The Principles for Digital Development were created to share the best practices and to avoid making the same mistakes continuously. They are valuable and important for any development NGO that ponders how to effectively design or utilize ICT-solutions in their projects.
We have summarized the principles below. We also strongly recommend you visit the website of the principles. There you can learn more about them – for instance, how they can be used in different phases of your projects.
1. Design with the user
To produce a solution, you need to understand the characteristics, needs and challenges of the individuals who will eventually use it and benefit from it. The solution should be designed, built and tested so that it meets their needs. It is important to work together with the users throughout the whole project: discuss, co-create and incorporate their feedback in your project.
2. Understand the existing ecosystem
In what kind of ecosystem will the solution be used? Every country, region and community have their own structures – for example, culture, political environment and norms – which needs to be considered in the design and implementation. By mapping and analyzing the ecosystem you also ensure that your solution is relevant, it does not duplicate anything already existing and it will not cause unexpected consequences.
3. Design for scale
Think far ahead: how could the solution that you are currently designing be adopted widely? So that it is affordable and usable on a large scale – even by a whole country. You should, among other things, keep your design simple, flexible and modular so it is easily adaptable to different contexts. The key here is to look further than the pilot you are working on.
4. Build for sustainability
Make sure that your solution is built on a sustainable base. This is essential for maintaining user and stakeholder support and for maximizing the long-term impact. A sustainable initiative is easily maintained and flexibly adapted to the changes in the ecosystem and users’ needs. The process begins by defining the sustainability of your initiative: how long should it operate and when it should be shut down, replaced or transitioned?
5. Be data-driven
Make informed decisions based on data. In data-driven initiatives right persons can access quality information when needed and use the data to make appropriate decisions. For this to happen, it is important to design programs where the results and impact can be measured continuously.
6. Use open standards, open data, open-source and open innovation
An open approach to digital development is vital. It helps to strengthen collaboration in the community and to avoid efforts to develop something that has been already done before. Using open standards, open data, open-source and open innovation also means that you are creating global goods which other actors can re-use or develop further for their initiative’s needs – and vice versa!
7. Re-use and improve
The world is full of usable technological solutions. Thus, you often do not need to start from the very beginning. Instead, you should look for solutions that you could re-use and improve for your project’s purposes. In the end, everyone benefits: your costs reduce and other actors receive an improved solution. You can learn about tested digital development tools from many sources – for example, Fingo Powerbank’s Technology Solutions Portfolio.
8. Address privacy & security
Consider carefully what data you collect and how you acquire, use, store and share it. Organizations should, for instance, take measures to minimize the collection and to protect confidential information and identities of individuals from unauthorized access by third parties.
9. Be collaborative
Collaboration is essential to create a fairer and more sustainable world. Via collaboration, the resources and the expertise can be used to strengthen the global community as a whole – instead of focusing merely on your own projects and initiatives. It needs to be noted that collaboration does not happen by itself – it requires time, planning and dedication.