Principles for digital development

For any ICT-based project it is crucial to develop technology based on good and sustainable principles, implementing solutions that are user driven and based open standards at the same time addressing concerns like universal design and privacy. There should be no exception for all the projects targeting users in developing countries.    

A growing number of youth in developing countries are online and thereby possibly connected to learning resources on the Internet. By 2025, as many as 4.7 billion people worldwide will be online. Compared to today, about 75 percent of the increase will come in emerging economies. An increasingly digital world brings unprecedented opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation. This will result in a large number of projects that develop technologies over the next decade and significant investment from NGOs and governmental organizations.

But to reap these benefits, it will be incredibly important to ensure that technology, data and digital resources are developed based on a sustainable model.

Donor and multilateral organizations have been discussing how to surface and spread best practice in the use of ICT tools as part of development programming for at least a decade. These discussions culminated in the UNICEF Innovation Principles of 2009, the Greentree Principles of 2010, and the UK Design Principles, among others.

At the end of 2015 I came across a project called The Principles of Digital development working to consolidate these efforts. The Principles for Digital Development draw from the processes mentioned above, and are the result of consultation with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and large number of NGOs and governmental organizations.

The Principles for Digital Development are “living” guidelines that can help development practitioners integrate established best practices into technology-enabled programs. They are written by and for international development donors, multilateral organizations, and implementing partners, and they are freely available for use by all. The Principles are intended to serve as guidance rather than edict, and to be updated and refined over time.

The nine principles are:

  • DESIGN WITH THE USER
  • UNDERSTAND THE ECOSYSTEM
  • DESIGN FOR SCALE
  • BUILD FOR SUSTAINABILITY
  • BE DATA DRIVEN
  • USE OPEN DATA, OPENSTANDARDS, OPEN SOURCE,OPEN INNOVATION
  • REUSE AND IMPROVE
  • ADDRESS PRIVACY & SECURITY
  • BE COLLABORATIVE

If you are in the planning stages of an app, a portal or any other project involving technology you should take your time and study the documents and guidelines at digitalprinciples.org/