Theory to practice: Exploring Human-centred approaches, and South-South & triangular cooperation applications critical in digital transformation to address governance challenges faced by the global community

On 2-5 November 2021, the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT/ESCAP), with the support of Amazon Web Services Institute, co-organized the “Capacity Building Webinar on Digital Government and Transformation: Exploring South-South and triangular cooperation innovations”. The training followed on the UNOSSC’s engagement with intergovernmental organisations on the Digitalisation during the UN Day for South-South Cooperation and the training content was based on APCICT’s module on Digital Government and Transformation.  

The 4-day capacity building workshop focused on how digital technologies can be used to improve the quality of governance and, in turn, contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The trainers outlined key principles that are considered useful for a digital government strategy and policy formulation.

More than 150 participants from 16 Member States, namely, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Maldives, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palau, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uzbekistan joined the training workshop. Participants were mostly managers and mid-level professionals from central and local governments as well as government officials responsible for the development and implementation of digital strategies, policies and initiatives.

The webinar included conceptual and practical sessions with country case studies, group work and interactive discussion among participants. For every session, a guest lecturer presented a specific example of relevance to the topic discussed. The experts were from government institutions, intergovernmental organizations and UN agencies.

Professor Amit Prakash, Associate Professor at the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Bangalore and APCICT Consultant, facilitated the webinar as the key resource person. On the first day, he provided an overview on “Digital Technology in Everyday Life and Governance” and introduced design approaches for digital government. He stressed the importance of participatory and human-centred design that involves building a deep empathy with the people for whom the design is being done, generating multiple ideas and building rapid prototypes, sharing them with the people and eventually putting the innovative new solution out in the world. 

On the second day, there was a dedicated session on “National Experiences and Lessons Learned”. Mr. Denis Nkala, UNOSSC Regional Coordinator and representative for Asia-Pacific started the session introducing South-South and triangular cooperation, their contribution to development cooperation. Representatives from Pakistan, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea shared their national strategies and experiences.

Mr. Pete Herlihy, Senior Technical Manager at Amazon Web Services, provided participants with real-world

understanding of what open source is; the range of the benefits open source solutions bring to both those who reuse them and those who create them; and the practical steps to know for reuse of your first open source solution.

Throughout the webinar, the need for an overarching long-term strategy on digital government initiatives, and the common pillars that are considered to underpin such a strategy, including digital infrastructure, digitally-enabled services, and capacity building and regulatory policies were presented and discussed.  Reacting to the presentation on open sourcing, Mr. Denis Nkala said, “Open source digital tools are living examples that demonstrate principles of South-South and triangular cooperation, encouraging sharing of knowledge and solutions among countries to foster mutual understanding and integration. Such sharing of innovations allow developing countries to leapfrog and adopt latest development solutions tailored to their needs instead of creating from scratch.” He welcomed participants to reach out to UNOSSC or other UN agencies for technical support and informed participants on different mechanisms facilitated by UNOSSC in South-South and triangular cooperation.

At the end of the workshop, Mr Ko, Director of APCICT told the participants that, “UNOSSC and APCICT will continue to offer joint capacity-building workshops by incorporating ICT elements and South-South and triangular cooperation approaches into other socio-economic and environmental topics.”