What are “we” doing to take advantage of this money one might ask? The WTS team participated in the discussion on the digital transition at a conference linking the world of digital innovation with international development.
The 10th ICT4D conference took place in Lusaka, Zambia, on May 8-10, and attracted an eclectic mix of researchers, tech startups and enthusiasts, software engineers, NGO workers, and government employees from over 80 countries. The goal of the gathering was to align research and innovation with the global agenda for development co-implemented by the international development stakeholders and governments across the world. The debate was thoughtful and provocative with a focus on possible paths to a better future stimulated by digital transformation.
Here are our key takeaways:
• Digital economy has become a reality in every industrial sector. A given country’s development depends on its commitment to being a part of an inclusive digital economy, which can provide a definitive path toward poverty reduction through increased access to global markets, better government responsiveness, and enhanced cross-sector knowledge-exchange at lower transactional costs.
• In the next 3-5 years, digital transformation will be fast forwarded by improved connectivity, lower device and network costs, and enhanced data analytics.
• Digital transformation is not about technology; it is about a change in mindset necessary to take advantage of the new practices made possible by technological advancements. To move forward, the development community needs inclusive digital infrastructure; government commitments (e.g., open data policies, controlled costs, security of networks, protected privacy of individuals, accountability and feedback loops for citizens, etc.); digitally enabled organizations and digitally empowered individuals.
• Digitally empowered individuals are the most critical component of the digital transition. Individuals must be afforded the capacity and confidence to use digital tools (including digital financial services) in a secure manner to make their own independent and informed choices relevant to their lives. It is crucial that development projects give respondents the agency and ownership of their data and activities that the data inform and influence.
• There are three key approaches to stimulating digital transformation in international development community: (1) creating a culture of data use, (2) designing for scale; and (3) focusing on delivering results that are sustainable long term. Technology is the main enabler of these approaches because it creates agility necessary for organizations to collect and store data, translate it into actionable insights, and supports focus on the “last mile”, i.e., the ever-changing needs and experiences of the end user, whom technology is giving a voice.
• Aside from the excitement and opportunities, the digital transformation brings about greater responsibilities related to data protection, diversity and inclusive development, data-driven investment, and partnerships, including with individuals, communities and innovators.
At the ICT4D conference, the WTS team presented the findings of the action research study aimed at promoting Digital Financial services, #PesaPersonas, as well as ideas for digital projects informed by the study insights and focused on promoting financial fitness and building youth digital community.