View documents, reports and resources from the Digital Impact Alliance.

FlowKit: Unlocking the Power of Mobile Data for Humanitarian and Development Purposes

While the commercial world routinely uses mobile data to do everything from targeting food purchases to optimizing one’s route to work, the humanitarian and development sector lags behind in optimizing service delivery with mobile network data. Despite the fact that 5 billion people of the population are currently connected to the mobile internet, the data generated from cell phone use is still a novelty for most humanitarian and development organizations due to policy concerns about user safety and the lack of turnkey product solutions.

To address a key part of this problem, DIAL and Flowminder have partnered to create FlowKit, a suite of opensource software tools designed to enable access and analysis of mobile data for humanitarian and development use cases. This white paper introduces the key features of FlowKit, providing detailed examples of how these tools assist humanitarian and development actors to improve decision-making and achieve impact.



A Guide To Using Mobile Aggregators To Deliver NGO Services At National Scale

This guide is the second in a series focused on building awareness among NGOs of mobile channels and platforms, their capabilities and when to use an aggregator to deliver services at scale.  The guide reviews the advantages of when to use aggregators and when to use an MNO to help NGOs evaluate their needs and determine the best option to fulfill them.  It also helps demystify the sector by describing the different types of mobile aggregators and their relevance to help understand what kind of aggregator is right for what kind of job.  For more information on the most commonly used mobile channels currently used by the NGO sector, see our Mobile Capacity Model which was release in November 2018.

Digital Impact Alliance 2018 Annual Report: Advancing Digital Inclusion to Achieve the SDGs

At DIAL, we are committed to supporting the digital development ecosystem as it moves from a world of disjointed technology building blocks to the institutionalized use of digital technology. Our team works with a range of actors, such as governments, private companies and global development organizations, to address challenges that impede services from becoming more accessible to people more quickly.

2018 marked DIAL’s second full year of delivering against our early strategy. Over the past 12 months, we made strong progress organizationally and programmatically. At the board’s request last October, we streamlined and reduced early program efforts; delivered foundational outputs in both software and data analytics platforms; conducted in-country research; and investigated capacity-building tools that support the digital ecosystem’s ability to roll out new programs.

Read more about our work in our 2018 Annual Report here

Digital Impact Alliance 2018 Baseline Ecosystem Study

In 2018, DIAL and Genesis Analytics conducted a comprehensive study to analyze the state of the ‘Digital Development Ecosystem’ with multiple stakeholders in mind. The purpose of this study was to inform DIAL’s results framework indicators and to provide additional insight into the experiences and interactions of these stakeholders. The focus of this study was on funders, technology specialists, and governments, NGOs and implementers.

This report provides an overview of this research process. Several general themes emerged from the findings, and this report is organized around them. They include an observed Typology of ICT4D, gaps in Funding for digital services, the factors influencing the Design of digital solutions, and gaps in various actors’ Capacity to use digital data and technology, and stakeholders’ awareness of, and experiences in implementing, the Principles for Digital Development.

Read about the DIAL Baseline Ecosystem Study here

Explore the DIAL Baseline Ecosystem Graphic here

Financing Digital Markets: What Vaccines Can Tell Us About Scaling Digital Technologies in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

DIAL worked with researchers at the Tableau Foundation and PATH to determine whether the lessons from the innovative market-shaping activities that transformed the vaccine market could be applied to digital products. Specifically, we hypothesized that business models that aggregate demand, standardize pricing, and create transparent and timely procurement processes could significantly expand government markets for software, mobile services and data products. While the range of digital products and services is much larger, and the scope of underserved populations is wide, for the purposes of this study we focused on software, core mobile services and MNO datasets purchased by governments in low- and middle-income countries.

Our findings are promising. This research surfaced parallels between the vaccine markets of the 1970s and 1980s and the challenges faced by digital products and services today. The same market-shaping tools that helped grow the vaccine market may have the potential to solve similar challenges faced by software, core mobile services and data today.

Read our Financing Digital Markets paper here

Towards a More Gender-inclusive Open Source Community

The Digital Impact Alliance along with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex, conducted new research to explore the experiences of women working in open source and better understand why women are underrepresented and do not always feel welcome in this community.

Towards A More Gender-Inclusive Open Source Community provides a framework for action and highlights a set of reformist, conformist, and transformist recommendations on how different stakeholders – organizations supporting women in coding, open source communities, employers, conference organizers, governments and funders – can work together to build a more inclusive environment.

This research report is the culmination of a thorough review of the literature, hundreds of hours of dialogue with leaders of, active participants in, and people who have turned away from open source communities. We’re eager to share this research and we welcome your feedback on the report and our future work at DIAL’s Open Source Center Forum at

Mobile Capability Model

Due to the ubiquity of mobile phones in emerging markets, development programs are increasingly designing services for the underserved that leverage the reach of mobile technology. Often, the path toward achieving national scale involves using the mobile channel because no other communication channel is as well understood and prevalent. But while understanding of core mobile channels (e.g., SMS, USSD) is fairly universal, the nuances of each channel’s capabilities and how they can be used specifically within the development and humanitarian sector are less well known, outside of a relatively small community of technically oriented specialists in the NGO sector.

Without a fuller understanding and appreciation of the opportunities and challenges of using these channels, as well as a common understanding of product requirements, implementation of mobile development projects can suffer from expensive delays and cost overruns. These problems can potentially be avoided by having open and honest discussions with the aggregator or mobile network operator about the tradeoffs between requirements, feasibility and affordability.

Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) SDG Digital Investment Framework: A Whole-of-Government Approach to Investing in Digital Technologies to Achieve the SDGs, Global Call to Action

DIAL and the ITU conducted new research which informs an SDG Digital Investment Framework to help countries make smarter and more strategic decisions in their ICT investments. The Framework — outlined in this paper – was developed through in-depth study of the agriculture, education, and health sectors and identifies critical technology needs that can be served by the same, generic ICT Applications.

The paper also includes a call to action, inviting countries to take a whole of-government approach to investing in digital technology. The SDG commitments made by 193 countries were set to “transform our world” by 2030. Countries’ ability to achieve this goal is dependent on innovative uses of ICT services that can make existing programs more effective and scalable to better serve their population.

Leveraging Data for Development to Achieve Your Triple Bottom Line

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) released its second paper in a series focused on the promise of data for development (D4D). DIAL worked with Altai Consulting on both primary and secondary research to inform this paper. Primary research included one-on-one in-depth interviews with more than 50 executives across the data for development value chain, including government officials, civil society leaders, mobile network operators and other private sector representatives from both developed and emerging markets. These interviews help inform how operators can best tap into the shared value creation opportunities data for development provides and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals profitably.

Key findings include:

  • There are several critical barriers that have prevented scaled use of mobile data for social good – including 1) unclear market opportunities, 2) not enough collaboration among MNOs, governments and non-profit stakeholders and 3) regulatory and privacy concerns;
  • While it may be an ideal time for MNOs to increase their involvement in D4D efforts given the unique data they have that can inform development, market shifts suggest the window of opportunity to implement large-scale D4D initiatives will likely not remain open for much longer;
  • Mobile Network Operators with advanced data for good capabilities will have the most success in establishing sustainable D4D efforts; and as a result, achieving triple bottom line mandates; and
  • Mobile Network Operators should focus on providing value-added insights and services rather than raw data and, drive pricing and product innovation to meet the sector’s needs.

View full report here.

View webinar here.

Messaging Applications for International Development: A research initiative from the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and Echo Mobile

In its mission to steward best practices in digital development, DIAL and Echo Mobile partnered in 2017 to better understand how, and to what effect, international development organizations have used different messaging apps. At the 2018 ICT4D conference, a new online resource was launched to help development practitioners and application developers with findings, insights, and tips on how messengers can be best utilized in daily development and relief work. The website features:

  • 6 case studies: detailed analyses of development and humanitarian initiatives that have utilized messaging applications. Based on in-depth interviews, each case explores the decision making and implementation processes and analyzes the results for lessons, focusing on accomplishments as well as unforeseen challenges and opportunities.
  • 13 project summaries: focused on 13 organizations that have deployed messaging applications for development projects across different regions and sectors. The findings from each project have been summarized in one-page briefings that provide insights for development practitioners and technologists.
  • 1 report: which examines crosscutting insights, similarities and differences in use cases involved in this research, and synthesizing lessons for development and technology practitioners.

View full website here.

Read about how our new research is open to public feedback here.

Unlocking MNO Data to Enhance Public Services and Humanitarian Efforts

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) released Unlocking MNO Data to Enhance Public Services and Humanitarian Efforts, which provides insights to governments, humanitarian organizations and mobile network operators (MNOs) on the shared value proposition of using MNO data for development (D4D).

Understanding how best to acquire and integrate new data elements is still a struggle for the development community. The Digital Impact Alliance, in partnership with Delta Partners Group, investigated which data elements (location, user profile, usage and spend) were most useful to each development sector, in comparison to how difficult it was to extract the data. The team based its analysis on applications in five sectors: economic development, humanitarian assistance, health care, education and agriculture and to prioritize the most important insights, the analysis focused on:

  • Viability: The level of risk associated with sharing data
  • Implementability: The ease of data ingestion, transformation, storage, analysis and visualization
  • Replicability: The level of reusability of the same insight across several different development needs and sectors

View full report here.

View press release here.

Beyond Scale: How to make your digital development program sustainable

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) launched Beyond Scale, a free online guide for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that details key challenges and potential solutions when scaling and sustaining digital development programs beyond the ‘valley of death’ – the problematic phase many digital development implementers face when the pilot is over and the funding may be running out. DIAL partnered with BBC Media Action and Esoko to share their learning and experiences of what works – and as importantly – what does not. It also partnered with Vital Wave and Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative to source digital development emerging best practices from around the world.


Additional Resources: 

French translation of Beyond Scale PDF

Stockholm Internet Forum 2017: The Promises and Risks of the Platform Economy

Video by Sida

Moderated by DIAL’s Senior Director of Platforms and Services, Jeff Wishnie. View the session.



Article by Kate Wilson

The Digital Impact Alliance’s CEO, Kate Wilson, wrote an article for trendradar about the need to close the digital divide between emerging and developing countries in order to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Download the full trendradar publication here.

Connecting the Next Four Billion

Report by DIAL, USAID and SSG Advisors

This report highlights that while there are a range of ongoing efforts to promote greater access to the internet, gaps remain that slow progress toward universal access. It is up to governments, technology companies, and investors to take the next step and create opportunities for economic and social development in rural communities across the globe.

Closing the Access Gap

Report by DIAL, USAID and Caribou Digital

This report shares recent and ongoing efforts to test business model innovations, providing both a framework to help decision makers consider where innovation can best address gaps in their specific contexts, as well as lessons and opportunities for action across the ecosystem.