Gabriel Inchauspe and hackathon participants

Three “Hacks” in Advancing Anti-Corruption Work To Strengthen Accountability

April 3, 2024
DG Comms, Gabriel Inchauspe, David Sada, Kelley Sams
Program, Thought Leadership

Since partnering with Accountability Lab (AL) on HackCorruption in 2023, staff from Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG) and AL have mentored teams from the regional hackathons organized by AL’s HackCorruption initiative, which is aimed at leveraging innovative digital tools to identify and fight corruption. After serving as mentors to teams selected from the regional hackathons, DGers Gabriel Inchauspe and Kelley Sams along with AL’s David Sada have identified three “hacks” to mentoring anti-corruption change-makers  and ultimately, furthering transparency and accountability through the creation and use of digital tools.

About HackCorruption and the Mentorship

Supported by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, U.S. Department of State and the USAID Countering Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge for Development and in partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise and DG, HackCorruption is led by AL and aimed at identifying and supporting talented individuals to build innovative digital solutions to combat and prevent corruption. These change-makers come from public institutions,  civic tech, civil society organizations, and activist arenas. 

Participants in a regional HackCorruption hackathon apply as groups or individuals. Each individual selected to participate is placed in a team, and groups that apply together form their own team. During the hackathon, teams are asked to focus on one of three anti-corruption problem sets: 1) budget and ownership transparency, open contracting and transparency of public procurement; 2) digital citizenship to constrain corruption; and 3) climate finance transparency. Participants then develop an innovative digital tool to address a specific area of the selected problem set.  

Beginning in June 2023, DG and AL began mentoring teams selected by an external panel of judges during the  South Asia regional hackathon, with mentorship continuing for six months after the event. The goal of the mentorship is to support these teams in developing the solutions proposed during  the hackathon, support their anti-corruption efforts overall, and help build the capacity of these change-makers. From this mentorship, Inchauspe, Sams, and Sada identified three hacks in advancing anti-corruption work regionally and transnationally.

1. Create a culture of anti-corruption

By organizing these  hackathons, HackCorruption aims for teams to develop technical solutions and approaches that combat corruption and that can be implemented and scaled. However, beyond these digital tools, the heart of the mission is to strengthen the culture of anti-corruption in the regions where the hackathons are held as well as transnationally. The mentorship team found that they need to remind mentees (and themselves) that while political, technical, or resource limitations can ultimately prevent teams from scaling their tools, strengthening anti-corruption culture is the most fundamental success in fighting corruption. After all, building a culture of anti-corruption work creates an environment that allows other anti-corruption efforts and initiatives to exist and flourish.

“The hackathons are part of a cultural movement of anti-corruption. As mentors, we work hard to help these initial tools succeed, and many of them have. However, for teams that have struggled with getting the first iteration of their tools into the hands of potential users, we encourage them to keep trying and not to be afraid of pivoting approaches. All teams will have learned something and deepened their commitment to anti-corruption work and social change. Even if that first tool doesn’t work, hopefully we’ll see these individuals again in five or 10 years when they develop a tool that does create real impact. For now at least, HackCorruption and the mentorship have helped move them down that road a little bit.”    

Kelley Sams

2. Clearly define the project scope and keep returning to it

Inchauspe, Sada, and Sams found that teams would sometimes deviate from the original idea they developed in the hackathons, as they faced roadblocks or problems. While projects can be adapted in response to barriers, the mentorship team encouraged their mentees to closely consider how their project was changing and why. Inchauspe, Sada, and Sams encouraged teams to ensure that their new ideas still met all requirements for the project (e.g., the solution had a transnational application as well as a regional or local one) and appropriately contributed to anti-corruption efforts (and wasn’t simply a cool technical tool). 

“A solution is a tool and not an end goal in itself. We had to remind the winning teams that while it might be great to use a novel technical solution or technology, they needed to think about the solution first. Solving the corruption problem is the priority and will help ensure that the tool that’s developed isn’t redundant or overly complicated and can meaningfully advance anti-corruption efforts.” 

 

David Sada

As projects advanced or were changed, the mentorship team also helped the winning teams ensure that they were collaborating with everyone with whom they needed to be working. For example, some teams weren’t as strong in technical development skills. Depending on the scope of the project, the mentorship team would advise these teams in subcontracting with technical developers. Inchauspe, Sada, and Sams ensured their mentees retained ownership of their projects by encouraging them to circle back to the original ideas proposed during the hackathon and communicating their vision clearly to subcontractors.

In addition to helping teams as they worked with partners, the mentorship team also ensured their mentees advanced their project management skills. After seeing one or two team members move forward with certain types of work while others didn’t know what to do, Inchauspe, Sada, and Sams encouraged teams to have different tasks assigned to each team member at any given time in order to ensure all aspects of the project were moving forward.

David Sada at a HackCorruption event.

3. Be open minded and aware of contextual differences

Just as the mentorship team had to ensure their mentees were approaching their project with technical, project management, and analytical skills, they also had to ensure that their own experiences and backgrounds weren’t limiting their mentees. 

“We learned how to ensure that our experiences didn’t dictate how each team did their work. Maybe our experiences and ideas are good in a specific project or context, but they might not work in the context of the teams’ projects. We discovered that being open minded is essential while mentoring individuals in different cultural and political contexts.”   

Gabriel Inchauspe

Because each winning team was composed of individuals with different personalities who were working in a specific cultural and political context, the mentorship team learned to embrace these differences. Regarding personality differences, the mentorship team found that it was essential to identify how best each team member works, what excites and motivates them, and what they need to successfully move forward with their ideas. These discoveries were made by being in close communication with each team member and matching these discoveries against the needs of the team as a whole. 

To embrace the constraints of different political contexts, the mentorship team encouraged their mentees to understand that whatever steps can be taken in a non-receptive political system is a step toward cultural—if not institutional—capacity building for anti-corruption work. Circling back to the first hack identified above, Inchauspe, Sada, and Sams found that the most important thing isn’t if the teams are successful in implementing their technical solutions, but it’s that they keep going despite any barriers they may encounter. As part of this process Inchauspe, Sada, and Sams emphasized the need to understand the context where the solution would be implemented and the importance of adapting to what users really need.

Kelley Sams and Gabriel Inchauspe at a HackCorruption event.

What’s next?

In addition to offering mentorship to the selected teams, DG and AL will continue their collaboration by joining conversations at the policy-level on digital tools and corruption as well as developing an AI tool that DG plans to register  as a digital public good and can be used by those wanting to build anti-corruption solutions. With the most recent hackathon in SE Asia, climate financing played a particularly important role, and DG and AL look forward to joining broader conversations about how digital tools can contribute to preventing and combating corruption related to climate financing efforts. 

