9 Tech4Good Resources for 9 Digital Principles

A perk of working in the technology for development sector is that it seems like everyone is always innovating. Every day, a new blog, platform, tool, or resource is released, adding to the cornucopia of knowledge and invaluable lessoned learned to our fingertips.  

However, the innovative nature of our sector can be one of our biggest challenges. The myriad of available resources and ideas generated can seem a little daunting – how can one navigate all that is out there and efficiently find one that fits your needs?  

After many years working at the intersection of technology and development and seeking the most effective ways to access the abundance of invaluable content in one collection, Gabriel Krieshok developed the “Tech4Good Field Guide.” 

Like the Principles for Digital Development, Tech4Good withdraws from single-purpose solutions, prioritizes people first, and pursues a comprehensive understanding of the complex ecosystems we work in to understand exactly how technology can best be leveraged for positive social impact. And like the Digital Principles, the Tech4Good Field Guide convenes resources, organizations, services, and platforms that help us do exactly that. That is why we have picked our top 9 Tech4Good Field Guide resources for the 9 Digital Principles to help you get started!  

Design with the User  

This Principle is referred to in several ways: user-centered design, design thinking, and human-centered design, to name a few.  Regardless of what you might call it, it all begins with familiarizing yourself with the people you are designing for through conversation, observation and co-creation.

Related to design consultancy IDEO, IDEO.org is a nonprofit is dedicated to applying human-centered design to alleviate poverty. Not only does the website showcase several examples of IDEO’s digital tools built to better address end-users‘ priority and context, but it also hosts their Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, which is a fantastic resource to help practitioners utilize human-centered design methods in development projects.

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Understand the Existing Ecosystem 

Every country, region and community have unique structures that impact how digital tools and initiatives can be accessed and have impact. This includes considering the culture, gender norms, political environment, economy, technology infrastructure and other factors that exist. Because every ecosystem is fluid, multifaceted and dynamic, digital development practitioners must frequently analyze the context to check assumptions. 

The Digital Health Atlas is World Health Organization (WHO) global technology registry platform aiming to strengthen the value and impact of digital health investments, improve coordination, and facilitate institutionalization and scale. It boasts a wealth of information on ongoing/current projects within health ecosystems, to help ensure that selected technology tools will be relevant and sustainable and will not duplicate existing efforts.

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Design for Scale 

Scaling, or thinking beyond the pilot stage of a project or initiative, includes making decisions in the design phase in order to account for widespread adoption down the road; determine what will be affordable and usable by a whole country or region, rather than by a few pilot communities.

Humanitarian Innovation Guide is an online resource to help individuals and organizations define humanitarian problems and successfully develop innovative solutions. Their scaling innovation database includes challenges and opportunities of scaling innovation. While this is centered primarily on the humanitarian sector, this resource can be useful to many organizations looking beyond the pilot stage of a new tool.

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Build for Sustainability 

To ensure, that user and stakeholder contributions are not diminished due to interruptions, such as loss of funding, programs should be built in such a way that it is embedded into policies, daily practices, and user workflow. When programs, platforms, and digital tools are built in this way, user and stakeholder support is easier maintained and long-term impact is maximized.  

Appropedia is a Wiki page that offers solutions in sustainability, appropriate technology, poverty reduction, and permaculture. On this page, you can access different sustainability resources for different sectors and examples from specific programs.

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Be Data Driven 

Data quality is much more important and impactful than data quantity. No matter how much information you collect, none of it will mean anything unless the right people know how to read, analyze, and use it to help inform decision. 

GSMA Intelligence provides data and analysis for the mobile industry. They maintain the Mobile Connectivity Index, the Mobile for Development initiative, and the Inclusive Tech Lab. By making use of existing data and helping close knowledge gaps, this resource is a very valuable resource to the tech for development community.

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Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation (Two bonus resources!) 

By taking advantage of existing investments, finite resources can be applied toward creating global goods and maximizing impact. What being “open” means depends on practical and technical constraints, security and privacy concerns, and the dynamics of the people and networks in your space. 

With several components to the “Open” Principle, we couldn’t pick just one! A fantastic example of open source is OpenStreetMap — a collaborative mapping project to create a free editable map of the world and is used as the definitive geodata for many products and services. The Humanitarian Data Exchange has over 17K datasets in the humanitarian sector, a great example of open data. An open approach to digital development can help to increase collaboration in the digital development community and avoid duplicating work that has already been done. We also chose the IATI Datastore: a website that provides a view of all IATI (International Aid Transparency Initiative) data by recipient country or publisher, comparable with latest OECD DAC CRS data.

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Reuse and Improve 

While an existing tool or approach may not exactly fit all your needs, consider improving and building on it, rather than creating something entirely new. If you create your own tool, develop it in a modular, interoperable approach instead of one that stands alone. 

GitHub is a gobal software company that provides hosting for software development and version control using Git. Many tech4good projects host their project code, documentation, and projects here. Reusing and improving existing projects and software in this way helps take the work of the global development community further than any organization or program can do alone.

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Address Privacy and Security

A simple rule of thumb when considering privacy and security in your work is to keep the best interests of end users and individuals whose data are collected at the forefront of your planning. Pretend like it’s your information being collected as data is acquired, used, stored and shared.

We laud the The Engine Room’s Responsible Data Handbook as one of the absolute must-reads in the Tech4Good Field Guide. This handbook is critical for understanding how to think about data and privacy and security across organizations and projects.

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Be Collaborative 

This Principle brings all the others together. People working in digital development have a shared vision to create a better world, and collaboration is essential to making this vision a reality. No single initiative or organization can make it happen alone. 

Engineering for Change is a forum for individuals dedicated to improving the quality of life all over the world. The forum convenes a growing community of technologists, NGOs, local governments, and more, to connect, collaborate, and share knowledge as they tackle global problems

The Tech4Good Field Guide can be accessed online or purchased as a hardcopy

There is a wealth of resources in the digital development sector, thus a wealth in the Field Guide – it was hard to choose only eleven! The guide, and much less this blog, is by no means comprehensive, and to that end, encourages the digital development and tech for social development community to continue submitting resources to OpenTech4Good (coincidentally, the home to the information in the Tech4Good Field Guide.) 

You can learn more about Gabriel, download the “Tech4Good Field Guide”, and delve into more resources on his website

Gabriel Krieshok

Gabriel Krieshok is a data scientist with 15 years of experience using data science and enabling technologies to address global challenges. He manages a diverse portfolio of information and communications technology for development in areas ranging from global health and agriculture to education for middle- and low-income countries. His experience in the ‘Tech for Good’ space spans across the public, private and non-profit sectors.