The case for digital official development assistance (ODA)
Digital connectivity will feature prominently in the upcoming EU–Japan summit scheduled for May 2020, and in the EU–Africa summit of November 2020. On both occasions, digital Official Development Assistance (ODA) deserves a more prominent place on the agenda than seen so far. For Japan, this means implementing coordinated digital development initiatives and aiming for greater contributions to the e-economy and e-government, and for African governments, the European Union (EU) should identify real needs that inform targeted, request-based action on digital ODA.
While acting on long-term challenges, digital ODA addresses several key priorities identified by the European Commission. An updated EU digital ODA agenda also responds to global trends such as the impact of the fourth industrial revolution in Europe and its backyard, life in a post-COVID-19 world, international migration and climate change, as well as geostrategic challenges like the US–China technology conflict and China’s Digital Silk Road.
With an eye to practical implementation, this Clingendael Policy Brief adds conceptual clarity to what digital ODA is (or can be) and discusses where the EU stands today. It offers opportunities for best-practice learning from Asian players that have more experience in this field. Clearly, digital ODA is no longer just a technical but also a (geo)political issue.
Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)