29 November 2022

What are the 9 principles for digital development?


The 9 principles for digital development were the total steps taken and agreed upon by the international development community to ensure quality and effectiveness in technology being used in development anywhere, be it an organization, startups or government. This was after the realization that digital tools are absolutely necessary in producing the expected developmental outcomes in this digital age. They are not compulsory but are meant to be guidance for anyone trying to be succeed at applying digital skills and tools in development programs, products or projects.

In detail the 9 principles for digital development are:

  1. Design With the User: User-centered design starts with getting to know the people you are designing for through conversation, observation and co-creation.
  2. Understand the Existing Ecosystem: Well-designed initiatives and digital tools consider the particular structures and needs that exist in each country, region and community.
  3. Design for Scale: Achieving scale requires adoption beyond an initiatives pilot population and often necessitates securing funding or partners that take the initiative to new communities or regions.
  4. Build for Sustainability: Building sustainable programs, platforms and digital tools is essential to maintain user and stakeholder support, as well as to maximize long-term impact.
  5. Be Data Driven: When an initiative is data driven, quality information is available to the right people when they need it, and they are using those data to take action.
  6. Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation: An open approach to digital development can help to increase collaboration in the digital development community and avoid duplicating work that has already been done.
  7. Reuse and Improve: Reusing and improving is about taking the work of the global development community further than any organization or program can do alone.
  8. Address Privacy & Security: Addressing privacy and security in digital development involves careful consideration of which data are collected and how data are acquired, used, stored and shared.
  9. Be Collaborative: Being collaborative means sharing information, insights, strategies and resources across projects, organizations and sectors, leading to increased efficiency and impact.
Who created the Principles, and when?

In the late 2000s many digital development programs found themselves unable to scale or sustain themselves and their implementers decided to come up with best practices for international development. This challenge led to the UNICEF Innovation Principles of 2009, the Greentree Principles of 2010, and the UK Design Principles, at first. These were then later unified into the 9 Principles for Digital Development in consultation with organizations such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

What does it mean to endorse the Principles?

Endorsement means that an organization officially agrees to use the Digital Principles to guide its work.

Why are the Principles relevant to my work?

Technology usage is increasing globally and with it so does its usage in international development in sectors such as health, insurance, financial services, agriculture and humanitarian aid. This technology improves their efficiency in service delivery but there are still many challenges in getting a picture of the proper impact its making for good. The 9 principles help implementers in development programmes with 9 specific best practices, each with a set of guiding questions, resources, and project lifecycle applications that will help implement the Principles on any project.

Are the Principles listed in priority?

No they’re not, You can use any of them based on what your program/project’s priorities are, or you where you’ve reached in your project.

Who has endorsed the 9 PDDs so far? 

You can see the organizations that have endorsed the 9 principles for digital development here and they include DFID (which just became the 100th endorser) Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, CRS, DIAL, FHI 360, GIZ, JSI, PATH, SIDA, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, World Vision, WFP amongst many others.

Find out more on the 9 PDDs here and follow discussions around them at this year’s ICT4D Conference using the hashtag #ICT4D2018.


Tech blogger. Gadget junkie. Life lover. I love eyeliner. Miller runs through my veins.

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One thought on “What are the 9 principles for digital development?

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