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USAID How To Guide: Using the Digital Principles in Project Design

By Wayan Vota on January 18, 2023

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USAID design teams should be integrating the Principles for Digital Development into their project and activity design processes. The Digital Principles provide guidance to help donors and implementing partners integrate digital technology into development and humanitarian assistance in the world’s rapidly evolving technology landscape.

USAID was among the original drafters and initial endorsers of these Principles that codify decades of knowledge of what does and does not work in digital development. More than 300 organizations now endorse the Principles for Digital Development, and these Principles are integral to the implementation of USAID’s Digital Strategy.

The How-to Note: Addressing the Principles for Digital Development in Project and Activity Design is a brief, user-friendly guide that helps program design teams understand and prioritize the Digital Principles most relevant to their work. Through a series of leading questions and worksheets, this digital activity design checklist provides actionable guidance for each Digital Principle and shares additional resources for ensuring that programs are well-designed and effective.

This How-To Note should be used by design teams when a USAID project or activity includes a digital intervention. Consideration of the Digital Principles at the beginning of the design process will help USAID improve development outcomes and minimize the risk of negative consequences, whatever the size of the intervention.

The How To Note is divided into four parts:

  1. Background on the Digital Principles and why they are endorsed by USAID. This can be used by the design lead or digital
    advisor to orient the team to the Principles.
  2. Checklist for incorporating the Principles into the design process. This can be used by the design lead or digital advisor to help the team monitor its efforts.
  3. Worksheets to guide completion of the checklist and help the design team prioritize which Principles are most important to the
    success of the USAID project or activity. These can be used by the digital advisor.
  4. Guide to the Digital Principles discussing each Digital Principle in the context of activity design and providing sample questions to include in the USAID design or award language. This can be used by the digital advisor.

Digital Development Advisors and specialists can participate in the design process. Sources for support include regional and technical Bureau Digital Development Advisors and the Technology Division, which staffs experts in digital topics such as inclusion, cyber, financial services, data governance, emerging technology, artificial intelligence, literacy, gender, policy, connectivity, climate, e-government, and research.

How-To Notes are published by the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning and provide guidelines and practical advice related to the Program Cycle to USAID staff and partners. This How-To Note supplements USAID ADS Chapter 201.

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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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One Comment to “USAID How To Guide: Using the Digital Principles in Project Design”

  1. Jesus Melendez Vicente says:

    Looking forward to reading the guide, but looking at the description, isn’t this guide covering similar needs to the ‘Digital Investment tool/guide’ release about 3 years ago, here https://www.ictworks.org/usaid-investing-digital-development-solution/#.Y88bP0HMJaQ , another type of PDF graveyard, if guides and resources like this are not release with a plan to understand their use or not by USAID teams and implementing partners alike.