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New USAID Tool for Investing in Your Digital Development Solution

By Wayan Vota on December 9, 2019

usaid digital investment tool

Many USAID activities implement digital solutions to make development more adaptive, efficient, and responsive to citizens and decision-makers.

Using ICT4D solutions can help USAID improve the effectiveness and efficiency of activities and support partner countries on their journey to self-reliance through increased information sharing and improved government and civil society capacity.

Over time, USAID has learned that these investments often face predictable challenges that can be addressed at the design phase.

New USAID Digital Investment Review Tool

The new USAID Digital Investment Review Tool is designed for mission staff to ensure that USAID and its implementing partners consider best practices, based on the Principles for Digital Development, when developing digital systems.

This tool is intended to support work planning, either on a stand-alone activity such as an e-government solution, or on a component of an activity such as a market information system within an agricultural development program.

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There are 13 best practice topics, “elements”, to select from. Each element contains a scale from Nascent to Optimized. Participants mark where they are and discuss where they would like to be. By providing five stages, we acknowledge that USAID and its partners must often make strategic choices about where to invest their time and resources—it isn’t all or nothing.

The Elements of Digital System Planning:

  1. Development Challenge
  2. Local Ownership
  3. Policy Landscape
  4. Digital Ecosystem
  5. Stakeholder Engagement
  6. System Users
  7. Total Cost of Ownership 8. Scale
  8. Data & Feedback
  9. Open vs. Proprietary
  10. Privacy & Security
  11. Reuse & Improvement
  12. Change Management

The USAID Digital Investment Review Tool is intended to support a participatory process between USAID, its implementing partners, and stakeholders who are involved in designing, creating proposals for, evaluating, and making purchasing decisions on digital systems. Ideally, the facilitator will have some technical experience with digital technology. A facilitator’s guide is available at the end of the tool.

Reminder: Digital Health Investment Review Tool

Previously, USAID released the Digital Health Investment Review Tool (DHIRT), which provides high-level guidance, printable and electronic handouts, and a list of resources to evaluate digital health solutions (download all four at once).

  • Donors can use DHIRT when creating requests for solicitations, defining contract language, and evaluating proposals for grant funding and software procurement.
  • Implementers can use DHIRT to respond to RFPs, design their activities, and implement their technology solution with digital health best practices.

DHIRT evolved from a three-plus year iterative process with USAID, DIAL, and the global digital health community to break down two sets of Principles into a set of scoring criteria for strategic investments in global digital health:

DHIRT requires little to no digital health technical expertise to use, making it accessible to non-techies in national governments, foundations, and humanitarian organizations involved with creating solicitations, writing proposals, evaluating solutions, and making purchasing decisions for digital health systems.

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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 “New USAID Tool for Investing in Your Digital Development Solution”

  1. Cavin Mugarura says:

    This is a good tool, only that in the real world it has no use, but for innovation conferences, I see how it fits perfectly, throw in a few buzzwords like AI, blockchain and we are good to go. 20 odd years ago, it was virtual reality (VR), every next year was going to be the year for VR.

    I see many falls in this tool. Usability, Value addition, obviously the emphasis is on scale. How do u scale a bad product, the easy way is by pumping money into it, like wework. Am not even sure why anyone was interested in the wework product, what was it solving? Cheaper offices for startups, well if you can’t afford office rent, maybe u shouldn’t open an office in the first place, why not work from a garage or a cow shed. Then 20 years down the road you can point to the cow shed, as a good source of inspiration.

  2. Henry S. Tengbeh says:

    We are a Liberian organization in search of a Grant for our program helping young women in ICT located in Monrovia Parker Pink Wood Camp, Liberia. We have graduated many young women in ICT.

    We want to decentralized this program to the fifteen counties, but we do not have funding,