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aLIVE Program Reaches Milestone: Livestock Data Standards Endorsed by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — March 2024

On January 25, 2024, the governing committee—which includes Ethiopia’s Livestock State Minister Dr. Fikru Regassa—endorsed a comprehensive set of standards to guide the collection, storage, and maintenance of livestock data in Ethiopia (i.e., a data standard) that was developed through the a Livestock Information Vision Ethiopia (aLIVE) program, which the committee advises. The data standard specifically focuses on standardizing data on cattle, sheep, goats, and camels. This is a huge milestone for Ethiopia, a country with the largest livestock population in Africa.

Following 12 months of dedicated work and validation by a wide range of livestock stakeholders, the endorsement of the Livestock Data Standard marks a major milestone for both the program and for data management within Ethiopia’s livestock sector. This milestone was reached thanks to the efforts of team members and leadership at Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG) and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA); with our partners, including the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) as well as at least 19 other partner organizations; and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

Standardization of data collection and management is crucial to enhance the quality, availability, and usability of livestock data across various information systems in the country. Implementing this standardization involves the development of and adherence to common definitions, formats, indicators, and protocols for collecting, processing, storing, and sharing livestock data among stakeholders. One significant advantage of data standardization is the enhanced interoperability of information systems which enables seamless and secure communication and data exchange between different systems. Creating system interoperability is a key component of the aLIVE program. 

Establishing a comprehensive data standard is the first major accomplishment in the aLIVE program’s ultimate goal to build an interoperable platform consolidating livestock data for better data-driven decision-making in Ethiopia. Much of Ethiopia’s livestock data collection and management systems are incomplete and inconsistent, because they have been built and adapted independently of one another. In order to address the problem of fragmentation in Ethiopia’s livestock data, the aLIVE project is enhancing the interoperability of five core livestock data systems: ADNIS, DOVAR II, ETLITS, NLMIS and AADGG.

Ultimately, setting data standards for the livestock sector will better allow for the analysis of livestock data for planning, monitoring, evaluation, and learning purposes—which is vital in a country where agriculture is a critical part of the economy, accounting for about 40% of gross domestic product and 80% of exports

Streamlining Ethiopia’s Livestock Data to Advance Agricultural Prosperity

In addition to the benefits to Ethiopians, developing a standardized and interoperable livestock information system in Ethiopia can bring numerous benefits to the livestock sector itself. For instance, animal registration can help establish the identity, ownership, traceability, and health status of individual animals or groups of animals, leading to improved animal health management, disease control, breeding programs, and market access. Market data plays a crucial role in providing valuable insights into the supply, demand, prices, quality, and trends of livestock products and services. By analyzing this data, market efficiency, competitiveness, transparency, and profitability can be enhanced for both producers and traders. Similarly, health data is instrumental in improving animal health monitoring and safeguarding public health from animal-borne diseases. 

“Standardization will boost the Ministry of Agriculture’s capacity to analyze and use livestock data in its planning, policymaking, programming, and resource allocation discussions.”

Dr. Fikru Livestock State Minister

Co-Design and Collaboration: How the Livestock Data Standard was Developed

In order to develop the data standards, the aLIVE team held a series of co-design workshops in 2023 with the MoA, the five core livestock data system owners, and key stakeholders in the livestock sector.  

Data Standard co-design workshop with the Technical Implementation Committee (TIC)

The team also held one-on-one meetings with the system owners to understand starting points and priorities for the data standards. In these meetings, the team gained an understanding of the overall data entry fields and the data collection process. The team was also able to reach preliminary agreements regarding the changes required in each data system in order to implement the new standards. After these meetings, a data standard task force (DSTF) was established comprising owners of the five priority systems, experts working with data on these systems, and staff from the MoA ICT directorate.

The aLIVE team then developed the initial data standard document by adopting international data standards (including standards from the International Committee for Animal Recording and World Organisation for Animal Health) and contextualizing the data standard to fit the data ecosystem of Ethiopia’s livestock sector.

The aLIVE program held its first data standard task force consultation workshop in Adama, Ethiopia in May 2023, during which the team presented the draft data standard document for review and feedback from various key stakeholders from across the livestock sector, including representatives from across the MoA, the Ministry of Trade & Regional Integration, the International Livestock Research Institute, and many other agriculture institutions. This feedback was then incorporated into the document, playing an important role in shaping the focus of the standards to fit stakeholder needs. For example, one key piece of feedback received was that it was important to place equal emphasis on species such as camels, goats, and sheep, in addition to cattle, which previously had been the primary focus. This feedback was particularly valuable as it prompted us to include standards in new areas, including animal grading and body conformation scores across all four species.

The second round of the DSTF workshop was held in July 2023, where the second draft was reviewed and further comments and feedback were collected. The document was then finalized at a validation workshop in November 2023.

Data standard Co-design workshop, Adama, May 2023

Next Steps

The next phase in this process is familiarization and adoption of the Livestock Data Standard throughout Ethiopia’s livestock value chain. To help with this, the team is developing a data standard implementation guideline to serve as a roadmap for successfully implementing the livestock data standard across the five core livestock data systems. By following these guidelines, stakeholders can improve data collection and interoperability across systems, resulting in more efficient analysis and utilization of integrated data. 

About aLIVE

A Livestock Information Vision for Ethiopia (aLIVE), DG and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—in partnership with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture—will empower Ethiopia’s stakeholders in the livestock sector to make data-informed decisions by providing relevant, accurate, timely, and digital livestock data and analytics. Ultimately, the aLIVE program will support Ethiopia in meeting national food demands as well as achieving food security while building a robust, more independent economy.

Partners

Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG)

Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG) provides data and digital solutions for international development. DG creates tools that help institutions collect and analyze information; strengthen the institutional capacity to use data; and explore what processes are needed to enable evidence-based decisions. As a mission-driven nonprofit since 2000 with staff based in five global hubs and around the world, DG supports the use of data, technology, and evidence to create more effective, open, and engaging institutions. Learn more at www.developmentgateway.org.

Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC)

LIC is a farmer-owned co-operative with over 100 years experience in delivering genetic improvement and technology solutions that empower farmers and enables decisions to be made efficiently for their farming operations. Learn more at www.lic.co.nz.

CIAT

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical or CIAT) collaborates with partners to help developing countries make farming more competitive, profitable, and resilient through smarter, more sustainable natural resource management. CIAT ensures the continuity of technical knowledge and provides advisory support. Learn more at www.alliancebioversityciat.org.

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Although we’ve updated our documentation, our key message from CALM 1.0 remains the same: we assert that simply supplying data or digital tools alone is insufficient; to be truly equitable and sustainable, digital solutions must involve a systems-level understanding of incentives, decision spaces, and user needs. We hope that CALM 2.0 readers better understand what these approaches and methods are, why DG applies them to ecosystem assessments, and how they can lead to more useful and usable digital systems and solutions. We look forward to the next five years of applying and adapting CALM and developing sustainable digital tools to drive better development outcomes.

