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Global Digital Compact (GDC) Data Deep Dive concluded

8 mai, 2024
Global Digital Compact (GDC) Data Deep Dive concluded

Addis Ababa, 8 May 2024 – A consultative deep dive meeting was held in Addis Ababa to review alignment of Africa’s priorities within the Global Digital Compact. Hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in partnership with the United Nations University - Center for Policy Research (UNU CPR), the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV), and co-facilitators of the GDC, the deep dive highlighted Africa’s priorities within the ‘Objectives, Principles, and Commitments’ outlined in the Zero Draft of the GDC.

Chaired by the co-facilitators of the GDC - H.E. Anna-Karin Eneström, Ambassador of the Permanent Missions of Sweden, and H.E. Chola Milambo, Ambassador of the Permanent Missions of Zambia, the workshop brought together leading African experts on data, ICT, and internet governance, reflecting on challenges and priorities related to digital governance and data management in Africa. This includes addressing critical gaps in cross-border data governance, improving interoperability, reducing compliance costs, harmonizing policies, enhancing connectivity, developing digital skills, and promoting gender inclusivity.

H.E. Yesurun Alemayehu, State Minister at the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), delivered a keynote speech underscoring the significance of harmonizing digital transformation strategies, data governance, and cybersecurity frameworks. Highlighting the country’s National Digital Transformation 2025 Strategy, the state minister emphasized the imperative of intergovernmental collaboration facilitated through the African Union Commission and ECA to advance national work plans.

David Passrelli, the Director of the United Nations University Center for Policy Research (UNU CPR), noted the importance of ensuring interoperability across existing regional and national data policy frameworks to support commercial transactions and trusted data flows.

Inputs from experts centered on "harmonizing institutional coherence," stressing the importance of aligning digital transformation strategies, data governance, and cybersecurity frameworks, along with the intergovernmental processes necessary to facilitate this work through the African Union Commission and ECA. Experts also explored the challenges and opportunities of data governance in Africa, emphasizing the need for a coordinated and standardized approach to implementation across different countries and regions.

Souhila Amazouz, Senior Policy Officer on ICT at the African Union Commission (AUC), outlined the three priority frameworks engaged by the Commission: the Digital Transformation Strategy (DTS) for Africa, the AU Digital ID interoperability framework, and conditions supporting a Digital Single Market (DSM) in Africa. Amazouz also highlighted ongoing efforts on the continental strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI), slated for adoption next month.

In identifying Africa's priorities at the AU level, Amazouz outlined ‘...harmonized data governance, infrastructure and capacity building for narrowing skills gaps’ as important areas of consultation among the AUC and Member States. She stressed the importance of collaborative efforts between AUC and ECA in forging a unified implementation roadmap for the GDC, enhancing multilateral processes to meet SDGs 2030 and Agenda 2063 milestones.

Participants discussed African governance and actors in data-driven development, highlighting the importance of bilateral cooperation among member states for data governance and exchange. They emphasized the urgent need for governance frameworks concerning agricultural data and interregional trade, citing successful examples like Senegal and Ghana's collaboration in sharing agricultural trade data to bolster bilateral economic gains.

The GDC presents a unique opportunity to usher in a new era of digital governance, one that addresses existing cooperation gaps with a holistic, inclusive, and human rights-based approach. Key messages from the GDC Deep Dive include:

  • Capacity building for data-literate societies through technical expertise, commitments, and financial mechanisms.

  • Evaluating compliance costs of data regulations for Africa's SMEs and start-ups.

  • Promoting data as a public good, fostering shared infrastructure for private sector co-investment and innovation.

  • Considering cultural factors in formulating data governance policies.

  • Balancing data privacy and safety concerns, emphasizing their significance for development.

  • Ensuring agile and responsive multilateral processes to address evolving digital governance needs.

  • Harmonizing the GDC with the AfCFTA and AU Data Policy Framework for regional integration.

  • Utilizing evidence-based monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

It is to be recalled that ECA, in collaboration with the Government of South Africa, OSET, the UN Regional Coordinator Office in South Africa, and UNDP, organized the first regional review workshop on July 4-5, 2023, in Cape Town. Consultations have been focused on reshaping the continent's digital future, ultimately leading to the launch of the Compact at the Summit of the Future in September 2024.

While optimism and momentum for collaboration has been evident, calls for more efforts towards setting ‘implementation timelines, institutional coherence and measurement and tracking action lines’ were highlighted.  

Mactar Seck, Chief of Technology and Innovation Section at ECA, noted that ‘The objective is to harmonize the position and program of each organization ECA is working with, especially in alignment with the AUC’s Digital Transformation Agenda 2020 - 2030. ECA seeks to bring all stakeholders towards enabling one framework focused on Africa, enabling national and regional standards for African development.’ He thanked the commitment of the co-facilitators and ensured the continued engagement of ECA and UN agencies and AUC to collaborate towards the final proposal. 

Initiated by UN Secretary General’s commitment within the Common Agenda towards meaningful connectivity, in the digital realm, the GDC presents an opportunity to revaluate existing approaches to digital governance, bridging gaps in digital cooperation while aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa's Agenda 2063. Regional inputs are expected to culminate towards the launch of the Compact at the Summit of the Future in September 2024.

Mactar Seck further highlighted key insights from ECA’s regional Open Consultation on the Zero Draft, held on May 7th, 2024 in partnership with Research ICT Africa (RIA) and other stakeholders, demonstrating the organization’s ongoing dedication to amplifying African voices and priorities in global digital governance. He reiterated ECA’s commitment to conducting regular regional reviews of the GDC’s progress and implementation with diverse stakeholder groups to ensure alignment with evolving digital governance principles and practices.

ECA’s GDC Deep Dive with African Private Sector representatives is scheduled for the 6th of June 2024 in partnership with the Africa Information & Communication Technologies Alliance (AfICTA).

The co-facilitators are expected to present the outcome of the deep dives, ensuring that the GDC adequately reflects the voices and interests of the Global South.

For media and follow up inquiry:

Sorene Assefa,
Cybersecurity and Digital Governance Expert, ECA
Email: sorene@un.org

Abiy Goshu
Projects Communication Lead, Digital Center of Excellence, ECA
Email: abiy.goshu@un.org