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Speeches & TranscriptsSeptember 21, 2022

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass at the Future of Digital Cooperation Event: Building Resilience Through Safe, Trusted, and Inclusive Digital Public Infrastructure

It is a pleasure to be here. I would like to thank our partners – including UNDP, UNICEF, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Sierra Leone, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – for working with us to co-organize this event.

There have been severe reversals in development, and global policy trends suggest these will persist. Digital public infrastructure is a vital part of our response. Digital identification, payment, and data sharing platforms have made it possible for countries to respond more effectively, more transparently, at a greater speed and scale, and with more security and privacy.

For instance, our research shows that countries that used digital databases for social assistance programs during COVID-19 pandemic reached on average more than half of their population, while those that did not use digital reached only 16 percent.

Ukraine continues to use its digital ID application to deliver payments, services, and digital documents to citizens during the war. Pakistan is using its databases, ID, and payment systems to provide relief to households affected by the floods.

I met with the President of Somalia last Thursday. We have been supportive that mobile payments in Somalia are able to make very small transactions possible, which empowers a segment of the society that would otherwise be left out. As Bill said, it’s the best opportunity we have, and we are getting to critical mass.

For the digital transformation to be successful, we need trusted, quality and inclusive public infrastructure; accessible and affordable internet; and the development of digital skills.

The G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment provide a solid basis for cooperative efforts on this front. The principles highlight the importance of taking a holistic view of infrastructure projects throughout their lifecycle, including operations and maintenance. The design and delivery of infrastructure must consider underserved population groups such as women and the poor, who are more likely to lack identification or a mobile phone.

The World Bank Group is engaged across all these elements and our operations with significant digital components have been growing. Our portfolio stands at nearly $4.7 billion. Through country engagements, we support our clients to boost mobile phone networks and remove regulatory barriers to foster access to finance. We are helping with the adoption of e-government platforms and the modernization of social protection systems.

Our ID4D initiative is supporting more than 50 countries with technical assistance and over $2 billion in financing. This includes the Philippines, where we have provided advice to make their new digital ID more accessible and interoperable while preserving privacy. Our Digitizing Government to Person Payments initiative is working in more than 35 countries to improve cash transfer programs.

Our Global Findex database shows that 71 percent of adults in developing economies now have a formal financial account, often a bank account, compared to 42 percent a decade ago. It is critical to build on this trend. Expanding access to finance, reducing the cost of digital transactions, and channeling wage payments and social transfers through accounts will be critically important to mitigate the reversals in development from the ongoing turbulence. We will continue our work on this front and I very much look forward to continuing our cooperation with all of you. Thank you very much.


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