04-802-F   Digital Public Goods

Location: Africa

Units: 6

Semester Offered: Spring

Course description

The success of mobile money in promoting account ownership in Africa is one example of the potential of ICTs to promote sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development. Artificial intelligence, blockchains, Internet-of-things, cloud computing, and other ICTs can bring similar benefits to education, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, and other sectors. However, the cost of acquiring and maintaining digital infrastructure, and of developing new digital products and services, can be a barrier to their deployment and use in Africa. Digital public goods, defined as “open-source software, open data, open AI models, open standards and open content that adhere to privacy and other applicable laws and best practices, do no harm, and help attain the SDGs”, can significantly promote the adoption and use of ICTs at individual and national levels. This course will explore existing DPGs in various domains (e.g., finance, healthcare, education, identity management, etc.) and how they can be used to meet the SDGs. The best practices, opportunities, and challenges that African technologists need to be aware of in creating and using DPGs will also be discussed.

Learning objectives

This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the digital public goods movement, why it matters for development, and its strengths and limitations. Students will analyze existing DPGs including the MOSIP platform, an open digital identity platform, and Mojaloop, an open digital payments platform designed for interoperability, and their different use cases to determine their strengths and limitations in addressing barriers to achieving SDGs in the African context. Case studies on the deployment and use of DPGs in Africa will also be conducted to provide an overview of challenges and potential solutions. Students will then develop an idea for novel DPGs, and write a strategic plan for its deployment, monitoring, and evaluation.


After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Articulate the SDGs broad goals and targets, and the roles of ICTs in achieving these goals
  • Analyze the strengths and limitations of existing DPGs in achieving different SDGs
  • Undertake research to assess opportunities for novel DPGs that address African challenges to achieving SDGs
  • Understand the necessary policies and strategies to improve the adoption and use of DPGs for development

Content details

  • The principles for digital development and the digital public goods movement (open source, open API, open data, open algorithms, interoperability, etc.)
  • Ethics, privacy and security, and no harm in DPGs
  • Ensuring inclusion in DPGs design and deployment: the case of digital financial services
  • DPG case studies:
    • DPGs for identity
    • DPGs for financial inclusion
    • DPGs for digital health
    • DPGs for education
  • Challenges and requirements for successful DPG adoption and use in the African context
  • Student presentations: Opportunities for novel DPGs for Africa (literature review and project idea)


Edith Luhanga and Assane Gueye