UNCDF Launches Digital Economy Strategy—Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era

  • June 17, 2019

  • Kampala, Uganda

We are proud to launch this program that seeks to develop and scale digital solutions for marginalised groups for development impact in agriculture, health and education; important sectors when looking at Uganda's economic development

H.E. Per Lingarde
Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda

Strategy Aims to Equip Millions to Use Digital Services by 2024 in pursuit of achieving the SDGs.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) today launched its digital strategy—"Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era"—envisioned to promote inclusive digital economies, specifically in least-developed countries (LDCs), in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The opportunity we have with the 'Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era' strategy is to get digital finance and innovation working for those left behind,” said Judith Karl, Executive Secretary of UNCDF. “That is why we are proud to launch our digital strategy and to do so in Uganda. Because it is one of our tools to change the financing for development architecture to ensure that sustainable development reaches the last mile, and that it does so by 2030.”

Under the strategy—“Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era”—UNCDF will look to build inclusive digital economies at the country level so that LDC populations can access a range of financial services in order to become active participants in their local economies. UNCDF will deploy the new strategy in more than 20 least developed countries, spanning East and West Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and will focus on establishing the digital infrastructure, innovation ecosystem and enabling policy framework that will result in national digital economies that are inclusive and sustainable. By applying a market development approach, the strategy is designed to create a “crowding-in” effect that will incentivize digital finance and digital innovation enablers to enter markets they may otherwise overlook, while continuously seeking and addressing market challenges.

The vision of “Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era” is to empower millions to use digital services that will leverage innovation and technology while contributing to the SDGs, and to achieve this vision by the year 2024.

The launch of the strategy took place in Kampala where UNCDF signed an agreement with the Swedish Embassy in Uganda to fund the strategy in the country, and to work in partnership with the Ugandan government. In Uganda, the goal of "Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era" is to empower 1 million Ugandans to use digital services by 2024.

"We are proud to launch this programme that seeks to develop and scale digital solutions for marginalised groups for development impact in agriculture, health and education; important sectors when looking at Uganda's economic development," said H.E. Per Lingarde, Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, at today's ceremony.

"ICT is only successful where it is accessible and affordable,"

Charles Lwanga Auk
Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance for the Government of Uganda.

"As a ministry, we pledge our support to this program. We look forward to working with UNCDF and the Swedish Embassy in Uganda."

The strategy will look to specifically support SDG 17 through partnering with private and public stakeholders, and SDG 1 through building inclusive economies that help eliminate poverty, while impacting several other SDGs. Most importantly, while barriers exist that prevent users from progressing beyond basic mobile services like calling and messaging, UNCDF’s strategy will look to leverage mobile technology to enable “last mile” access to, and usage of, impactful solutions in the sectors of finance, agriculture, health, education, and energy.

The market development approach that guides the “Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era” strategy relies on four workstreams: empowered customers, inclusive innovation, enabling policy and regulation, and an open digital payment ecosystem. Success in each of these four workstreams will create the environment where digital services can empower people in the world’s toughest geographies to lead productive and healthy lives, notably youth, women, migrants, refugees, and micro-,small-,and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

“Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era” is a strategy that builds on the success of several digital finance programmes that UNCDF deployed for over a decade in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, which led to more than 18 million people being connected to their financial ecosystems. More than financial inclusion as an end goal, UNCDF’s philosophy has traditionally involved using digital services to help underserved communities improve their skills, productivity, and marketability in the digital-economy age.

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 47 least developed countries. With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. UNCDF’s financing models work through two channels: financial inclusion that expands the opportunities for individuals, households, and small businesses to participate in the local economy, providing them with the tools they need to climb out of poverty and manage their financial lives; and by showing how localized investments—through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance—can drive public and private funding that underpins local economic expansion and sustainable development. By strengthening how finance works for poor people at the household, small enterprise, and local infrastructure levels, UNCDF contributes to SDG 1 on eradicating poverty and SDG 17 on the means of implementation. By identifying those market segments where innovative financing models can have transformational impact in helping to reach the last mile and address exclusion and inequalities of access, UNCDF contributes to a number of different SDGs.