A 360 degrees view of the Principles for Digital Development


A 360 degrees view of the Principles for Digital Development


  • Why do we need the digital principles?
  • What are these principles?
  • How have they been implemented?

The developmental world has seen an investment into platforms and infrastructure to support information and knowledge sharing, and lately hackathons, contest and apps galore have mushroomed.

While these efforts are commendable and justifiable, there is an obvious result, systems and platforms are developed in silos. In some cases even duplicating efforts. The situation l just described above explains why the donor agencies and multilateral organisation thought of best practices in the use of ICT tools in development.

Some of the known efforts include the UNICEF Innovation Principles of 2009, the Greentree Principles of 2010 and the UK Government Digital Service Design Principles and many others.

It was in 2014 that a group of stakeholders muted the idea of Principles for Digital Development and started meetings and consultations and which led to the launch of The Digital Principles for Development. The steward of the Principles for Digital Development is the Digital Impact Alliance.

The Principles for Digital Development

What are these principles? These are set of 9 design considerations to consider and these are

  1. Design With the User
  2. Understand the Existing Ecosystem
  3. Design for Scale
  4. Build for Sustainability
  5. Be Data Driven
  6. Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation
  7. Reuse and Improve
  8. Address Privacy & Security
  9. Be Collaborative

These principles are meant to be a guide and not a design bible. The publication, “From Principle to Practice: Implementing the Principles for Digital Development” provides an insight into the implementers’ thought process when they approach the principles, some barriers they have encountered and some suggestions.

Implementing the Principles in East Africa

Besides the publication mentioned in the previous paragraph, last October a group of over 100 digital development professionals met in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to discuss how the ‘principles’ can be put in practice in the context of East Africa. This event was organised by Digital Impact Alliance (DAL), read more about it here  .

In a nutshell, the participants focused on principle 1, 2, and 9 and a number of examples of how the ‘principles’ were ‘living’ guidelines and were offering best practices into technology enabled programs.

The meeting concluded with a resolve that the Digital Principles would help make ICTs a part of development that should benefit all people.More information here

Digital Principles for Development Forum

On the 10th of October 2017, the Digital Principles Forum was launched. This an online meeting place to exchange, connect, discuss and debate about the Digital Principles within the ICT4D community.

In this forum participants can start discussions, share evens and resources, asks questions and solve problems and share also job opportunities. The forum is open to interested persons.

Have you implemented the Principles in your design, comment on this item and let us know your experience


  1. Principles for Digital Development .
  2. Waugaman, Adele. From Principle to Practice: Implementing the Principles for Digital Development. Washington, DC: The Principles for Digital Development Working Group, January 2016.
  3. Rogers, K. There are 9 principles for development. Now what? Devex, March 2016

Post your comment

Log in or register to post comments