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7 Step Guide to Making Your Digital Development Program Sustainable

By Wayan Vota on April 25, 2018

ICT4D project scale

While there are how to guides and toolkits to plan the initial implementation of a digital development program, there are fewer guides for the issues that organizations face when scaling and sustaining ICT4D programs, particularly at the four-to-five-year mark, which some describe as the “funding valley of death”.

Every digital development program is unique. Each goes through different phases, and the phases are triggered by different circumstances. However, the Digital Impact Alliance found that no matter what sector or geography they examined, there are some questions and approaches that are remarkably common:

  • How might your program strategy need to change to enable financial sustainability, and how might this affect your organization?
  • How might your funding or business model need to change to ensure financial sustainability?
  • How might your approach to roll out, including everything from technical support and customer care to marketing and distribution, need to change?
  • How might your solution design need to change to enable replication or diversification of your program offering?
  • What new legal, policy or regulatory issues might need to be considered and how might your legal agreements need to change?
  • Do you have the right partner relationships in place to enable scale and sustainability, or are new partnerships required?
  • Do you have the right human capacity to make these strategic changes, or do you need to retrain or hire staff with different skills and experiences?

DIAL’s new report, Beyond Scale: How to make your digital development program sustainable, shares practical guidance from practitioners who have transitioned program ownership to government, or are covering costs through user fees or private-sector investment, including:

  • Key steps for addressing relevant questions and challenges
  • Tested templates and tools you can apply today
  • Real-life examples of how others have tackled similar problems
  • A set of curated resources on how to scale and find sustainability

The Beyond Scale guide is specifically tailored for in-country NGO staff who have already successfully piloted digital development solutions and are now exploring not just how to scale them, but how to make them sustainable. This guide will also be especially useful for NGOs, digital development companies and social enterprises facing similar challenges.

DIAL’s hypotheses and findings are based on reviews of more than 400 books, articles and interviews, including experiences from multiple sectors, geographies and perspectives from nonprofit, for-profit and government-based programs.

This guide presents the experience of Akros, Bangladesh Directorate General of Health Services, BBC Media Action, BeeHyv, Cell-Life, Digital Green, Dimagi, D-tree, Echo Mobile, Esoko, HealthEnabled, IMImobile, Jembi Health Systems, Johns Hopkins Global mHealth Initiative, Kapil Sapra & Associates, Kopo Kopo, mHealth Kenya, Mr. Solar, PATH, Praekelt Foundation, Signum Advocates, SolarNow, TaroWorks, United Nations Capital Development Fund, Vital Wave and Xavier Project

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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