Read the entire white paper here.

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Une priorité absolue pour Development Gateway : An IREX Venture (DG) est de collaborer étroitement avec les partenaires pour s’assurer que la conception et la mise en œuvre de nos programmes s’alignent réellement sur les besoins des partenaires (c’est-à-dire une approche de co-conception). Cette approche de co-conception est particulièrement vitale lorsque notre objectif est d’obtenir un consensus à travers plusieurs pays de mise en œuvre sur les prochaines étapes d’un programme donné, tout en équilibrant les priorités politiques et stratégiques de chaque pays. 

Pour contribuer à la réalisation de cette priorité dans le programme Data on Youth and Tobacco in Africa (DaYTA) de DG, nous nous sommes appuyés sur notre approche de co-conception, en l’intégrant à toutes les activités tout au long de la première année de mise en œuvre du programme. Cette démarche a abouti à un atelier de quatre jours avec les partenaires, du 30 octobre au 2 novembre, à Naivasha, au Kenya. C’était la première fois que nous réunissions des responsables gouvernementaux de plusieurs pays à cette échelle pour s’engager dans la co-conception avec d’autres partenaires non-gouvernementaux. En réfléchissant à cet atelier et au travail qui l’a précédé, nous avons identifié trois idées ci-dessous sur notre approche de co-conception avec des parties prenantes représentant plusieurs pays

À propos de DAYTA

Le programme DaYTA, soutenu par la Fondation Bill et Melinda Gates, vise à fournir aux gouvernements de l’Afrique subsaharienne un meilleur accès aux données nationales qui permettront d’améliorer la conception et la mise en œuvre des politiques de lutte antitabac. 

Plus précisément, DaYTA concevra et mettra en œuvre une recherche visant à combler les principales lacunes en matière de données sur le tabagisme chez les jeunes âgés de 10 à 17 ans en République démocratique du Congo (RDC), au Kenya et au Nigéria. Ces informations seront facilement accessibles afin de répondre aux besoins des acteurs gouvernementaux, de la société civile et du monde universitaire. 

L’un des principaux objectifs de DaYTA étant de collecter des données sur le tabagisme chez les jeunes de manière coordonnée afin de permettre une comparaison pertinente des résultats dans les trois pays de mise en œuvre, nous savions que nos partenaires devraient se mettre d’accord sur le contenu essentiel du questionnaire et du protocole de recherche ; cependant, nous savions également que nous devions être flexibles et désigner certains contenus comme facultatifs, car tous les pays n’auront pas les mêmes besoins.

À cette fin, nous avons consacré la première année de mise en œuvre du programme à des activités de co-conception, c’est-à-dire à la collecte d’informations sur les objectifs de la recherche et les variables du questionnaire au niveau des individus, des pays et de l’ensemble du consortium. Pour commencer, nous avons procédé à une évaluation rapide, basée sur notre méthodologie CALM, suivie d’ateliers spécifiques à chaque pays afin d’entendre les partenaires eux-mêmes et d’être ainsi mieux à même de trouver un équilibre entre les exigences du programme et les besoins spécifiques du pays. Notre processus de co-conception a donné lieu à un atelier de quatre jours, du 30 octobre au 2 novembre, à Naivasha, au Kenya, auquel ont participé des partenaires représentant le gouvernement, le monde universitaire et la société civile des trois pays de mise en œuvre.

“Les chiffres ne mentent pas ! Le projet DaYTA en cours est essentiel car il fournira des données qui informeront les décideurs politiques sur les actions et décisions stratégiques à prendre pour enrayer l’épidémie de tabagisme chez les enfants et les jeunes, d’autant plus que les nouveaux produits à base de nicotine sont de plus en plus nombreux. La protection des générations futures passe par des législations fortes associées à des campagnes de sensibilisation ciblées.”

Anne Kendagor Ministère de la santé, Kenya

Trois points de vue sur une approche de co-conception multinationale et multi-partenaires 

    1. S’efforcer d’impliquer une diversité de partenaires et adapter l’engagement en fonction de leur expertise, de leur intérêt et de leur disponibilité : Qu’il s’agisse de services gouvernementaux, de sous-traitants ou d’organisations de la société civile, chaque partenaire apporte un point de vue et une expertise uniques. Par conséquent, une approche de co-conception réussie impliquera profondément chaque partenaire tout au long du processus afin de s’assurer que leur précieuse contribution est donnée et reflétée dans la conception et la mise en œuvre du programme, en fonction de leur domaine d’expertise et de leur disponibilité. En dehors des réunions avec l’ensemble du consortium de partenaires, une étape importante de l’approche de co-conception de DG consiste à comprendre le style de communication et la disponibilité de chaque partenaire afin de comprendre et de prendre en compte leur implication dans le reste du programme.

      Par exemple, dans le consortium des partenaires DaYTA, nous avons de nombreux experts – à la fois au sein des pays DaYTA et entre eux – qui travaillent dans des secteurs tels que la recherche, l’université, la santé publique, la lutte antitabac, les médias et la défense des jeunes, entre autres. Le tabagisme chez les jeunes étant très nuancé, nous nous appuyons sur les connaissances de chaque partenaire dans son secteur pour créer des solutions programmatiques afin d’améliorer la création et la mise en œuvre de la politique de lutte antitabac. Par conséquent, notre principal objectif en matière de co-conception est de veiller à ce que tous les partenaires soient impliqués tout au long du processus. 
    2. Mettre l’accent sur l’équité entre les partenaires de la co-conception en créant des opportunités de collaboration entre les pays ainsi que des discussions spécifiques à chaque pays : Chaque partenaire apporte une valeur ajoutée à la co-conception ; cependant, chaque partenaire travaille également dans son propre pays et dans son propre contexte. Par conséquent, certains besoins, préoccupations ou (même) idées peuvent ne pas être appropriés pour être partagés par l’ensemble du consortium de partenaires de co-conception – en raison de contraintes de temps ou d’aspects politiques ou culturels propres à un contexte donné.Avant l’atelier de Naivasha, nous avons organisé des ateliers indépendants au niveau national, au cours desquels les équipes nationales ont pu approfondir les préoccupations, les besoins et les prochaines étapes de leur travail. Une fois réunis à Naivasha, nous avons facilité l’apprentissage croisé par le biais de séances en petits groupes mixtes et veillé à ce que diverses parties prenantes aient la possibilité de partager leurs points de vue, leurs conclusions, leurs préoccupations, etc. en séance plénière. En outre, nous avons continué à proposer des sessions spécifiques à chaque pays. Enfin, toutes les sessions ont bénéficié d’une interprétation de l’anglais vers le français (et vice versa) afin de garantir l’inclusion de tous les partenaires et l’accessibilité de chaque session.
    3. Créer des structures ou des mécanismes de gouvernance pour impliquer les partenaires au niveau national et international : L’une des prochaines étapes importantes identifiées lors de l’atelier de Naivasha est la nécessité de créer de nouvelles structures et de nouveaux mécanismes de gouvernance, tels que des comités de pilotage ou des conseils consultatifs, dans les trois pays de l’initiative DaYTA et entre eux. La collaboration coordonnée entre les structures de gouvernance de trois pays sera une nouvelle opportunité pour DG, mais nous avons vu les avantages que ces types de structures peuvent avoir sur l’engagement des parties prenantes dans des pays spécifiques. En particulier, lors de la mise en œuvre du programme TCDI de DG, un conseil consultatif technique a été créé en RDC dans le cadre de la recherche sur le commerce illicite. Étant donné que cette structure a permis d’engager de manière significative les parties prenantes techniques du gouvernement et des universités, et que les structures de gouvernance constituent une pratique exemplaire dans le secteur, nous avons convenu que la mise en place de structures similaires pour DaYTA dans chaque pays serait le meilleur moyen de poursuivre l’élan amorcé lors de cet atelier et de fournir des points de contact actifs pour les mises à jour et le retour d’information tout au long de la mise en œuvre.

