Principles for Digital Development

Build for sustainability

Build for the long-term by intentionally addressing financial, operational, and ecological sustainability.

Sustainability here is defined broadly to account for financial, operational, and ecological sustainability, all of which are important to avoid service disruptions for people. 

Building for sustainability means thinking about leveraging the inherent scalability of digital technology solutions early on. Decide on the desired scale of your initiative and prepare accordingly from the start.

Building for sustainability means presenting the long-term cost of ownership–both technology licenses, operations and maintenance, capacity building, etc.–and clearly indicating how initiatives will be paid for in the future, by donors, host governments, or commercial means.

Ecological sustainability requires considering an initiative, solution, or system’s potential to help people and communities adapt to the changing climate. At the same time, they should seek to minimize the environmental impact of any initiative, solution, or system, particularly the CO2 emissions generated by any hardware or software during the entire lifecycle from production to disposal.

Building for sustainability does not mean that all products, services, or policies will last forever. Optimizing for sustainability may result in consolidating services, transferring knowledge, software, and/or hardware to a new initiative, planning for the secure transfer (or deletion) of data at the end of a project, or helping clients to transition to a new, more relevant product or service.