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Principles for Digital Development

The "Principles for Digital Development" (use open standards, open data, open source, and open innovation and address privacy and security, among others) are guidelines to help digital technologies have a sustainable impact in development programmes.

The “Principles for Digital Development” are continuously developed based on the practical experiences of a range of international implementing organisation and provide orientation for project execution.

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The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development wants to establish a successful, efficient and effective digital development cooperation. To acknowledge adherence to the guidelines for planning and implementing effective digital approaches, the government implementing organisations KfW and GIZ, among others, signed the commitment to the Principles for Digital Development of the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL). The recognition of the digital principles is an important step towards establishing the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development as an innovative partner for digital solutions in the development cooperation. Based on the broad empirical knowledge of international development partners, the principles also help minimise significant risks in the use of digital technologies. 

Nine principles were developed by a large group of development organisations and adopted as guidelines: 

Design with the user

User-centred design starts with getting to know the people for whom you are implementing projects. By designing with users rather than for users, you can develop digital tools that better incorporate the regional and cultural context of the users. 

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Understand the existing ecosystem

Well-designed digital projects consider the specific local structures and requirements. An analysis of ecosystems helps to ensure the relevant and sustainable implementation of the applied technology. Ecosystems are the key to enabling individuals to use a technology and integrate this into their daily lives.

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Design for scale

“Designing for scale” means thinking beyond the test phase and making decisions that will enable broad acceptance in the long-term. An analysis of whether a project can be used in a local ecosystem should take place at the very start of a project. Scalability allows projects to be expanded to new users, markets, regions or countries more easily. 

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Build for sustainability

Even in the digital sphere, the development of sustainable projects is essential to maximise the long-term impact. A sustainable project must adapt to cultural practices, the regulatory framework and, above all, the users. 

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Be data driven

In projects, data should be used to actively support decisions. Produced data can improve the quality of projects with additional information and offer a higher-quality service to the right people at the right time. 

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Use open standards, open data, open source, and open innovation

An open approach in digital development can help improve collaboration in development cooperation and prevent the duplication of work. Digital projects can maximise their resources – and ultimately their impact – through open standards, open data, open source technologies and open innovation. 

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Reuse and improve

Rather than starting from scratch, wherever possible projects should seek to improve existing products, resources and approaches. Reuse means using available resources for new projects. Improve means improving and expanding existing tools. 

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Address Privacy & Security

Addressing privacy and security in digital development involves careful consideration of which data are collected and how data are acquired, used, stored and shared.

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Be collaborative

Being collaborative means working together across organisations and sectors. This principle brings all the other digital principles together in practice. Open and integrative collaboration is essential for mastering digital transformation in development cooperation. 

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