Restez à l’affût de nouvelles informations à mesure que DaYTA progresse dans le processus de co-conception, crée de nouvelles structures de gouvernance et entame des recherches primaires sur le tabagisme chez les adolescents !

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Balancing Needs: Three Insights in Building a Co-Design Approach Across Multiple Countries

February 29, 2024 Health
DG Comms, Lauren Eby
Program

A top priority at Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG) is collaborating closely with partners to ensure our program design and implementation truly align with partners’ needs (i.e., a co-design approach). This co-design approach is especially vital when our goal is to garner consensus across multiple countries of implementation around next steps in a given program, while also balancing individual countries’ political and policy priorities. 

To help realize this priority in DG’s Data on Youth and Tobacco in Africa (DaYTA) program, we built upon our co-design approach, integrating it into all activities throughout the first year of program implementation. This culminated in a four-day workshop with partners on October 30 – November 2 in Naivasha, Kenya, which was the first time we’ve convened government officials from multiple countries at this scale to engage in co-design along with other non-governmental partners. Reflecting on this workshop and the work preceding it, we’ve identified three insights below on how to co-design with stakeholders representing multiple countries.

About DAYTA

The DaYTA program, which is supported by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to supply sub-Saharan African governments with improved access to country-specific data that will inform better tobacco control policy design and implementation. 

Specifically, DaYTA will design and implement research to address key data gaps with respect to tobacco use among young people aged 10 to 17 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, and Nigeria. This information will be easily accessible in order to meet the needs of government stakeholders, civil society, and academia. 

Because one of DaYTA’s main objectives is to collect data on youth tobacco use in a coordinated manner in order to allow the results to be meaningfully compared across all three countries of implementation, we knew that our partners would need to agree around core content for the research questionnaire and protocol; however, we also knew we needed to be flexible and designate certain content as optional—since not every country will have the same needs.

To achieve this end, we dedicated the first year of program implementation to co-design: collecting inputs at the individual, country, and full consortium levels. To start, we conducted a rapid assessment, which was based on our CALM methodology, followed by country-specific workshops in order to hear from partners themselves so that we might be better able to find a balance between program requirements and country-specific needs. Our co-design process culminated in a four-day workshop on October 30 – November 2 in Naivasha, Kenya attended by partners representing government, academia, and civil society from all three countries of implementation.

“Numbers don’t lie! The ongoing DaYTA project is critical as it will provide data which will inform policymakers on strategic action and decisions to halt the epidemic of tobacco use among children and the youth more so with the proliferation of novel and nicotine products. Protecting future generations requires strong [legislation] coupled with targeted awareness campaigns.”

Anne Kendagor Ministry of Health, Kenya

Three Insights on a Multi-National, Multi-Partner Co-design Approach

  1. Strive to engage a diversity of partners and tailor engagement based on their expertise, interest, and availability: From government departments and subcontractors to civil society organizations, every partner brings a unique perspective and expertise. Therefore, a successful co-design approach will deeply engage each partner throughout the process to ensure their valuable input is given and reflected in program design and implementation, based on their area of expertise and availability. Outside of meetings with the full consortium of partners, an important step in DG’s co-design approach is understanding individual partner’s communication style and availability in order to understand and address their involvement throughout the rest of the program.

    For example, in the consortium of DaYTA partners, we have many experts—both within and across DaYTA countries—who are working in such sectors as research, academia, public health, tobacco control, media, and youth advocacy, among others. Because tobacco use and youth is so nuanced, we rely on each partners’ insights from their sectors to create programmatic solutions to improve the creation and implementation of tobacco control policy. Therefore, our primary goal in co-designing is ensuring that all partners are engaged throughout the process.
  2. Emphasize equity across co-design partners by creating opportunities for cross-country collaboration as well as country-specific discussions: Each partner brings value to co-design; however, every partner is also working in their own country and in their own context. Therefore, some needs, concerns, or (even) insights might not be appropriate to share across the entire consortium of co-design partners—as a result of anything from time constraints to political or cultural aspects that are unique to one context.

    Prior to the workshop in Naivasha, we facilitated independent country-level workshops in which country teams could dive deep into the concerns, needs, and next steps of their work. Then once convened in Naivasha, we facilitated cross-learning through mixed-country breakout sessions and ensured that a variety of stakeholders had the opportunity to share their insights, findings, concerns, etc. in plenary. Additionally, we continued to provide opportunities for country-specific sessions. Finally, across all sessions, we had English to French (and vice versa) interpretation to ensure all partners were included and each session was accessible.
  3. Create governance structures or mechanisms to engage partners at the country and cross-country levels: One important next step that was identified during the workshop in Naivasha was the need for new governance structures and mechanisms—such as steering committees or advisory councils—in and across the three DaYTA countries. While collaborating across governance structures in three countries in a coordinated manner will be a new opportunity for DG, we’ve seen the benefit these types of structures can have on stakeholder engagement in specific countries. Specifically, in implementing DG’s TCDI program, a technical advisory board was formed in the DRC as part of the illicit trade research. Due to the success of this structure in meaningfully engaging technical stakeholders from government and academia, as well as the fact that governance structures are an industry best practice, we agreed that having similar structures for DaYTA in each country would be the best way to continue the momentum started at this workshop and provide active touchpoints for updates and feedback throughout implementation.

Keep an eye out for more insights as DaYTA moves forward with the co-design process, creating new governing structures, and beginning primary research on adolescent tobacco use!

