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FCW : March 15, 2016
HIV diagnosis found success by using readily available technol- ogies and managing via a com- mon framework. The report also notes some obstacles to using agile prin- ciples, including long plan- ning and funding runways and funders and stakeholders who insist on having input into design decisions to the poten- tial exclusion of end users. Unlocking the promise of digital development According to the World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report, the growth in digital communications and con- nectivity has not completely filtered down to the world of international development. Although data-driven devel- opment efforts are possible, “often organizational inertia prevents the benefits of inno- vative technologies from being achieved,” the report states. That observation aligns with the World Bank’s larger finding that “anticipated digital dividends of higher growth, more jobs and better public services have fallen short of expectations, and 60 percent of the world’s population remains excluded from the ever-expanding digital economy.” “It’s not so much that [the World Bank] said that digital isn’t the driver of growth — it’s more than it’s not fully realized its potential and that the growth has been inconsistent,” said Jonathan Dolan, senior adviser for digital inclusion at USAID. “It wasn’t necessarily that [information and communica- tions technology] innovations weren’t having an impact, but there are other things that needed to be in place in order to maximize impact,” King said. Indeed, the World Bank report says the USAID framework of iterative, user-centered, data-driven methodologies is the way to unlock the promise of digital development. “Digital technologies facilitate rapid, real-time monitoring of outputs and outcome results that matter, and provide this information in a comprehensible form to those who can act on it — complemented by systems that assess impacts,” the report states. But the realization of that promise requires good data, thorough evaluation and a willingness on the part of funders and program designers to continu- ously evolve their work. A positive story Moving from the lab to the field remains a challenge. In the case of USAID’s digital payment initiative in India, major financial institu- tions such as Citi, Coca-Cola, HSBC, ICICI Bank, the World Bank’s International Finance Corp., ITC Ltd., MasterCard, Procter and Gamble, Visa and Vodafone are all on board. But bringing together the “private sec- tor [to] work together on an issue, coordinating and facilitating that conversation between 40 organi- zations, as you can imagine, is not easy,” said Matt Homer, USAID’s lead on the project. He added that although the pri- vate sector’s ability to enhance connectivity cannot be understat- ed, “there is a point where demo- graphic factors, geographic factors or something else can begin to break down the commercial case. [For USAID, the challenge is] what can we do at that point to de-risk market entry for the private sector, or demonstrate or signal that there is enough demand for a service provider to consider working there.” “I think the intellectual challenge for us is identifying where the commercial case for connectivity starts to break down a little bit,” Dolan said. George Ingram, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institu- tion and former deputy assistant administrator at USAID, told FCW: “I think the issue is...how do you translate the experi- ence and approach of the lab to the rest of USAID? And how do you translate their engagement through partnership, how do you adapt their understanding of technology and how [do you] access it in more traditional programs, and how do you transfer the culture of innovation? That’s very difficult for a large public institution that has so many other mandates and rules and regulations to protect the public interest.” Experts acknowledge that the keys to success are under- standing which principles need more attention and how to implement them in various countries. “It’s a positive story, but we’re just at the beginning of the story so we don’t know where it’s going to take us,” Ingram said. n March 15, 2016 FCW.COM 21 USAID’s digital development principles include user-centric design, data-driven decision-making, open standards, and modular and reusable design. APIMAGES 031516fcw_017-021.indd 21 2/24/16 12:13 PM
March 30, 2016