Procurement of Digital – DIAL guidance now available

In our last blog on public procurement we outlined our findings from a series of stakeholder needs analysis interviews we conducted, suggesting there is often a disconnect between the aspiration of national governments to deliver digital services to their citizens and the suitability of the public mechanisms available to them to achieve their digital transformation goals. We heard regularly throughout the stakeholder interviews that the opportunity to engage in cross-jurisdictional discussion and share learnings on the challenges and successes in procuring digital was a desired facility that was not often available.  

Public procurement is one of the main implementation instruments available to governments wishing to launch a digital transformation agenda, yet the policies and processes procurement officials are asked to adhere to are often not fit for purpose when it comes to digital technology. The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) believes that strengthening public procurement mechanisms and establishing digital as a specialization will pay dividends and has published a Procurement of Digital Technology website.  The website hosts a range of resources to assist public procurers support governments improve their digital technology outcomes.  As a first step toward facilitating a community of practice that can begin to share learnings and initiate the discussions needed to start to embed new approaches to digital into public procurement, we also recently hosted two workshops with the government stakeholders who assisted us with the needs analysis research for the website. 

As we now rollout and further develop the procurement guidance, we know it must be practical and customizable to account for different country government cultures and their mandates, understanding that the public entity in each country responsible for procurement decision making and oversight can differ widely. It should assist procurers to navigate both legacy issues as well as new procurement issues, encouraging programmatic category level planning while supporting with tools and resources for delivery at a project level, improving value for money and return on investment by attracting wider supply options to government settings through more targeted demand analysis and better formulated buying requirements. 

In compiling the website, we seek to encourage a re-think of traditional risk-averse methods and a greater strategic intent around procurement. We are mindful that often these resources can end up ‘on the shelf’ if stakeholders are not made aware of the fundamental practicalities of the resource and how they can be used. The main feature of the guidance is a 14-Step Category Framework, which rolls up into a four-phase category management approach:  

  • Phase 1 outlines the steps needed to understand the digital category  
  • Phase 2 assists to develop a program strategy 
  • Phase 3 is about executing individual projects 
  • Phase 4 guides the user in how to manage the category and individual projects longer term 

The four phases and associated steps can be worked through sequentially or accessed and adopted individually.  

Each of the 14 steps across the four phases outlines the reason why it is important, how to do it, the key Principles for Digital Development related to that step, and offers tools and templates for download that can be used in carrying out associated tasks. As an example, the Digital Product Lifecycle tool available under Phase 1 can be used to brainstorm costs for all phases of the digital product lifecycle. Once completed, it can be used to assist with programme planning, demand aggregation, strategy setting, and provide input into future total cost modelling. We envisage employees across a range of line ministries such as health, environment or science, are likely to use this Guide as much as the national procurement authorities themselves. 

This Procurement of Digital Technology resource will be a living tool that over time will be enhanced and adjusted, allowing procurers to steer the unique, growing, and essential market of digital technology to achieve their sustainable development objectives and make economical and durable procurement decisions. The plan for the procurement website is that in the future it will be hosted in conjunction with the online Registry of Digital Products which DIAL has developed, and will be a resource for governments in low- and middle-income countries as they implement their digital transformation agendas.  

DIAL continues to enhance the goal of advancing digital inclusion through partnerships with a variety of organizations, including donors and procurement knowledge partners and building a community of change advocates wanting to challenge traditional procurement practice and its application to digital. We are interested in talking to partners who are involved in procuring digital technology within a government context. We would welcome your thoughts on the procurement website and if you are interested in contributing to the development or testing of the guidance, please contact msayinzoga@digitalimpactalliance.org