#GDDF2024 Local Events: Snapshots from Moldova, Thailand, and Senegal

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By Lara Henneman, TechChange Content Specialist

What do a former Soviet republic, a popular tourist destination in Asia, and a Francophone West African country have in common? This year they all held a local event for the Global Digital Development Forum, the world’s premier convening of digital development practitioners, experts, and funders. GDDF is a hybrid event in the “hub and spoke” model, where one central in-person event in Washington D.C. was open to a global retinue of virtual participants as well as in-person participants at connected events in Moldova, Thailand, and Senegal. At these GDDF “watch parties,” practitioners gathered to network and participate in conference sessions on AI’s role in development, advances in digital government, protecting the digital rights of children online, and more.

Just like each country, each session was unique to its context and participants. 

Digital Principles in Thailand

The Thailand event centered an essential framework for #ICT4D professionals: the newly updated Principles for Digital Development, which guide the responsible use of technology in international development. First the GDDF session, “Future-Proofing Digital Development: Insights and Integration Strategies for the Updated Principles for Digital Development” (featuring TechChange’s own Hailey Nicholas) was broadcast to an audience of forty. Aim Ventures Managing Partner and Thailand Event coordinator Amarit Charoenphan then facilitated an engaging discussion in reaction to the session entitled, “Future Proofing Digital Development: Perspectives from Thailand.”

Amarit shared that he was most struck by a comment from Raj Singh, CEO of the APNIC Foundation, who mused that while nearly everyone in the room at the GDDF watch party was using the internet to deliver digital development content, a gathering like this had never taken place beyond the fragmented initiatives of each individual organization. He added that this was “a gathering of the best minds to explore how we can take what we learn from this conference and put it into action based on the different resources that are available to our different organizations.” 

Just like the Digital Principles say- it all starts with understanding the existing ecosystem.

Inclusive Digital Futures in Moldova 

On the first day of GDDF, Palladium organized an event in Chisinau entitled “Digital Momentum in Moldova: Mobilizing Collective Action for an Inclusive Digital Future.” As befitting the overall focus on AI throughout the GDDF agenda, this local event streamed an online session on AI and human rights to participants, and then conducted their own conversation on the topic, teasing out the implications for Moldova’s burgeoning democracy. Organizers led participants in a “four corners” networking session where participants voted with their feet in response to thought provoking assertions on emerging technologies and their impact on society. 

In the hub and spoke model, content between smaller events and the “main event” goes both ways. A session from the Moldova event entitled “Human-Centered Digital Transformation in Moldova: Balancing Opportunities with Risk” was broadcast to the GDDF platform, leading one chat participant to share that it was “full of great information and expertise!”

Stuardo Herrera from Palladium, the Moldova event organizer, shared that the event “provided an excellent platform for government representatives, tech startups, donors, civil society organizations working on human rights issues and other actors from the tech ecosystem.” He added that attendees had valuable conversations and idea-sharing sessions about “how Moldova’s ongoing digital transformation should be inclusive of everyone, particularly vulnerable groups in which trust, and accountability play crucial roles.”

Digital Challenges and Opportunities in Senegal 

The Senegal event had the dual goals of allowing participants to join in the GDDF convening and increasing the visibility of the local groups who organized it, including Yux, a UX research and design firm, and Kaikai, a digital development consulting firm. The group– approximately 25 people from across tech and development organizations–had the opportunity to watch a live streamed session from GDDF and witness live presentations from local leaders. Additionally, a session from Senegal entitled “French-speaking Africa in the Digital Era: Challenges, Opportunities, and Strategies for Success”  was broadcast on the global GDDF platform. 

Elia Kokui Fiadjoe, Communication Manager at Yux, and Senegal Local Event host, had this to say: “The best part of the watch party was to see how development looks different from one region to the other, from one project to the other but one thing inclusive to all of them is the importance of including people in the process.”

The signature of a TechChange event is the use of inclusive technology and design to connect people across locations and backgrounds. Together these three local events added a mosaic of local experiences and grassroots conversations to the global GDDF experience, and impact. 

For more ideas on making your hybrid event inclusive, check out our Hybrid Events Playbook. 

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