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Announcing TCDI 2.0: In Partnership with the Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa

February 27, 2024 Health
Winnie Awuor
Program

Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG) is pleased to announce that following the success of our Tobacco Control Data Initiative (TCDI) throughout the past four years, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given DG funding for an additional four years in order to implement the second phase of the program: TCDI 2.0! 

In part one of this blog, we explored the many accomplishments achieved during TCDI 1.0 as well as a few lessons we learned along the way. In this second part, we’ll detail the scope of TCDI 2.0 as well as our next steps; however, most importantly, we’d like to announce that we’ve chosen the Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) to be our sustainability partner throughout TCDI 2.0. We’re pleased to partner with CSEA on TCDI 2.0 and look forward to advancing the work that was done in TCDI 1.0. 

About CSEA

CSEA, which is headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria, has extensive research experience in macroeconomics and public financial management; trade and investment; global economic governance; human capital development; poverty reduction and inclusive growth; environment; and natural resources and energy. Recently, CSEA collaborated with DG to build the capacity of policymakers in different states in Nigeria to better understand tobacco control data.

What was TCDI 1.0?

Launched in 2019, TCDI 1.0’s primary aim was to supply governments, civil society, and academia with improved access to country-specific data to better inform tobacco control policy. The program built individual websites for six countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. Each website includes country-specific data on such things as tobacco control legislation, tobacco use, and health impacts of tobacco use. This data was gathered from different sources, including primary data collected through TCDI and publicly available secondary data.

TCDI 2.0: Sustainability and Growth

During TCDI 2.0, the three primary goals will be to ensure that the six TCDI country-specific websites developed in TCDI 1.0 are updated with the most recent data, government officials remain a critical stakeholder in using the websites in policymaking, and an African institution manages TCDI by year four. With these goals in mind, TCDI 2.0 will consist of two phases: a mentorship phase and an expansion phase. 

Phase 1: Mentorship (Years 1 and 2)

One of the key lessons learned during TCDI 1.0 was that building trust amongst tobacco control partners is crucial in creating a community in which data is not only shared across stakeholders but widely accepted. Specifically, we found that trust is created through continual engagement with stakeholders. Therefore, DG’s priority for the mentorship phase of TCDI 2.0 will be to integrate CSEA within this community and ensure that trust is established between CSEA and our tobacco control partners in each TCDI country. 

With that goal in mind, we will facilitate a series of engagements with different stakeholders and CSEA to build connections while also building their capacity on existing programmatic processes. Additionally during this mentorship phase, DG will continue to lead on content updates and conduct primary research on the prevalence of tobacco use in selected locations/provinces/regions in certain TCDI countries (i.e., conduct prevalence spot checks survey). 

Phase 2: Expansion (Years 3 and 4)

During phase two, DG will act in a supporting capacity, while CSEA will lead program activities, including updating the existing TCDI websites and expanding into an additional country which will be selected by the end of year two.

Throughout this expansion phase, DG will support CSEA in drawing upon the successful approaches used in TCDI 1.0, specifically by guiding CSEA in employing a user-centered approach in which stakeholders are at the heart of website development. This approach will include involving users in everything from identifying data gaps to reviewing the website content. This user-centered approach will ensure that the data on the new TCDI website meets the stakeholders’ needs and improves users’ interaction with the platform. In this phase, CSEA will conduct the second round of prevalence spot checks. 

Next Steps

DG and CSEA recently held a kick off workshop which provided an avenue for both teams to create a foundation for the work over the next four years. The purpose of this workshop was for both teams to streamline their understanding and expectations of the program as well as provide some capacity building on the processes used in the first phase of the program, which will also be used in TCDI 2.0. The team also developed a prevalence spot check protocol that will be used in the two phases of TCDI 2.0. 

In the coming weeks and months, DG and CSEA will continue to track the impact of the TCDI websites and data. In TCDI 1.0, impact surveys provided insight on how the data was used and how we could further improve the websites. In TCDI 2.0, we would like to discover the ways in which TCDI has changed activities within civil society organizations, academia, and government policymaking.

As we enter TCDI 2.0, we’re looking forward to partnering more closely with CSEA and deepening and expanding our tobacco control work. Stay tuned for more as the program continues! 

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Advancing Digital Public Infrastructure: Emerging Practices for Creating Sustainable, Inclusive Systems at Scale

February 20, 2024
Charlene Migwe-Kagume, Josh Powell
Thought Leadership

Digital public infrastructure (DPI) is a growing strategic priority for governments throughout the world as they seek to modernize service delivery, increase inclusion, preserve privacy, and strengthen decision-making in the digital age. This comes at a crucial time when access to digital technology has expanded, but the digital divide remains a source of inequality driven by numerous political, social, and economic factors.  

From DG’s more than 20 years of experience in creating, delivering, and adapting open source and open data solutions, we’ve learned several best practices on how to make technology accessible and sustainable while prioritizing engagement from open source communities—these practices can be applied to building and implementing DPIs. In this blog, we’ll explore what DPI is, DG’s approach to DPI, and three best practices that can be used to ensure DPIs are effective and advance inclusion. 

What is digital public infrastructure?

According to the United Nations Development Programme, DPI is the technological infrastructure supporting easily accessible, digitized, and connected services that allow individuals and groups to access a given type(s) of data. An individual might interact with DPI when they use their smartphone to access government and other services through an interoperable authentication and payment system.

A DPI should be secure as well as interoperable and governed by legal frameworks, according to the G20 Digital Economy Minister. Each component of a DPI should be built on open standards and specifications to deliver equitable services both from private and public organizations across society. 

Just like railways and roads were instrumental in how economies and societies have evolved and integrated, DPI payment systems and data exchange protocols positively transform how people and businesses around the world access services. Done properly, DPIs are effective in creating inclusive opportunities and growth, combatting digital divides based on gender, class, geography, marginalized identities, and other factors.

The DPI-DPG Connection: DG’s Approach to DPI

While DPIs have the potential to be a game changer for any country—especially low- and middle-income countries where estimates suggest they can help accelerate economic growth by 20-33%, many countries are early in their journey and far from realizing these economic gains, as evidenced by monitoring of country-specific DPI progress. Fortunately, as countries develop DPIs, they can draw on proven digital public goods (DPGs) to build their systems. Many funders are focusing on creating these DPG building blocks—an example is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funding for MOSIP and Mojaloop

DPGs can be used to create or improve a country’s DPI, because they are software, AI models, standards, or content that are open-source (meaning their source code, design, and/or data sets are publicly available and can be replicated, modified, and shared freely) and are often interoperable and scalable, according to the Center for Digital Public Infrastructure

At DG, we’ve developed two DPGs: The OC Portal and the Aid Management Platform, which have been used by more than 30 national and subnational governments globally. Through our work in developing these DPGs as well as creating and implementing other digital and data solutions, we’ve learned time and again that technology has the potential to make systems more inclusive; however, the design and implementation of such technology can also create or reinforce power imbalances. From our commitment to ensuring that our solutions are designed and implemented to increase inclusion, DG has learned these three best practices which can be applied to creating and implementing DPIs.

