The international development sector is at a defining moment in a rapidly changing, increasingly digital world. Will organizations harness digital to amplify outcomes or fall victim to inertia?
Today, development organizations have an opportunity to move beyond digital point solutions to an interwoven market of digital solutions and economies. This can accelerate the impact of interventions and sustain economic growth long after they end. Because digital for development is not about the innovation of solutions themselves. It is about how they reimagine the way people live and work in developing countries.
Digital technologies can disrupt status quo development in three critical areas to drive economic and social transformation:
Innovation. Digital solutions are not necessarily out of reach in developing countries. Combined with innovative business models such as pay-as-you-go-services, digital technologies can be put to work in local communities without the barrier of high upfront purchase costs.
Collaboration. Digital ecosystems create a multiplier effect to address complex social problems. Connected by a digital platform, shared data and common interests, these networks provide high impact services at lower cost and deliver outcomes that would be impossible for a development organization to do alone.
Impact. Development solutions rarely work without a basis in local context. Design thinking, leveraging digital technologies, can put people back at the heart of development. Like this sector itself, design thinking is fueled by empathy. It is about developing solutions with people, not for them.
Digital technologies are agents of empowerment—the means to the end of unleashing scale, speeding impact and solving problems to help lift people and places out of poverty. Development organizations can drive change now starting with these fundamentals:
Double down on good development practice.
Digitally enable the entire organization social mission.
Embed design and innovation into the genetic code.
Unlock the right data from big data.
Digital disruptors in development act with a sense of urgency to mainstream digital tools and technologies beyond the program into the traditional economy—a rising tide that lifts all boats.