There is a conversation growing around the world. The subject concerns so-called digital public goods. Just to recap, human life would be miserable without public goods (called “commons” in English, precisely because of their common usage). A city without public streets and sidewalks would be inconceivable. If beaches in Brazil were private, we would be a different (and worse) country.
Maintaining the health of public use assets, preventing their capture or destruction, is essential. This is exactly what the Nobel Prize winner in economics, Elinor Ostrom, showed, whose work was dedicated to the “commons”. The same reasoning applies to digital. It is necessary to preserve the balance between private and public digital assets.
In recent years, digital has been undergoing an accelerated process of reduction or degradation of its common assets. It is worth remembering that the internet was built from public goods such as the World Wide Web (www), created by Tim Berners-Lee and granted by him for free use by all humanity. Or even, the TCP/IP protocol, which allows the internet to work, also for common free use.
However, over the last 15 years, public digital goods have been losing ground. For example, big techs have advanced into spaces and services that were previously common. More recently, artificial intelligence companies are closing down, despite curiously using data that is open on the internet as raw material to train their models.
This closure of digital public goods is now provoking reactions to regain lost space. India, for example, has decided to become a leader in building digital public goods. It created an entire apparatus of public services based on free and open models, starting with the digital identity called Aadhaar (which precisely means foundation).
The country did not stop there. There are initiatives seeking to reclaim even spaces belonging to technology companies. For example, the Namma Yatri service has created a public digital infrastructure for travel services in the city of Bangalore. Instead of ordering a car through a company app, passengers order directly through the Namma Yatri platform (which means “our traveler”). The service is part of the city’s own infrastructure. In one year, more than 15 million trips were made.
Another interesting Indian initiative is MOSIP, an open source digital infrastructure that allows any country to create its digital identity. Today there are already 11 countries using the system (among them Morocco, Philippines and Ethiopia), with more than 100 million digital identities created.
And Brazil? Our country is not behind in the fight for digital public goods. Among the local stars is Pix, which revolutionized the payment system. And also Gov.br, which currently has more than 70 million advanced users.
Gov.br not only created a platform for identity certification, but also an advanced digital signature service. Through it, it is possible to sign documents supported by law 14,063 of 2020, with full legal validity, and completely free of charge, without the need to pay for very expensive digital certificates. More than 50 million subscriptions have already been made through the platform, which is growing at a rate of 200% per year.
Pix and Gov.Br are some of our digital beaches. We have several others. Digital public goods are like the phrase from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”
It’s over Internet made mainly of public goods
Already Internet dominated by private and opaque goods
It’s coming Growth of digital public goods and laws to provide transparency for closed platforms
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