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FCW : March 15, 2016
20 March 15, 2016 FCW.COM India is second in the world for smartphone purchases and Internet use, and the U.S. Agency for International Develop- ment has been helping the country expand the use of digital payments. According to USAID’s research, 97 percent of retail trans- actions in India are conducted via cash or check, but only 6 percent of merchants accept digital payments. In the same vein, the World Bank found that India could save about 1 percent of its GDP annually if it digitized its cash-based subsidies. USAID relies on the Digital Development team in its U.S. Global Development Lab to translate insights about the prom- ise of technology into projects and products. “When we talk about digital financial services, most people have heard about mobile money [but] what we focus on is the digital opportunity to bring more underserved people into financial sectors that meet their needs,” said Brian King, leader of the lab’s Digital Finance team. Other teams focus on mobile data and digital inclusion. Decreasing the digital divide A new USAID report, “From Principle to Practice: Implement- ing the Principles for Digital Development,” examines how technology can change the way international development work is conducted. Although the premise of digital development has resulted in an explosion of pilot projects and experimentation around the world, the report says the time has come to bring some order and maturity to the field. “Pilots have failed to move into scalable and sustainable programs,” the report states. “Solutions too often reinvent the wheel rather than building on robust platforms, infrastruc- ture 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.” USAID has proposed a core set of principles to drive digi- tal development projects. Those principles — which will be familiar to anyone who has been following the path charted by the General Services Administration’s 18F organization — include user-centric design, scalability and sustainability, data-driven decision-making, open standards, open data, and modular and reusable design. “If you look at the principles through that lens of adoption, diffusion, scale-up and sustainability...they are all important in varying ways and in different contexts for deploying an [information and communications technology] innovation,” King told FCW. USAID’s report includes cases studies that illustrate how the principles work in practice. For example, it wasn’t read- ily apparent that a pediatric and maternal care app in Kenya needed to be improved until tests with different user groups showed how the tool was actually being used in the field. In addition, a health project in Zambia that focused on infant Policy According to USAID’s research, 97 percent of retail transactions in India are conducted via cash or check, but only 6 percent of merchants accept digital payments. APIMAGES 031516fcw_017-021.indd 20 2/24/16 12:13 PM
March 30, 2016