Applying the Principles for Digital Development to Real-World Challenges

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The Principles for Digital Development can guide our approach to technology by helping us ask the right questions. Hillary Eason, Ehsanullah Hassani, and Robert Lord-Biggers highlight their application of the principles while tackling an MIS project in Afghanistan. It’s easy enough to talk about using the Principles for Digital Development (PDD). This set of best…

Many thanks for sharing this case study - I think that conversations around real-world cases like this really help us all as a community to better understand how we can make these principles a reality on-the-ground.

It’s great to see end-users involved throughout the prioritization and design process - this is something that used to be the exception rather than the norm, but I think your project is part of a wave of projects that are making this the new norm.

I’m surprised by and interested in your decision to build rather than ‘buy’. Given the considerations you listed, I would have normally expected an off-the-shelf system (ideally free-and-open-source) to come out on top: an off-the-shelf product is likely to be internationalizable, to already have a full package of well-tested training materials available, and (given the large community testing and using it) to have tighter security than bespoke systems developed by a small team. In terms of connectivity, most off-the-shelf systems can be installed locally if required; and in terms of future development, most off-the-shelf open-source MIS products are designed to be rapidly re-configurable by (high-level) end-users, rather than requiring the engagement of software developers and the full process of software development and testing.

At the same time, as you indicate in your write-up, there are always local factors that need to be taken into account. Are you able to share a little more around the specific context that drove the decision to ‘build’ rather than use an existing system?

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