IGF 2023 Day 0 Event #182 Digital Public Goods and the Challenges with Discoverability

Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (09:15 UTC) - Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (09:55 UTC)
WS 3 – Annex Hall 2

Digital Divides & Inclusion
Skills Building for Basic and Advanced Technologies (Meaningful Access)

Digital Divides & Inclusion

Cynthia Lo - GitHub Ricardo Torres - United Nations Development Programme and Digital Public Goods Alliance


Cynthia Lo - GitHub - Private Sector Canada Ricardo Torres - United Nations Development Programme and Digital Public Goods Alliance - Inter-Governmental Sector

Onsite Moderator

Cynthia Lo

Online Moderator

Ricardo Torres


Cynthia Lo


8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: This proposal corresponds to SDG 8, 9, 16 and17 as the aim is to provide accessible and open resources for learning and up-skilling through digital public goods, facilitate knowledge sharing and capacity building through partnerships, and contribute to the development of technological skills. By addressing these areas, DPGs play a vital role in advancing SDG 8, SDG 16, SDG 17, and SDG 9, thereby promoting inclusive and sustainable development. Digital learning platforms that enable individuals to acquire new skills and enhance their employability. This contributes to promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reducing unemployment, and fostering entrepreneurship.


Presenting and Gathering


This session will focus on the challenges of discoverability for digital public goods (DPGs) for governments and civil society to understand and implement. Challenges range from Locating DPGs by using specific keywords; Identifying contributors to DPGs, which could be either individuals or organizations; Finding DPGs through recommendations or highlighted features in recognized online platforms. The goal of this session is to provide an opportunity to explore lesser known DPGs, what skills are needed to increase DPG implementation, and what policies can help improve discoverability. Lastly, this session will allow for extensive time for attendees to express what other challenges they have encountered with discovering and implementing DPGs. This interactive session will pose questions such as: - How do we improve the discoverability of DPGs for those who need them? - How do we manage and maintain DPGs in the long term to ensure their relevance and usefulness? - How can we promote the adoption of DPGs and integrate them into local ecosystems effectively? - What mechanisms can be put in place to ensure the sustainability of DPGs? - How can we address the digital divide to ensure equitable access to DPGs for all, including those in underserved regions or marginalized populations?

Hybrid participation is important to this interactive session as every participant is important to gathering answers to digital public good accessibility and discoverability challenges. Interaction between onsite and online speakers and attendees will be facilitated using Zoom, an online chat forum and polling through Zoom. Secondly, if the facility allows for small break out groups, online and in person members will be placed into diverse groups for discussion. In order to ensure the best possible experience for online and onsite participants, there is an opportunity to create working groups for post event networking and collaboration between a mix of online and onsite participants. There is a possibility for a knowledge sharing or mentorship community to be developed from this event.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Take away 1: Attendees asked thoughtful questions on how to ensure digital public goods will not be misused by bad actors. This is a challenged would be a great next session on how to explore ways to encourage proper use of open source tools.

Take away 2: There was extensive conversation on capacity building on not just hard technical skills but also on soft policies that impact the implementation of digital public goods within a region.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

There is extensive interest to explore ways how digital public goods is used and how to prevent actors from using the tools that create harm.

Explore a way for simplified implementation process and a way for software developers to contribute.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Digital Public Goods and the Challenges with Discoverability report

Summary of session

This session focused on the challenges of discoverability for digital public goods (DPGs) for governments and civil society to understand and implement. The talk opened with an overview of the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA) which is a multi-stakeholder initiative to accelerate attainment of the sustainable development goals by facilitating the discovery, development, use of and investment in digital public goods. The DPGA “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 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” An example of a DPG is District Health Information System 2 (DHIS2), is the world's largest health management information system platform. This was followed by an overview of GitHub. GitHub is a complete software developer platform to build, scale, and deliver secure software with 100+ million software developers and used by 4+ million organizations from governments to international development organizations. Open source software like digital public goods are built on GitHub. 

One key element of this session was to provide more background on what open source in the social sector means. Open source refers to software whose source code is freely available to the public, allowing anyone to view, use, modify, and distribute it. This means that the software can be improved and customized by anyone who has the necessary skills, and that it can be used for a variety of purposes without any restrictions. Open source software is often developed collaboratively by a community, and is typically distributed under a license that ensures that it remains open and free to use. Open source in the social sector is defined as software built with relevance to Sustainable Development Goals that do no harm by design and driven by a desire to increase transparency, accountability, and participation, and to empower individuals and organizations to work together to address social and environmental challenges.

This led us to discuss policies that can help improve discoverability and tools: Public & Private sector partnerships; Collaborative Platforms; Metadata Standards; Long-Term Sustainability Plans; Feedback and Improvement Loops; Interoperability Standards. 

Finally the session concludes with five simple rules for improving discovery:

  • Rule 1: Decide what level of access you can provide for partners
  • Rule 2: Deposit your DPGs in multiple trusted repositories for access, preservation, and reuse. 
  • Rule 3: Create thoughtful and rich metadata - consider the FAIR Data Principles
  • Rule 4: Localize the tools for cross-domain integration 
  • Rule 5: Ensure accessibility and inclusion for ease of access

In conclusion, this was a great session that encouraged roundtable discussions and attendees raised questions on ensuring security of open source; issues on preventing bad actors in using the open source digital public good tools and the challenges in capacity building. As a result of this session, GitHub has launched a microsite to encourage software developers to contribute to DPGs here: https://forgoodfirstissue.dev/.