The world is facing multiple global crises and the 2030 deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is fast approaching. More and faster investment in sustainable infrastructure that supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is therefore needed. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) can be a powerful tool to mobilise such investment, but they can also be complex and time-consuming. How can PPPs be more efficient and effective in support of the SDGs?
One answer is to harness the potential of digital transformation. New digital technologies and solutions can help streamline the PPP project cycle, from planning to procurement to delivery, and enhance the speed and integrity of PPP projects. The advance in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) has also enabled the development of digital infrastructure that has dramatically increased access to quality public services for millions of people, including in low- and middle-income countries and in post-conflict and post-disaster contexts.
Digital and green transformations were at the heart of the 7th edition of the UNECE International PPP Forum, held from 3 to 5 May 2023 in Athens with the support of the Government of Greece. The Forum brought together more than 700 participants and 100 speakers in 32 sessions on cross-cutting themes relevant to the role of PPPs for the SDGs for digital and green transformations in support of sustainable development, economic recovery and reconstruction.
In particular, two policy debates focused on the role of digital transformation in PPPs to explore these issues in depth.
The first policy debate, entitled “Improving the delivery of PPPs through digital transformation”, examined how data, information technology, and other digital approaches can improve each stage of the PPP lifecycle, from pre- to post-procurement, and promote the development of sustainable and green digital ecosystems. It also discussed how digital transformation can be aligned with the PPPs for the SDGs approach to ensure that PPPs deliver positive social and environmental impacts.
The second policy debate, entitled “PPPs in digital infrastructure: telemedicine and other digital public services”, considered how ICT approaches to public service provision can foster and accelerate sustainable and cost-effective solutions in projects thereby enhancing access to public infrastructures. It also highlighted how ICT advancements can transform various public sectors, such as diagnostics via telemedicine, and the importance of continued investments in digital PPPs.
These discussions will contribute to the development of two UNECE guides for public officials on PPPs and digitalisation that UNECE is preparing with the help of international experts. These guides will provide recommendations on how to harness digital transformation through the PPPs for the SDGs approach and how to implement PPPs in digital infrastructure and public services.