From Principles to Practice: Implementing the Principles for Digital Development – Perspectives and Recommendations from the Practitioner Community

In developing countries and communities, digital technologies like the mobile phone are increasingly in the hands of people who stand to benefit from them the most. This can mean increased access to services, like market price information for rural farmers, financial services for the previously unbanked, and maternal health messaging for pregnant women who live beyond the reach of doctors or even health clinics.

While the potential is clear, the success of the thousands of projects that have sprung up using technology to close access gaps is less so. Pilots have failed to move into scalable and sustainable programs. Solutions too often reinvent the wheel rather than building on robust platforms, infrastructure, and shared services. Applications and services designed thousands of miles from their use environment failed to meet user needs. The creation of duplicative tools and systems has made data difficult to access and use for decision-making.

This is an inefficient use of scarce resources. We must do better, both to fulfill our own mandates and, critically, to deliver to the best of our ability for the people we serve.

Traditional organizations, especially those with large bureaucratic structures, must now play catch-up. We need to reform our policies and practices to enable the most strategic investments in digitally supported development work, and to strengthen our capacity to implement against this new vision.

The Principles for Digital Development can help inform and guide this process. This report is the culmination of rich and detailed discussions about these Principles by more than 500 individuals representing over 100 organizations working in international development. It captures their experiences, insights, questions, and recommendations to inform a landscape of where we are in our understanding of this guidance, and how we can chart a path forward.