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Trump’s Potential USAID Budget Decimates ICT4D Funding

By Wayan Vota on May 4, 2017

It’s no secret that President Trump dislikes traditional diplomacy. His use of Twitter and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner to set foreign policy is unpresidented and unprecedented. His choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson is equally radical, especially since Tillerson is on the record saying:

“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job. My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

I wonder if his wife will tell him how the potential State Department and USAID budget will decimate ICT4D and America’s entire foreign assistance framework?

A Bombshell Budget

Recently, Foreign Policy published a potential USAID budget that is horrific in its detail. Overall, USAID’s budget is cut by 31%,  resulting in the elimination of 35 field missions, a 65% reduction in regional bureau funding, and almost all development assistance eliminated in favor of economic support.

For ICT4D, the picture is even more grim.

  • US Global Development Lab: USAID’s $110 million flagship investment in science, technology, innovation, and partnerships is reduced to a paltry $15.5 million in economic support.
  • FEWS-Net: USAID’s $8 million effort to leverage remote sensing and big data for early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity is zeroed out.
  • Global Health: While there isn’t a central ICT4D program in health, most health programs leverage ICT tools for better outcomes, and all health programs are set to have 25-100% reduction in funding.
  • What Else? I am not a budget savant, so I am sure I’m missing other programs slated for deep cuts that support ICT4D. Please share your analysis in the comments.

The Center for Global Development has more potential budget analysis and visualizations

All Hope is Not Lost

Remember, Foreign Policy published a potential budget – not an actually proposed budget, and certainly not one passed by Congress. In fact, foreign assistance has wide bipartisan support in Congress.

Senator Lindsey Graham has said that President Trump’s budget was “dead on arrival” due to its cuts in foreign assistance, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreeing that a 30% cut to foreign assistance was unlikely to pass the Senate.

Additionally, Congress has already pushed back on Trump’s budget priorities for the remainder of FY 2017.

Time to Activate

However, we should not passively entrust our future to Republican Senators.  Its time for us to use all the civic engagement skills and tactics we teach others, to effect change right here in the USA.

Those with voting representation in Congress can call and visit their elected representatives and educate them on the impact our work has around the world and here at home. Better yet, engage your friends and family to help. Here are two engagement guides:

Disenfranchised Washingtonians can also play a role by engaging with existing development industry associations, and donating their time, money, and motivation to organize resistance to this potential budget.

Our fight for survival has just begun.




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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. 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 his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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2 Comments to “Trump’s Potential USAID Budget Decimates ICT4D Funding”

  1. Eric Couper says:

    I appreciate the article, and I like all of the reference links, but the final line “Our fight for survival has just begun” rings sour. It implies that international development professionals have an inalienable right to survive and bypasses the more important issue of development impact. I hope that ICTWorks readers are first and foremost upset with the potential lives lost from these budget cuts. It’s also a much more effective rallying cry for convincing congress to save the USAID budget. Congress and the American taxpayer genuinely shouldn’t care about job reductions in the industry, but rather the lives and well-being of the global extreme poor.

    Caveat: I FULLY recognize that my job isn’t on the chopping block right now. It’s much, much easier to say this when I’m not worried about how the cuts will affect my ability to pay bills, and I do sympathize with those that are worried for their careers and families.

    • Wayan Vota says:

      As always, great points, Eric. Especially that we should not be in a fight for our own employment, but in a fight for the impact we know we delivery, and would be gone if foreign assistance were gutted. Had I better eloquence, I would’ve made that point better. I am thinking our impact vs. any “right” we may have to live our privileged lives.