An Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on “Governance, Digitization and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda” will take place in Guimarães, Portugal on 7-8 December 2015, organized by UNU-EGOV. The EGM will gather a small group of leading researchers and policymakers to discuss how selected targets under Sustainable Development Goal 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” could be conceptualized and measured to utilize the potential (and address the adverse impact) of digitization on governance for Sustainable Development. The EGM will also consider how “Administrative Burden Reduction” and “Context-Specific Public Service Delivery” – two strategies to achieve SDG16.6 “Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” could be supported by digital technology. Attending the EGM is by invitation only, but the outcome will be disseminated to the public.
Following years of mounting evidence that governance is critical to development and notable absence of political agreement to include governance in the Millennium Development Goals framework, the recently approved 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda devotes one of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) entirely to this issue. SDG 16 covers a very wide space of issues from violence, corruption, rule of law and access to justice, to inclusive and participatory decision-making, access to information, and effective, transparent and accountable institutions. The goal impacts virtually all other goals but with the largest number of 12 targets and related conceptual, methodological and political challenges, how exactly the goal will be measured is likely to be hotly contested.
Among the issues is how governance is responding to the global digitization trend in terms of regulating the digital space, and transforming traditional governance institutions and government-citizen relationships through digital technology. This is a critical issue given the scale and direction of the trend: an increasing share of cultural, political, economic and other activities taking place in the digital space risk amplifying existing problems of division, inequity, exclusion, insecurity, imbalance of power, and others, and undermining progress not only on SDG16 but other SDGs. While it is clear that policymakers and governments cannot leave the digital space unattended, a question is how exactly should the core functions of government – providing public services and infrastructure, formulating and implementing public policies, maintaining social order and security, operating social programs, and promoting economic growth – be performed in both physical and digital worlds, and how to address the adverse effects of the global digitization trend on governance.
Examples of how digitization can support governance for Sustainable Development include the use of: mobile technology to provide access to information and services to unserved or underserved populations, cloud computing to address inequalities in public service provision across different territories, social media to advance inclusion and participation in political and civil affairs, open government data to release economic and social potential of government-collected data, and interoperability solutions to connect government agencies and enable whole-of-government performance. Examples of how digitization can adversely affect governance for Sustainable Development include: different levels of access to digital technology further increasing existing disparities between high and low-income countries, different ability to benefit from access to digital content increasing social inequality, attacks against systems, penetration of online financial services and other forms of cybercrime, and surveillance of online activity, privacy breaches and loss of trust in governance institutions.
This Expert Group Meeting will gather a small group of leading researchers and policymakers to discuss how four selected targets under SDG16:
could be conceptualized and measured to utilize the potential (and address the adverse impact) of digitization on governance for Sustainable Development.
The EGM will also consider how “Administrative Burden Reduction” and “Context-Specific Public Service Delivery” – two strategies to achieve SDG16.6 “Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” could be supported by digital technology:
The outcome report “Governance, Digitization and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda” will be prepared based on the discussions at the EGM, officially released by UNU-EGOV, and disseminated throughout the UN system and beyond.
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