Insights and Impact

The power of digital tools to enhance people’s lives is well documented, as are the efforts governments, the development community and even industry undertake to ensure these benefits are shared equally amongst women and men in every part of society. 

The opportunity

Today, many people in developing countries, particularly girls and women, are left behind.   Actors in the ecosystem are still learning how to accelerate equitable and meaningful access and adoption of digital tools across these consumer segments.  DIAL has the opportunity and positioning to amplify the impact of these ecosystem actors’ efforts by accelerating their collective learning curve and by encouraging and supporting more collective, evidence-based action.

Key barriers and root causes

Two key barriers create drag on the efforts of governments, donors, development implementers and industry to realize a more inclusive digital society for underserved women and men: ongoing capacity and knowledge gaps and fragmentation of efforts by key actors in the ecosystem.

The cadres of experienced and talented software developers and technology managers in developing markets and digital development professionals globally continue to expand on its own, given how integral digital is to daily life. However, capacity and knowledge gaps persist.

Several root causes contribute to this capacity gap. First, a fundamental challenge in many markets is basic digital skills; while many talented women and men are innovating in markets around the world, a mismatch persists between educational opportunities and the volume of people working in digital necessary to create a thriving digital ecosystem in many developing markets. Second, the pace and complexity of innovation in the sector makes it difficult for individuals and organizations to sift through and understand the most critical, actionable implications of new technologies and business models, particularly across markets and verticals such as health, finance and education. Third, very few actors have resources or incentives to invest in capturing the most important lessons for designing and deploying digital services, particularly when these lessons arise from failure.

The second key barrier is fragmentation, often leading to incremental efforts that do not build on one another, are unsustainable and are unlikely to scale. A key root cause of this barrier is lack of incentives. While individuals at donor agencies and private and corporate foundations genuinely aspire to collaborate more effectively, their institutional settings often undermine their flexibility to design and manage grantee investments with the flexibility collaborative efforts require. And even when donors are able to do so, the transaction costs are high, mainly in terms of time and level of effort.

As with many issues across governments and throughout the global development community, coordination and collaboration is challenging. However, the digital development sector has an opportunity to learn from experiences in health, agriculture and other sectors, and can benefit from the fact that early leaders in this ecosystem – namely DIAL’s funding partners – have already committed to collective action and impact via DIAL.

Insights and Impact investments

DIAL’s Insights and Impact focus area is investing to help the sector realize a common vision, voice and assets by helping to close critical insights gaps and to promote more collaborative adoption of proven policy, practice and investment. The Insights and Impact team will focus its efforts to respond to the needs of its priority audiences, including:

  • DSPs including NGOs, governments, companies and others who employ digital tools to deliver new services and/or improve their existing service delivery that benefit low-income women and men.
  • Funders, including governments, donors and others who fund the design and deployment of digital services and/or advance the digital development ecosystem.