USAID’s Digital Investment Tool: An Approach to Incorporating Digital Development Best Practices in Your Activity

Many USAID activities implement digital systems* to make development more adaptive, efficient, and responsive to citizens and decision-makers. Using digital systems can help USAID improve the effectiveness and efficiency of activities and support partner countries on their journey to self-reliance through increased information sharing and improved government and civil society capacity. Over time, USAID has learned that these investments often face predictable challenges that can be addressed at the design phase.

The Digital Investment Tool is intended to support USAID staff in concretely integrating the Principles for Digital Development into programmatic digital systems through a participatory process with relevant stakeholders. The tool can be used throughout the program cycle, but is tailored for use during work planning and implementation. Use of this resource will support robust development of digital systems that are effective, sustainable, and support the self-reliance of local partners that own and operate these systems.

It is intended to support work planning, either on a stand-alone activity such as an e-government activity, or on a component of an activity such as a market information system within an agricultural development activity. There are 13 best practice topics, “elements”, to select from. Each element contains a scale from Nascent to Optimized. Participants mark where they are and discuss where they would like to be. By providing five stages, we acknowledge that USAID and its partners must often make strategic choices about where to invest their time and resources—it isn’t all or nothing.

The Digital Investment Tool will be most useful to technical staff, such as mission-based or mission-facing ICT advisors, who have background knowledge of digital technology use in USAID activities and will facilitate the participatory and prioritization processes presented in the resource. The Development Informatics team ([email protected]) is available to help support your use of this resource. It’s meant to support a participatory process between USAID, its implementing partners, and stakeholders who are involved in designing, creating proposals for, evaluating, and making purchasing decisions on digital systems. Ideally, the facilitator will have some technical experience with digital technology. A facilitator’s guide is available at the end of the tool.

Acknowledgements: The content for this tool is based on the USAID Global Health Bureau’s Digital Health Investment Review Tool. Special thanks to contributors from that initiative, the Digital Impact Alliance, and the digital development community.

You can also read our blog by USAID’s Vivian Ranson to learn more about the tool.