New Programmes Launched to Support the Development of Inclusive Digital Economies in the Pacific Region

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has launched two new programmes to support the development of digital economies in the Pacific region with a specific focus on rural communities, women, MSMEs, and seasonal workers.

The first programme, the Pacific Digital Economy Programme (PDEP), funded by the Australian Government, will be jointly administered by UNCDF, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
This initiative will be implemented in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands with an inception period of two years which could later be extended to five.
“PDEP aims to create inclusive digital economies by applying digital solutions to meet the needs of vulnerable islanders (such as in the agriculture, education, energy and entrepreneurship sectors), narrowing the digital divide. This will, in turn, have a positive impact on the lives of Pacific Islanders’, reducing poverty, improving livelihoods and contributing to economic growth,” said Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes.
The second programme, ‘Digital Finance for resilience in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries’ (DF4Res), is funded by the European Union (EU).
One of the main objectives of the latter initiative is to enable the development of innovative digital solutions that can bring financial services within reach of low-income households and marginalised communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Digitalisation is one of the top priorities of the European Union. Today more than ever, digital technologies play an important role towards increasing access and usage of affordable financial products and services, such as innovative savings and credit solutions,” said the Ambassador of the European Union to the Pacific, H.E Sujiro Seam.
“We are talking about financial products and services that meet people’s and businesses’ needs and that boost the much needed economic recovery in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to this EU-funded initiative, UNCDF will support key policy reforms for digital transformation and create inclusive financial services, particularly tailored to the needs of women and youth.”
Both programmes have been developed on the foundations of the well-known Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) are looking to develop inclusive digital economies that boost market participation of rural communities, women, MSMEs and seasonal workers resulting in poverty reduction and improved livelihoods.
UNCDF’s Regional Lead in the Pacific, Bram Peters, said: “Digital technology has immense potential to improve the financial lives of Pacific Islanders. But we need to ensure that this potential does not lead to a digital divide as we have already seen in many other parts of the world. That is why we are launching these programmes, to ensure all people are included and benefit from an ever more digitized economy.
A market development approach will be applied during the implementation of both programmes.
This means collaborating with a wide variety of public and private sector stakeholders from across the region to create a conducive market environment for digital innovations to thrive, leaving no-one behind in the process.
The coming years will serve as the inception phase for key partners to familiarize themselves with the new concepts, strategies, and proposed governance frameworks.
Both programmes will conduct regular impact assessments to inform activities and showcase accomplishments and lessons learned, while ensuring knowledge transfer among partners, donors, and other, similar initiatives across the world.
The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 47 least developed countries.
With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development. UNCDF’s financing models work through two channels: financial inclusion that expands the opportunities for individuals, households, and small businesses to participate in the local economy, providing them with the tools they need to climb out of poverty and manage their financial lives; and by showing how localized investments—through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance—can drive public and private funding that underpins local economic expansion and sustainable development.
By strengthening how finance works for poor people at the household, small enterprise, and local infrastructure levels, UNCDF contributes to SDG 1 on eradicating poverty and SDG 17 on the means of implementation. By identifying those market segments where innovative financing models can have a transformational impact in helping to reach the last mile and address exclusion and inequalities of access, UNCDF contributes to several different SDGs.

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