  1. Foster private and public sector collaboration on digital services

Building a DPI allows the private sector and government to collaboratively roll out DPI building blocks, including digital tools for identity verification, payments, and data exchange. For example, the India Stack was established to build digital platforms as a public good and foster a collaborative environment for both public and private sector entities, which has helped to bring hundreds of millions of citizens into the formal system and onto a path of technological disruption. This possible collaboration is a marked shift from traditional approaches in which governments owned the full-service delivery mechanisms. Such private and public sector collaboration requires trust and healthy competition; however, to establish trust and healthy competition, both sectors must deeply understand national interest and individual organization needs and agree upon a balance between both. 

Balancing needs is something that we have successfully navigated in our Visualizing Insights on Fertilizer for African Agriculture (VIFAA) program, which is aimed at supporting policymakers and private sector access to fertilizer data across eight countries. In VIFAA, we have seen improved private and public sector collaboration throughout the program, but particularly in Nigeria where both the private and public sectors knew the value of investing in and improving countrywide fertilizer data sets (available here: africafertilizer.org). DG supported the development of data sharing mechanisms such as non-disclosure agreements and governance protocols that facilitated the active sharing of foundational datasets necessary for Nigeria’s fertilizer policy and availability. 

  1. Ensure citizens derive value from their data

In order for individuals or groups to effectively engage with systems, including DPIs, they must trust the actors behind said systems. We’ve found that one of the most vital ways that governments can create trust in (and through) data systems is by actively demonstrating specific benefits to the public. 

In our agriculture work, we see smallholder farmers increasingly using digital technologies (i.e., AgTech) to increase their profits and production, improve processes, and reduce risks. Unfortunately, these farmers often face data practices which can undermine their trust and adoption of digital tools—which prevents them, and society, from fully engaging and accessing the full benefits of these tools. 

A study that we did on farmer-centric data governance was based on the premise that AgTech providers must address unbalanced power dynamics by meaningfully involving farmers in the processes of ownership and governance of their data (i.e., the creation and participation of data governance approaches). In the study, we found that different implementations of fair and equitable data governance models can increase farmer participation while guarding farmers against potential disadvantages and exploitation. More work can be done to study, understand, adopt, and scale innovative approaches to participatory data governance across all sectors, which will ensure the maximum impact of DPI investments. In the meantime, through our farmer-centric study, we know that citizens are individually and collectively more likely to engage with and trust a system if they understand and see the demonstrated benefits it can afford them. Ensuring that the value of a DPI is clear to all stakeholders will likely increase engagement with it.

  1. Prioritize interoperability, data governance, and data exchange

Finally, to ensure the successful implementation of data and technical solutions, DG has found that prioritizing interoperability, data governance, and data exchange can help increase efficiency and prevent redundancy in a given system. After all, effective governance of digital infrastructure requires frameworks for data sharing, data integration, and system connections to safeguard cyber security, citizen privacy, competition, and consumer protection. 

DG’s understanding of interoperability, data governance, and data exchange has led us to such work as our aLIVE program, in which we have partnered with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture to create data standards, governance protocols, and open source technical architecture to establish interoperability between five existing government platforms related to the country’s livestock sector. 

In building DPI, interoperability, data governance, and data exchange are essential to allow each component of the DPI to smoothly operate independently and collaboratively. In other words, such DPIs will allow regulators to regulate and innovators to innovate. Given the proliferation of digital systems—typically created in different software languages, with different data models, and with varying levels of openness in licensing and use—over the past 20 years, holistic approaches to establishing the standards, governance, processes, and technology for data exchange present one of the most complex and important tasks for the DPI movement.

What’s Next?

At DG, we’ve long prioritized ensuring data and digital solutions are tailored to specific country needs and always with the final person using the system in mind—and DPIs provide an opportunity to do this on a new scale. After all, we have reached an inflection point in digital development where public-serving institutions can achieve more with technology than ever before (while also being less trusted than ever to do so in a just, equitable, and efficient way). At their best, DPIs center people and their rights, focusing on citizen technology access, engagement, and empowerment. We’re excited to see the potential good from DPIs come to fruition, and to help ensure this happens, we’re committed to our longstanding mission of supporting the use of data, technology, and evidence to create more effective, responsive, and trusted institutions. 

Stay tuned for the next installments of this DPI series, in which we’ll explore practical approaches to rolling out DPIs; impactful use cases; challenges and solutions to implementing DPI; and more!

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DG’s Tobacco Control Data Initiative: Reflecting on the First Four Years (Part 1)

February 6, 2024 Health
Andrea Ulrich, DG Comms
Program

In 2019, Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG) began the Tobacco Control Data Initiative (TCDI). This four-year program—our first in the tobacco control sector—was funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by DG in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products

The aim of this first phase of TCDI was to supply governments, civil society, and academia with improved access to country-specific tobacco control data in order to support better tobacco control policy design and implementation. As we reach the end of the first four years of TCDI, we reflect not only on what we accomplished throughout the first phase of the program but the lessons we learned along the way. We share five key lessons below on how to organize and deliver work as effectively as possible.

Expanding into Tobacco Control: What We Did in TCDI 1.0 

Throughout the past four years, some of our key accomplishments in TCDI have included: 

  • Interviewing more than 120 individuals in order to assess the factors incentivizing data use, identify trustworthy data sources, and discover the biggest data gaps in the tobacco control data landscape; 
  • Holding eight validation workshops through which we confirmed the stakeholders’ priorities on tobacco control data and confirmed which data gap(s) we would address through primary data collection; and
  • Hosting 18 co-design sessions in which we’ve worked with partners to integrate their suggestions into our data visualizations and content. 

DRC Co-Design Workshop in July 2022.

All of this work culminated in DG creating and launching six country-specific TCDI websites between June 2020 and November 2023. Each website provides information specific to one of the six TCDI countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia.

The information on the websites—which includes data on tobacco use, tobacco control legislation, tobacco trade, etc.—was tailored to meet the specific country’s needs. By providing context-specific data, each website allows those working in the tobacco control sector to make data-driven decisions which, in turn, will allow for more effective tobacco control policies and actions.     

From left to right: Dorcas Kiptui (Kenya – Ministry of Health), Winnie Awuor (DG), Anne Kendagor (Kenya – Ministry of Health) and Rachel Kitonyo-Devotsu (DG) at the Kenya TCDI website launch in April 2023.

