UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Digital public infrastructure and public value: What is ‘public’ about DPI?

Authored by David Eaves, Mariana Mazzucato and Beatriz Vasconcellos

DPI and public value

21 March 2024

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UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose Working Paper Series: IIPP WP 2024-05

Digital public infrastructure and public value: What is ‘public’ about DPI?


Digital Public Infrastructures (DPI) are becoming increasingly relevant in the policy and academic domains, with DPI not just being regulated, but funded and created by governments, international organisations, philanthropies and the private sector. However, these transformations are not neutral; they have a direction. This paper addresses how to ensure that DPI is not only regulated but created and governed for the common good by maximising public value creation. Our analysis makes explicit which normative values may be associated with DPI development. We also argue that normative values are necessary but not sufficient for maximising public value creation with DPI, and that a more proactive role of the state and governance are key. In this work, policymakers and researchers will find valuable frameworks for understanding where the value-creation elements of DPI come from and how to design a DPI governance that maximises public value.

Key Takeaways:

  • No infrastructure is neutral in directionality and DPI is no exception.

  • The current narratives through which different groups understand the publicness of DPI, although vested under the broad concept of public interest, already embed a directionality through values generated by attributes or led by functions. These values should be made explicit.

  • Although making values explicit is an important and necessary step for public value creation, it is insufficient for public value maximisation.

  • Public value maximisation must be a collective effort focusing on outcomes and processes towards the common good. In this process, the state has a renewed role in guaranteeing and orchestrating DPI.

  • The ‘common good’ framework (Mazzucato 2023) and its five principles emerge as useful perspectives to strengthen DPI’s value generation process with a focus on governance.

DPI paper figure


  • David Eaves | Co-Deputy Director and Associate Professor in Digital Government | UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP)
  • Mariana Mazzucato | Founding Director and Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value | UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) 
  • Beatriz Vasconcellos | Research Fellow | UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP)


Eaves, D., Mazzucato, M. and Vasconcellos, B. (2024). Digital public infrastructure and public value: What is ‘public’ about DPI ? UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, Working Paper Series (IIPP WP 2024-05). Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/publications/2024/mar/digital-public-infrastructure-and-public-value-what-public-about-dpi