For the second in our series of Leadership Briefs, we share some insights on how to apply the principle of LNOB at the systems level, based on a literature review, consultations, and key informant interviews carried out in 2020. This brief focuses on the impact of “strategic investments in digital,” such as those that:
- Cover multiple initiatives across geographies, sectors, or target populations;
- Are removed from direct project decision-making, such as in the grantor or fund management role; or
- Do not have direct links with communities impacted by investment decisions.
- Prioritize representation. Strategic investments in digital should seek to reflect the needs and concerns of the most marginalized at all stages of the program cycle.
- Invest in evidence, feedback, and accountability mechanisms. Despite decades of practice, the evidence base around the impact of digital development work remains uneven across sectors and is focused on pilots, making it hard to predict the potential impact of larger programs. Less than 10% of the evaluations found in one study examined the impact on “disadvantaged groups.”
- Ensure careful risk-benefit analysis prior to action. Without effective regulation of digital technology in most jurisdictions, the onus is on implementers and strategic investors in digital who shape the work of the field to implement guardrails themselves.
- Fund digital literacy and capacity across the digital development ecosystem. Digital development practitioners must consult communities, understand and mitigate risks and harms to marginalized groups, and gather evidence of impact if they are to leave no one behind.