In creating and gathering data for these websites, we were able to identify several gaps in tobacco control data. This revelation led us to conduct primary research in multiple countries simultaneously—a first for DG—which is being integrated into the TCDI websites. 

Reflecting on TCDI 1.0: Lessons Learned

Throughout our implementation of TCDI, we relied on several of the co-design approaches that DG has implemented throughout our history, including frequent interviews with stakeholders, co-design workshops, and understanding stakeholder insights in order to more effectively use data to inform policy and advocacy. By employing these strengths in the tobacco control sector, we learned five lessons that can be applied across sectors.

    1. Challenge your assumptions: When we began working in tobacco control, our first assumption was that most data we collect or that would be needed by our stakeholders would relate to passing new tobacco control legislation. However, what we found—particularly in the case of Ethiopia—was that data on enforcement of existing laws was much more valuable than passing new legislation, since the most significant gains can be achieved through strengthened policy implementation. 
    2. Put as much thought into governance structures as you do into technical design – Through TCDI we also learned the importance of building clear governance structures alongside technical activities like data collection. For example, in Zambia, we created a steering committee so that key government stakeholders would be kept informed on primary research activities and could approve the research protocol at key stages. However, we did not apply that strategy across all TCDI focus countries, and instead updated our government counterparts on an ad hoc basis. In certain cases, we received feedback that our focal points in the Ministry of Health felt that they weren’t involved enough in the process—which required our team to reach out to them and restructure our communications. In the future,  such challenges can be avoided through a clear governing structure such as a steering committee in each country. 
    3. Building trust in data is critical: In creating trusted websites with key data, we found we couldn’t just focus on the data: we also had to focus on building relationships. As we discussed in this blog, when we started TCDI, DG was unknown in the tobacco control sector. By having partners, like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and others in the tobacco control community, introduce us to Ministry of Health counterparts and longstanding tobacco control advocates, we became known and trusted. Through these efforts and with strong official support from the Ministries of Health in each TCDI country, we’ve released each TCDI country website with strong public and official support. 
    4. Federation leads to efficiency and stakeholder responsiveness—as long as you’re communicating with each other: The overall strength of the TCDI program largely came from the strength of each individual “sub” team. The TCDI team includes six country teams (one for each TCDI country), a tech team, and a research team. Through this “federation,” teams were able to independently manage everything from website development to research collection. To facilitate easy handoffs between “sub” teams, we relied on tried and true practices in agile project management, including thrice-weekly scrums, weekly sub-team meetings, and virtual coworking sessions. Through these formats, the teams communicated frequently and shared lessons learned between parallel team members.
    5. Sustainability isn’t built in a day: When we initially created our sustainability approach, we anticipated a number of challenges inherent in finding long-term success. Finding an organization that had a presence in the key TCDI countries, operated well remotely, boasted a strong research portfolio in tobacco control, and had a strong software development team was like finding a needle in the haystack. After difficulty in finding an organization with a similar profile to DG, we changed our approach to sustainability. We redefined roles and responsibilities and asked for advice from other organizations that had successfully transferred long-term ownership of programs to other organizations. As a result of this effort, we’re pleased to announce that DG will be working with The Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa during the second phase of the program: TCDI 2.0, which is being funded by an additional four-year grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We explore what this phase of the program will look like in the second part of this blog.   

 

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Developing Data Systems: Five Issues IREX and DG Explored at Festival de Datos

January 17, 2024 Data Management Systems and MEL
Annie Kilroy, Philip Davidovich, Josh Powell, Tom Orrell
News/Events

Both IREX and Development Gateway: An IREX Venture (DG) participated in Festival de Datos. This conference, held in Uruguay from November 7-9, 2023, is the flagship event of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and convenes the data for development community to explore how to use data to tackle pressing global issues, including democracy, human rights, climate change, and agricultural economies. At Festival de Datos 2023, IREX and DG participated in nine sessions in which we shared our work to develop effective and inclusive data systems. 

What are data systems and why are they important?

Data systems are comprised of various data-related elements within or across institutions that can support decisions and potential solutions for a specific issue. These elements include datasets, digital tools, user communities, protocols, and partnerships.   

Improving how these elements engage with each other is important in making data actionable, especially to solve problems; however, making these improvements requires thoughtful consideration to mitigate potential harms to people and communities. At Festival de Datos, IREX and DG explored the five issues below to support mitigating potential harms and furthering possible benefits of data systems.

1. Sub-national and local data systems rely on community engagement and ownership.

An increasing priority among the data for development community is investing in data systems at the sub-national and local levels. Despite this priority, activities and resources developed to improve data systems often do not incorporate community engagement as a key part of the process. This limitation was highlighted in a session on agricultural data facilitated by Annie Kilroy, DG’s Technical Advisor for Data and Analytics.  

During this session, Kilroy and others noted that there is significant demand among local partners to invest in farm-level data; however, farmers’ willingness to contribute to data collection is sometimes limited because of insufficient protection, transparency, and ownership in the data collection and use. 

To address concerns about data ownership, both IREX and DG have systems that give citizens control over how data collected from them and their community is collected and used. For example, IREX’s Data Zetu program is a citizen engagement program to improve access to public health resources, and DG’s Open Contracting Portal is a digital tool increasing transparency in government contracts and supporting local businesses looking to fill them. While each of these examples are unique, both programs work with community members to understand local perspectives around specific challenges and create ownership in those solutions after the programs have ended.  

2. Effective data partnerships require the ability to access and process data along with trust, transparency, ownership, and feedback.   

During a plenary session at Festival de Datos, DG CEO Josh Powell and others highlighted four steps to building effective data interoperability practices to support data partnerships. Advancing data partnerships, in which actors share data to create solutions to specific challenges, is important because they help address challenges across data systems and sectors. However, these partnerships are often limited by the insufficient ability to access and process data from multiple sources; therefore, improving the ability to access and process data through the following four steps is vital: 

  1. Improve trust between institutions by facilitating transparent data-sharing on common problems; 
  2. Be transparent with how data is being used and securely stored and accessed; 
  3. Establish a clear ownership of datasets with the institutions and communities they reflect, avoiding an extractive power-dynamic; and 
  4. Develop accessible feedback loops that communities and stakeholders can continuously learn from and validate elements of their datasets.  

DG has also helped develop tools, such as the data maturity assessment, to support data administrators in accomplishing these steps by acknowledging the functions and considerations at the organizational, human, data, and technological levels. 

3. Advancing inclusion in a data system requires an understanding of the local context.

In a joint session facilitated by IREX and DG, Annie Kilroy and Philip Davidovich, IREX Technical Advisor for Data and Digital Literacy, explored what makes a data system inclusive and how inclusion can be assessed and improved. Improving inclusion in data systems is essential because it allows for higher quality datasets that more accurately reflect the perspectives and issues existing in the communities connected to the data. Inclusive data practices also ensure that data is collected and used for all people, regardless of location, ethnicity, gender, or age. 

