Digital Reboot – Reimagining Aid for Trade

In early 2021, I was asked by The Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec) an intergovernmental organization based in London, to write a research paper to document how much official development assistance (ODA) – aid money – had been spent by donor governments on helping entrepreneurs and firms in developing countries breach the digital divide in terms of skills, infrastructure and capabilities. Another purpose of the paper was to advocate for putting digital at the heart of a newly reinvigorated Aid for Trade agenda, which is a big part of the WTO’s and its members’ development assistance work.

The resulting paper offerred a number of interesting findings:


The vast majority of the ODA funding in dollar-value terms, was going towards connectivity infrastructure, because this was the most expensive kind of assistance.


The World Bank was by far the biggest donor in the space – and the most accountable since it published detailed audits and evaluations of its interventions.


The provision of infrastructure was often insufficient. To ensure the benefits of new connectivity were equitably shared, supporting policy frameworks need to be in place.

You can read or download the paper here.

Alternatively, you can watch a video recording of me presenting the paper in Geneva in November 2022

If you want to watch the whole session, I have embedded it from the Enhanced Integrated Framework’s YouTube channel below

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