infrastructure.  Does that answer your question?

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much for that.  Also, to open the floor to Telli and Laura-Teresa.  Because I think from my experience for many governments, linking it to what is familiar is a very important starting point, so that really is an important way to, and I think over time GovStack will have the work of showing how the DPGs or the proposition feeds into the Sustainable Development Goals and the relation to digital.  So, Laura-Teresa, I see you unmuted.  You're welcome to join in as well.

   >> LAURA-TERESA KREUGER:  Laura-Theresa:  I add a point to what was said.  To me the SDGs and Agenda 2030 is really about leaving no one behind, and that's where I see the big advantage that the GovStack approach has.  So really if we achieve global connectivity and as I said Nanjira, there is still quite a way to go, but if we get there and if we can manage as Abhishek has said to have really human-centered designed services, then I really see a great potential of how the GovStack Initiative can contribute to achieving the SDGs and the principle of really leaving no one behind.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much for that.  Telli, do you have any additional reflections on the many thoughts that have been shared?  The classic mute button.

>> TELLI KOROMA:  Alignment with Sustainable Development Goals is always key for governments.  As mentioned before, it's a common goal globally, and governments in usually prioritizing their service delivery decision, usually always try to see where these service deliveries actually align with the Sustainable Development Goals, so while building up applications, we're also now looking at the digital principles which have certain core values which guide digital implementations, but these things always have an eye towards certain Sustainable Development Goals to ensure that those particular targets are met.  So, it's also designing software and interventions with the SDGs in mind.

   >> NANJIRA SAMBULI:  Thank you so much for that.  Thank you to all of our panelists.  We've been able to bring in so many good points within the hour, and I will not even dare to summarize them so much to say that GovStack is also envisioning to be the famed multistakeholder approach.  We heard from Abhishek that if you take a comment-centered approach that means you actually start with the community first and finish with a community rather than a bunching of us on a Zoom call deciding that there is going to be a new standard that we want to bring and sort of trying to retrofit it.  I think that's one interesting change.  It sounds very simple, but I imagine for a lot of governments it might take a whole change in how they operate, regardless of where they're situated in the globe.  The link to the Sustainable Development Goals also shows us the complexity of the cross-sectoral cross-border approach that was spoken about, which I think GovStack will be also trying to speak to.  So to all of those who have joined us, please do check out GovStack the global experiences, your experiences as well, your thoughts can also be shared in the true multistakeholder approach, and with that I want to thank all of these wonderful panelists who have taken the time to share their wonderful experiences, and for the partners, Estonia, ITU, Germany, global impact alliance and all of us that make a digital development approach, and with that I thank you ladies and gentlemen, have yourselves a lovely rest of the day.  Thank you.

   >> LUCY HARRIS:  Thank you so much.

   >> ABHISHEK SINGH:  Thank you.