Using IREX’s Data Compass methodology that customizes the development of indicators to reflect local considerations, Kilroy and Davidovich highlighted the formal and informal elements associated with assessing inclusion in different environments. Overall, this session highlighted that the ability to meaningfully improve inclusion requires a refined assessment framework that’s responsive to local contexts and problems. Resources such as IREX’s Data Compass and DG’s CALM methodology apply that level of customization to create inclusive data systems that are holistic and reflect local conditions.  

4. Data governance, which is evolving, is a key enabler in developing a responsible and ethical data system.

Tom Orrell, a senior advisor at DG, facilitated a peer learning discussion around two emerging issues in the data governance space. Data governance practices—the policies, actions, decisions, and technologies that guide institutions and communities on data use—are rapidly evolving to keep up with new technologies and emerging issues. Because data governance is a key enabler in how data systems function, incorporating responsible and ethical considerations into data governance frameworks was a major topic of discussion throughout the festival. Emerging issues that surfaced in Orrell’s session were: 

  1. Africa’s emerging data governance frameworks should balance Africans’ own interests with those of other geopolitical blocs, including the United States, the European Union, and China; and 
  2. The many conversations on using artificial intelligence and machine learning tools indicate that the field of data governance itself is rapidly evolving. 

In response to the rapidly changing data governance space, DG is considering how to incorporate innovative approaches in their work, especially as their long-standing digital tools that impact users’ data governance approaches are repurposed to address emerging global issues.  

5. Building a data culture helps sustain effective data systems, and it starts by investing in people.

Finally, building an inclusive data culture was the focus of a lightning talk and Q&A discussion facilitated by Davidovich. Building a sustainable and impactful data system requires investing in individual users’ data skills, such as literacy, analysis, and decision-making. After all, every actor that engages in a data system contributes to the culture in how that data is collected, managed, and used, which impacts the effectiveness of the data system. Therefore, the culture of a data system needs to be inclusive of everyone within that system. 

To support this inclusivity, IREX recently created the Data Learning Journey Playbook, a field-tested resource with independent and team activities on building and sustaining data culture and skills in global development. In the session, Davidovich highlighted the five skills the Playbook offers support in building:  

  • Identifying an opportunity to use data;  
  • Achieving your data literacy needs;  
  • Working with data responsibly;  
  • Fostering effective discussions around data; and  
  • Building collaborative data practices. 

By participating at Festival de Datos and highlighting these five key issues related to data systems, both IREX and DG hope to engage the development data community in finding innovative solutions that ensure data and technology support local leaders and global communities to create more just, prosperous, and inclusive societies.  

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Unlocking the potential of digital public infrastructure for climate data and agriculture: Malawi

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In September 2023, Development Gateway: An IREX Venture’s (DG’s) DAS program participated in “Multi Stakeholder Dialogue in Malawi on National Data Infrastructure for Climate Decision Making,” an event convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat and hosted by the Government of Malawi in collaboration with AGRA and the financial support of Open Societies Foundation and GIZ. The event brought together stakeholders in the public and private sector to explore creating a national digital public infrastructure (DPI) in Malawi, with the ultimate aim of increasing the impact of climate data to combat current and future agricultural issues caused by climate change. 

This event was one in a series of national dialogues that the Commonwealth Secretariat will host. Subsequent events will be held in Ghana, Barbados, and Bangladesh; each dialogue will be customized to address country specifics while being centered around building national DPIs to better utilize climate data and, in turn, create more resilient food systems in each country. 

From the dialogue during this event, participants discovered three key insights (below) to support Malawi in developing its DPI. 

What is Digital Public Infrastructure?

According to the United Nations Development Programme, DPI is the technological infrastructure supporting easily accessible, digitized, and connected services that allow individuals and groups to access a given type(s) of data. An individual might interact with DPI when they use their smartphone to access government and other services through an interoperable authentication and payment system. Another example of an interaction with DPI is when an individual accesses the latest weather data using open climate platforms to make informed decisions regarding their agri-business.   

In order for a DPI to reach its full potential, certain safeguards should be built in, including such things as ensuring accessibility of public data as appropriate, privacy policies protecting individually identifiable data, appropriate use, etc.   

Why Do Nations Need DPIs?

Without a national DPI, unrealized potential and inefficiency prevail, and nations often have multiple, incompatible data systems with data fragmented across them. This dynamic results in operational difficulties, data duplication, and a power imbalance between data owners and holders. Overall, a national DPI benefits everyone from individual citizens to third party organizations. 

For citizens, DPIs allow individuals to access streamlined public and private services without compromising their data. For organizations, having a national DPI provides a framework that allows data sharing across different parties, which helps these organizations reduce costs and avoid data duplication. These benefits are achievable because the DPI systems are designed for data sharing.

Additionally, third parties can use data in the DPI to improve outcomes by determining the risks and benefits of doing business with certain individuals or organizations. In the case of agriculture, the DPI data can improve agricultural production by guiding financial institutions on which farmers to finance (including farmers who might otherwise not have access to financing).  

Specific to agriculture, a national DPI—in addition to providing the benefits outlined above—would also make disparate climate and agriculture data (e.g., data on soil properties, weather patterns, and land use) accessible and would help farmers identify opportunities, reduce risks, and therefore, boost productivity.

Insights from the Malawi Dialogue

As established above, DPIs are essential to combating climate change and allowing for effective harnessing of data to create more resilient food systems. Therefore, the insights gathered from the discussion can guide Malawi and other actors in developing DPIs and maintaining strong data ecosystems and data use during and after a DPI is established. 

  1. Up-to-date data management practices are vital: During the discussion, participants recognized the importance of moving from paper-based to digitalized database storage. Having up-to-date data management practices allows for the collection of more accurate, timely, and accessible data that can be integrated into a DPI.   
  2. Data collection approaches should be standardized: Discussing the variety of data collection methods—including face-to-face surveys and digital data collection tools, participants came to a consensus that a standardized approach to collecting data should be established. A standardized approach would result in consistency in data collection which expands the possibility of comparing data and identifying actionable next steps. 
  3. Embedding interoperability into the DPI will help ensure sustainability and usability: Many data elements are commonly collected by different institutions. Collaboration and data sharing advances the value of these data elements allowing for improved data-based decision-making. Therefore, different data systems and platforms used in the DPI must be able to work together (be interoperable) in order to allow for this improved accessibility and efficiency.     

Looking Ahead: The DAS Program

Going forward, DG’s DAS Program will continue to work with Malawi and other countries to assess opportunities on providing technical assistance and advisory support to inform decisions related to DPIs and other tools and strategies to advance agriculture in Africa. 

Learn more about the DAS Program here.   

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