The Commonwealth is embracing a digital transformation in its work practices, which was showcased this week at the organisation’s first ever open day on innovation and information and communication technology (ICT).
Opening the event, the Secretary-General Patricia Scotland underlined ICT, innovation and partnerships as the “core” of the Commonwealth’s reform agenda.
She said: “This is all part of the reform process that was initiated when I took up my responsibilities as Secretary-General in April 2016. I pledged to make this organisation fit for purpose and capable of tackling 21st century challenges.
“A series of reforms at the strategic, network, structural and operational level were introduced, which are now bearing fruit in the form of results.”
Commonwealth heads of government have highlighted the role of ICT, science and technology in supporting good governance, inclusion and sustainable development, while reducing the digital divide.
The Open Day showcased six key initiatives designed to harness the power of ICT for sustainable development, by helping people to find valuable information, share and store knowledge, and collaborate more effectively on shared goals. These include:
Innovation Hub: An online platform that compiles innovative ideas and stories from all across the Commonwealth, stores thousands of publications, shares knowledge products and toolkits developed by the Commonwealth, and helps link up collaborators.
Commonwealth Meridian: A computer software that helps countries manage public debt, building and improving on the successes of the Commonwealth Debt Recording and Management System (CSDRMS) which has been helping over 100 agencies and ministries in 60 countries manage public debt.
Legal Exchange Portal: Online platform that provides secure access to the laws of all 53 member states as well as Commonwealth model laws, which have been digitised, categorised and crossreferenced. It is aimed at supporting governments who wish to revise existing laws or draft new legislation.
Trade Connectivity Dashboard: A webbased tool that maps trade links and potential connections between Commonwealth countries as well as regional trade hubs, with the aim of boosting intra-Commonwealth trade to $2 trillion by 2030. It will be formally launched at the Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting in October 2019.
Commonwealth Data Platform: Compiles open source data on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all Commonwealth countries. Users can explore a country’s progress on any of the SDG indicators, while highlighting data gaps.
Knowledge Centre: A one-stop source of information about all things Commonwealth, including a research repository, online archives of historical publications, online bookshop, and image library.
The Commonwealth is engaging a range of partners to promote innovation in member countries, including the GSMA, Nekton Foundation, International Trade Centre and the Global Innovation Technology Alliance.
During the event, the ‘Connected Commonwealth Space’ was launched in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This state-of-the-art meeting room will house a Bloomberg Terminal, which brings together real-time data on every market, breaking news, in-depth research, and powerful analytics, to help countries better understand what’s next for their economies. Virtual conferencing technology will also make it easier and more efficient for stakeholders to connect and work together.
The Commonwealth also working with the Global Innovation Fund to create a Commonwealth financing facility – a £25m hybrid investment fund to scale up impactful innovations in member countries.
The Secretary-General said: “We hope this Open Day will be an opportunity to gain deeper insights into the ongoing work and to enhance further cooperation and co-creation for the benefit of the 2.4 billion people of the Commonwealth.
“Alongside all this, there is the overwhelmingly important need to support and tap into the innovation potential of Commonwealth youth – who account for 60 per cent of our combined population.”
ICT and innovation will be one of five main themes at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled for June 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda.