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. 

By: Gabrielle Hayashi Santos, GDDF Brazil Ambassador

As the first-ever hybrid version of the Global Digital Development Forum (GDDF) unfolded, I had the privilege of leading a watch party in Brazil on the 27th of April as a GDDF Ambassador. The atmosphere during this exhilarating Brazil Watch Party was truly electric, filled with excitement and anticipation as we gathered to watch the various sessions of the forum. Our collective enthusiasm and eagerness to share perspectives and ideas transformed the watch party into a dynamic hub of discussions, uniting a diverse group of passionate individuals dedicated to digital development.

From Breakfast Table Chatter to Mind-Blowing Insights 🍳

Creating an engaging and meaningful experience was our secret recipe for success. We carefully crafted the timeline of the watch party, starting with a warm and formal welcome that set the stage for an immersive journey. Picture this: we kicked things off by gathering around the breakfast table, enjoying good food and even better company. We broke the ice with a networking session that sparked connections on a personal level. It was like speed dating, but instead of finding love, we found kindred spirits in the digital development realm. This laid the groundwork for a collaborative environment that permeated throughout the watch party.

Brace Yourself for Mind-Blowing Sessions 💡

The sessions we engaged in during this event were thought-provoking and inspiring, leaving a lasting impact on our community. One notable session that resonated deeply with us was Can We Trust AI? Painting the Picture of Possible Futures, featuring Phaedra Boinodiris, Global Leader for Trustworthy AI at IBM Consulting. Her insightful exploration of the ethical considerations and potential impacts of AI sparked engaging conversations among our watch party attendees.

Another session that captivated our audience was Hiding in Plain Sight: Text Analytics Reveals Alignment to Positive Youth Development, led by Katherine Centore, Senior Specialist, Youth and Ashley Hill, Education Specialist, both from Chemonics International. Their exploration of how text analytics can uncover valuable insights for youth development initiatives ignited passionate discussions on the role of technology in empowering young people.

Delving into the session on The Power of Place and Open Payments: How Solutions for Financial Inclusion are Being Built within the Communities They Serve, we discovered innovative approaches to financial inclusion, emphasizing the importance of localized solutions that consider the unique needs of communities. The ensuing discussions shed light on the challenges and opportunities faced by individuals in Brazil, showcasing the potential of digital development to drive positive change in the financial sector.

Furthermore, we were honored to have guest speakers Bruna Vitória Ferreira Fernandes and Manoela Reis share their experiences and expertise on female representation in digital development. They highlighted the challenges faced by women in this field and provided valuable insights into creating a more inclusive and empowering environment. The subsequent Q&A session allowed us to dive deeper into the topic and generate ideas for meaningful change.

Small Groups, Big Connections! 🌍

Throughout the watch party, small group discussions played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange. Attendees were divided into smaller, intimate groups, offering them a platform to share their unique perspectives, ask questions, and collectively explore the session topics. These discussions were not only dynamic and insightful but also demonstrated the power of bringing diverse voices together.

In addition to the rich discussions and connections made, the success of our watch party is evident in the statistics. A total of 43 individuals actively participated, engaging in three online sessions and two in-person sessions. These numbers reflect the enthusiasm and commitment of our community to be a part of the GDDF experience.

Unleashing Synergy through Power Partnerships 🤝

However, our success extended beyond mere participation numbers. We were able to forge meaningful partnerships that further strengthened our local digital development ecosystem. Notably, we partnered with the Global Shapers Hub Ribeirão Preto, bringing an added layer of expertise and engagement to our watch party. The Global Shapers community, a worldwide network of young change-makers, provided a fresh perspective and valuable insights into the digital development landscape.

Additionally, SUPERA Parque, a local innovation and technology park, graciously offered us a space to host the in-person sessions of our watch party. Their support created an environment that fostered collaboration and ideation, further amplifying the impact of our discussions. We are immensely grateful for their contribution to the success of the event.

Another significant partner that deserves special recognition is Skylar. They played a crucial role in making the watch party more inclusive and accessible to all participants. With their live translation services, language barriers were overcome, ensuring that everyone could fully engage in the watch party. Skylar’s dedication to inclusivity truly made a difference and created a more welcoming environment for all attendees.

Our “aha” moments: Going Local, Networking, and Social Media 🤔

Bringing the local context into our conversations was a key realization during the watch party. While digital development is undoubtedly a global topic, it is crucial to acknowledge the nuances and challenges specific to local communities. By incorporating local voices and perspectives, we gained a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and the opportunities for growth. This localized approach ensured that our discussions were not only relevant but also impactful, addressing the unique needs and aspirations of the Brazilian digital development landscape.

Moreover, we discovered that networking played a significant role in enhancing the watch party experience. Despite the convenience of digital communication, there is something truly special about meeting in person. The watch party provided a unique opportunity for attendees to connect with individuals they may not have encountered otherwise. These connections fostered a sense of collaboration and sparked new ideas, ultimately strengthening our collective efforts in the digital development space.

The impact of the watch party extended beyond the event itself. Through social media networking, we were able to amplify the reach of the watch party and connect with individuals interested in participating in future events. The fact that my GDDF video garnered over 1000 views and prompted inquiries on how to get involved in the next Watch Parties is a testament to the power of social media in expanding our community and creating opportunities for engagement.

