H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), provided prerecorded video remarks for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) "SDG Digital" event on how digital technologies can accelerate progress towards the SDGs held at the United Nations in New York on 17 September 2023.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to join you today — and to explore together how an inclusive digital transition can work for the benefit of everyone.
As the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate, I am delighted that digital public infrastructure has been selected as one of this year’s high-impact initiatives.
Over the past 14 years, we have seen the remarkable difference that digital services can make to people’s lives — through access to payments, finance, healthcare, education, and more.
Across the globe, millions of small-scale farmers and small businesses are now paid and making payments with their phones. During the COVID pandemic, countries from Togo to Singapore sent emergency digital payments directly to vulnerable households at unprecedented speed.
Yet benefits like these cannot be taken for granted. There are risks and pitfalls along the way, and ensuring we get this right is one of the great challenges, and opportunities, of our time.
So, how do we ensure that digital services are accessible to everyone? By creating digital public infrastructure that is fair, interoperable, open, and inclusive — enabling essential public and private services for the common good.
These are built on an open and interoperable architecture. It ensures that all participants in the ecosystem enjoy equal access, aligned with global best practices, enabling innovators to build multiple applications on top of the core DPI layers.
This means designing DPI that puts people first, to meet the needs of the vulnerable safely and securely. Plus, it can guard against monopolies, shifting the balance of power from the providers to consumers.
Easier said than done.
And yet, during my country visits as the Special Advocate, I have witnessed many successful examples of inclusive DPI design in action.
In Brazil this July, I saw how the safe and secure sharing of data was helping millions of people unlock their data capital, and gain access to more competitive and tailored financial services. This was based on learnings from early pioneers such as the UK.
In Morocco, this March, I saw how a digital ID ecosystem was being developed with the Modular Open-Source Identity Platform. Last October, in Dar es Salaam, I learned about the critical role to be played by Tanzania’s low-cost, low-value, interoperable instant payments system.
We have also seen the impact of the India Stack — which includes foundational digital ID, an interoperable payments interface, and account aggregators as some of its core DPI building blocks.
In only six years, this has enabled an 80% financial inclusion rate — a feat that would have taken nearly five decades without a DPI approach.
We all have a role to play in sharing these experiences, to spread the benefits even further.
The G20, the UN, and the international and regional financial institutions can help governments and central banks exchange knowledge.
The World Bank, and emerging platforms like Co-Develop, can mobilize the finance needed to scale up essential infrastructure. They can also partner with countries to review and advise on infrastructure choices to ensure that they are safe, fair, and inclusive by design.
And new global platforms, like the Digital Public Goods Alliance, can bring more voices into the conversation.
Its forthcoming global 50-in-5 campaign offers us a bold vision — for 50 countries to design, launch, and scale at least one component of their digital public infrastructure stack in five years — which I hope we can rally around.
I am also encouraged to see work starting by the UN Tech Envoy’s Office, UNDP, and Co-Develop, to improve safeguards and guardrails to mitigate and address potential risks.
As the Honorary Patron of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, I would like to offer my congratulations to the G20 GPFI and Digital Economy Working Group, as well as the G20 Indian presidency. You helped to forge a new consensus on how to shape DPI in the future.
By bringing the public and private sectors together around digital public infrastructure, I believe we can make real progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Finally, I look forward to today’s discussion. Thank you for your commitment to building a digital financial system that truly works for everyone.