Technology is a powerful tool and, in my line of work, can easily become the be all and end all. Just look at the leaps and bounds humanity has made because of the Internet and social media. We have landed on the moon and watch cows from space. Technology is making it easier to access health information. We have mapped the human genome, eradicated smallpox and soon polio. In a matter of time, vehicles will drive themselves and we could have groceries delivered to our homes by drones. It is exhilarating!
Finding A Place
Where does Zambia fit in all of this? Are our institutions positioned to help or hinder the process of change? Is our workforce ready? Is the private sector ready? Is our government ready? Are you ready? Will we continue to let external agendas chart our digital development or are we ready to sit in the driver’s seat?
In casual conversation, we will sometimes talk about Zambia being “behind”. The opportunity with playing catch-up is that we can see the areas that those ahead have stumbled and also build upon where they were successful.
The international development community has evolved a set of principles to follow when introducing technology. We know all too well that funding can kick-off an intervention but does not often sustain it. The principles take a healthy dose of humility. As an innovation consultant, I need to borrow some of that for myself. I don’t know it all but I do know enough to recognise that technology is not always the solution. Discovering solutions can be arrived at with a generous dose of communication (specifically, listening). Any mother’s child knows that bad things happen when you don’t listen. Just ask Ernesto Sirolli …
Principles for Digital Development
Over the next few weeks, I’d like to explore the nine Principles for Digital Development:
- Design with the User
- Understand the Existing Ecosystem
- Design for Scale
- Build for Sustainability
- Be Data Driven
- Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation
- Reuse and Improve
- Address Privacy & Security
- Be Collaborative
The principles are living guidelines which have evolved from successes and failures in implementing technology-enabled programmes. They are being endorsed by an ever-increasing number of organisations. I can imagine that our nation proved a healthy environment for case studies. Healthy discussion is happening around the principles with many organisations and even governments creating their own interpretation of the principles.
I’d like to approach the issue with healthy skepticism and see if they apply to Zambia. Hope you can join the conversation.