GDDF 2023 Ethiopia and Guatemala Watch Parties: Localizing digital development

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By: Julio Vargas Monzon, Technical Advisor, Palladium

As part of the Global Digital Development Form in 2023, Palladium partnered with TechChange to localize conversations around digital development through side events held in Ethiopia and Guatemala. The session held in Ethiopia was conducted both in person and via live streaming, ensuring broader participation and engagement. Both events started with a live-streaming of the Digital Public Goods breakout session, followed by guided conversation to surface localized insights on leveraging digital public goods (DPGs) to maximize their impact in closing the digital gap.

Guatemala: Exploring the Utility of DPGs in the Local Context

Guatemala watch party participants at Palladium office
GDDF Guatemala watch party participants

The event in Guatemala brought together a diverse range of participants, creating an exciting atmosphere. Attendees included representatives from USAID-funded projects, private companies, project implementers, as well as from the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, the National University of the country. The session explored the potential utility of DPGs in the local context. Attendees shared their experiences of both successful and failed implementation cases, Success stories showcased instances where DPGs had made a significant positive impact, emphasizing the transformative potential of these tools.  Two notable cases were brought to the forefront to illustrate successful outcomes. The first case pertains to a public sector team that encountered a pressing need for an information system, resulting in the successful implementation of the DHIS2 data capture and administration tool. This achievement can be attributed to the presence of strong leadership and the establishment of effective governance structures well before the implementation took place. In a similar vein, a second case emerged from a private company facing significant financial restrictions. Despite the challenges, the organization made a strategic decision to integrate open-source tools into their regular operations, a move that proved to be successful. This achievement was primarily driven by a substantial investment in digital literacy and the presence of effective leadership throughout the implementation process.

Valuable Lessons from Implementations

The discussion also highlighted valuable insights gleaned from failed implementations, underscoring the critical importance of careful planning, stakeholder engagement, and adaptation to local realities. One example centered around the implementation of a set of DPGs aimed at fostering interoperability between institutions. The failure of this initiative was attributed to a lack of digital skills among technical personnel, resulting in challenges to the long-term sustainability of the tools. The key takeaway from the discussion was the recognition that the successful implementation of digital solutions, including digital public goods, requires careful consideration of specific preconditions and strategies tailored to the given context. The stories discussed underscored the significance of prerequisites such as digital literacy and skills for both users and implementers, the establishment of effective governance structures prior to implementation, the presence of clear leadership throughout the entire process, and a strong emphasis on sustainability.  

Ethiopia: Accelerating Digital Transformation through DPGs

Ethiopia Watch Party hosted a panel that was streamed back to GDDF participants globally

The event in Ethiopia fostered dialogue and promoted knowledge exchange among attendees discussing how to use DPGs as a way to continue the digital transformation of the country. The event was a combination of live sessions, pre-recorded talks, panel discussions, and interactive Q&A sessions, all of which were designed to allow participants to delve deeper into areas of interest and engage in more detailed discussions. The use of live chat features and sessions dedicated to specific topics facilitated real-time interaction and engagement among participants.

Policy and Technology Intersection for DPGs in Ethiopia

Ethiopia watch party in Addis Ababa

The key takeaways from the sessions emphasized the critical role of DPGs in accelerating Ethiopia’s digital transformation, the need for capacity building and incentives to encourage the private sector to utilize DPGs and addressing the policy environment to promote adoption of DPGs, such as on open-source software adoption, open data, and open standards. The event highlighted the intersection of technology and policy and the need for both to work in harmony to ensure the responsible and effective use of DPGs. Specially, the need for the appropriate policies to be in place to engage with the private sector to lead the deployment, implementation, and creation of DPGs to have a broader impact in the country, one of the key elements of the discussion was based on how the policies and initiatives such as Sandboxes and innovative incentives for the private sector which have advanced greatly but how the need for foundational enablers still remains. During the discussion, the essential conditions situation was highlighted, especially the need to increase the digital skills of the overall population to engage and implement DPGs widely as a tool in the country’s journey towards fully realizing the potentials of DPGs to help achieve the goals of Digital Ethiopia 2025. The event was educational for the attendees, who also valued the diversity of views during the discussion. Several recommendations for future watch parties were also forwarded by participants, including more case studies of DPGs in action and longer discussion sessions.

Commitment to Local Perspectives and Global Progress

Both the Guatemala and Ethiopia sessions underscored the importance of policy to be updated to incentivize the private sector to deploy and implement DPGs among the countries and the population, hand in hand with creating the necessary digital skills for the population to adopt them.

Female participant at GDDF Guatemala watch party

In both the Watch Parties held in Ethiopia and Guatemala, attendees appreciated the opportunity to discuss relevant topics and learn from the experiences of others. The inclusion of practical case studies was a recurring request from attendees in both events. More real-world examples, both from within and outside the countries, could provide further practical insights and inspiration, helping stakeholders visualize how to effectively implement DPGs in their own contexts. Additionally, attendees in both events provided feedback on the duration of the Q&A sessions, suggesting that they were too brief for in-depth discussions on specific topics. Extending these sessions could facilitate more comprehensive conversations, allowing participants to delve deeper into each subject.

Looking forward, Palladium is committed to continuing to bring local perspectives to a global platform, especially around complex themes like digital transformation that ultimately must be rooted in local context, culture and needs. The sessions in Guatemala and Ethiopia demonstrated how as a community, we can take global perspectives to a local level where the rubber actually meets the road to progress both social and economic outcomes. 

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