With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations (UN) has just launched an “ambitious-country-led campaign” to promote and accelerate the development of a global digital public infrastructure (DPI).
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said its “50-in-5” campaign will spur the construction of “an underlying network of components” including “digital payments, ID, and data exchange system,” which will serve as “a critical accelerator of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
The UNDP stated: “The goal of the campaign is for 50 countries to have designed, implemented, and scaled at least one DPI component in a safe, inclusive, and interoperable manner in five years”
The Defender reports: Critics of the campaign include Tim Hinchliffe, editor of The Sociable, who told The Defender he believes DPI “is a mechanism for surveillance and control that combines digital ID, central bank digital currencies [CBDC], vaccine passports and carbon footprint tracking data, paving the way for 15-minute smart cities, future lockdowns and systems of social credit.”
The UNDP is leading the “50-in-5” campaign along with the Center for Digital Public Infrastructure, Co-Develop, the Digital Public Goods Alliance. Supporters include GovStack, the Inter-American Development Bank and UNICEF, in addition to the Gates Foundation.
In September 2022, the Gates Foundation allocated $200 million “to expand global Digital Public Infrastructure,” as part of a broader plan to fund $1.27 billion in “health and development commitments” toward the goal of achieving the SDGs by 2030.
The Gates Foundation stated at the time that the funding was intended to promote the expansion of “infrastructure that low- and middle-income countries can use to become more resilient to crises such as food shortages, public health threats, and climate change, as well as to aid in pandemic and economic recovery.”
California-based privacy attorney Greg Glaser described the “50-in-5” campaign as “a totalitarian nightmare” and a “dystopian” initiative targeting small countries “to onboard them with digital ID, digital wallets, digital lawmaking, digital voting and more.”
“For political reasons, U.N. types like Gates cannot openly plan ‘one world government,’ so they use different phrases like ‘global partnership’ and ‘Agenda 2030,’” Glaser told The Defender. “People can add ‘50-in-5’ to that growing list of dystopian phrases.”
Another California-based privacy attorney, Richard Jaffe, expressed similar sentiments, telling The Defender the “50-in-5” initiative “point[s] to the much bigger issue of the globalization, centralization and digitalization of the world’s personal data.”
“My short-term concern is bad actors, and that would be individuals and small groups, as well as state mal-actors, who will now have a big fat new target or tool to threaten the normal operation of less technologically sophisticated countries,” he said.
Jaffe said Gates’ involvement “scares the hell out of him.” Derrick Broze, editor-in-chief of The Conscious Resistance Network, told The Defender that it is “another sign that this renewed push for digital ID infrastructure will not benefit the average person.”
“Projects like these only benefit governments who want to track their populations, and corporations who want to study our daily habits and movements to sell us products,” Broze said.
Initiatives to promote DPI globally also enjoy the support of the G20. According to The Economist, at September’s G20 Summit in New Delhi — held under the slogan “One Earth, One Family, One Future” — India garnered support from the Gates Foundation, UNDP and the World Bank for a plan to develop a global repository of DPI technologies.
‘World doesn’t need 50-in-5’
“Countries, regardless of income level, geography, or where they are in their digital transformation journey, can benefit from being part of 50-in-5,” the campaign states, adding that “with steadfast and collective efforts, the world can build a future where digital transformation is not only a vision but a tangible reality.”
According to Glaser, the 11 initial countries were chosen not because they are “digital leaders” but because the U.N. sees smaller nations as a “unique threat” because their leaders are occasionally accountable to the people.
“We have seen what happens to leaders of small nations who reject international intelligence agencies’ favorite products, such as COVID-19 vaccines, GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and petrodollars,” Glaser said. “U.N. programs like ‘50-in-5’ are a way for smaller countries to sell out early to Big Tech and preemptively avoid ‘economic hitmen,’” he added.
Speaking at the “50-in-5” launch event, Dumitru Alaiba, Moldova’s deputy prime minister and minister of Economic Development and Digitalization said, “The source of our biggest excitement is our work on our government’s super app. It’s modeled after the very successful Ukrainian Diia app [and] will be launched in the coming few months.”
At the same event, Cina Lawson, Togo’s minister of Digital Economy and Transformation, said, “We created a digital COVID certificate. All of a sudden, the fight against the pandemic became really about using digital tools to be more effective.”
According to Hinchliffe, Togo’s DPI system had seemingly benign origins, launching as a universal basic income scheme for the country’s citizens, “but shortly after that, they expanded the system to implement vaccine passports.”
Togo’s vaccine passport was interoperable with the European Union’s (EU) digital health certificate. In 2021, the EU was one of the first governmental entities globally to introduce such passports. In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the EU’s digital health certificate standards on a global basis.
Speaking at the G20 Summit in September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “The trick is to build public digital infrastructure that is interoperable, open to all and trusted,” citing the EU’s COVID-19 digital certificate as an example.