The Finale: A Watch Party That Ignited Change 🌟

In summary, the GDDF 2023 Brazil Watch Party was an inclusive and empowering experience that successfully brought together a diverse range of voices to engage in meaningful discussions on digital development topics, serving as a catalyst for fostering connections, sharing knowledge, and driving positive change in the Brazilian digital development landscape. Our journey continues as we look forward to future watch parties and the continued growth of our passionate community dedicated to making a difference in the world of digital development.

By: Sacha Robehmed, FDDF Ambassador (Jordan), and Partner, Digital at Expectation State

With the new year often comes transformation. A calendar flips to a new page, resolutions are proclaimed, new habits get made. But transformation of the digital sort is more ongoing – perpetual, even. 

Several weeks ago, TechChange and partners hosted the first-ever Frontiers of Digital Development Forum (FDDF), a two day hybrid conference to consider more aspirational technologies and their practical utility (or lack thereof) for large-scale humanitarian and development objectives. TechChange worked with Ambassadors to host watch parties in locations across the world–in Kenya, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania–to make the FDDF 2022 a truly hybrid experience and to ensure that conversations about digital development were happening in the places where digital development is taking place.

In the Jordanian capital, TechChange and Expectation State screened one of the flagship sessions, “What is Digital Transformation Anyway?” on the morning of November 2nd at Impact Hub Amman. A group of professionals whose work spans the humanitarian and development sectors, tech startup ecosystem, and digital rights, joined the breakfast event for a lively discussion. At Expectation State, as development practitioners living in the countries where we work, we believe that context is vitally important – which was underscored when a locally contextualised understanding of digital transformation came to the fore during the FDDF Amman discussion. 

A decade ago, ‘digital transformation’ was the purview of government digital services in countries like the UK and Estonia. These models of digital transformation were held up as examples and shared with Majority World countries in a “top down”, often one-size-fits-all, way. But a decade on, and in our FDDF conversation we saw something quite different, showing how far ‘digital transformation’ has come. We covered everything from virtual reality and the metaverse, open source intelligence, humanitarian cash transfers, and education during COVID lockdowns. Compared to the ‘digital transformation’ of a decade ago, it was striking how rich, informed, and diverse the conversation in Amman was around digital transformation today – perhaps reflecting the diversity of views and understandings of digital transformation that we see from different countries across the digital development ecosystem. What emerged was an understanding of digital transformation unique to Jordan, and very much rooted in the context here. 

FDDF watch party at Impact Hub in Amman on November 2, 2022

We’d like to share four takeaways from the Amman discussion on digital transformation:

1. Education as a local example of COVID-19 digital transformation – that wasn’t inclusive

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation globally. In the FDDF session, Rachel Sibande from the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) shared how countries with existing digital infrastructure were able to make faster payments during the COVID-19 lockdowns. In Jordan, the example of education shifting online was a key topic in our digital transformation discussion. With technology hardware not widespread, this example of digital transformation left people behind. While school classes were shown on TV to try to overcome the hardware gaps, in families with four of five children this wasn’t enough – how were they all meant to watch their classes at the same time on one device? While there were some initiatives giving laptops in an attempt to bridge the hardware gap, what about connectivity and data costs? In this very local example of digital transformation of education during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite best intentions the most vulnerable were not included

2. Digital transformation has been called other names

Whiteboard activity at FDDF Amman watch party

Our discussion took on a historical perspective, reflecting on digital transformation as the most recent in a long series of buzzwords over the last two decades, which all have a similar meanings. From “e-government” and “going paperless,” to “smart organisations/smart cities” and “the fourth industrial revolution” – just how different is digital transformation anyway? We also reflected on the concerns around digital transformation historically, such as government workers fearing that computers would take their jobs when they were first introduced to ministries, but the efficiencies and advantages that digital transformation has created – we definitely don’t want to go back to the paper-based processes of the past. Looking at digital transformation from a historical perspective highlighted how far we’ve come, but also that many of the challenges and risks of new technologies are similar to those of past and present technologies. 

3. Big tech giants – the view from Jordan 

Meta and big tech giants featured heavily in our discussion. We talked about the power tech companies have, not only in our individual lives in terms of their data capture, but at a geopolitical level, such as the conflict around 5G technologies. The dominance of big tech in the future landscape was of particular concern, epitomised by the renaming of facebook to Meta as we move towards Web3 technologies and the metaverse. We talked about what the future might hold – if it was one where big tech grows increasingly powerful, or if the monopolies of big tech are broken up through regulation, and interoperability and decentralised alternatives emerging from outside the US will offer a different future. To what extent might digital transformation enable the building of digital products based on available talent and existing needs in Jordan, versus offering more regulatory space for big tech in the country?

4. Rights-based digital transformation means non-digital alternatives

As Jordan is host to the “second-highest share of refugees per capita” according to UNHCR, our understanding of digital transformation in Jordan was heavily informed by this. We talked about individuals being more or less vulnerable depending on their awareness of privacy and personal data protection. If individuals were unaware of their rights and just signed up to get a service, this wasn’t seen as meaningful digital transformation. Providing individuals with non-digital options in order to offer inclusive services, and to give the option to “opt-out” of digital services, was key to this rights-based approach to digital transformation offered by humanitarian actors during the discussion. At the same time, they acknowledged that digital has made changes for the better, for instance, increasing efficiency in cash distribution, compared to paper-based processes of the past. We also talked about power dynamics, identifying and mitigating risks of digital transformation, and discussed practical measures that should be taken such as identifying technology partners with similar values. 

From a rights-based focus on digital transformation emerging from the high refugee (and humanitarian agency) presence, to the inclusiveness of digital transformation during COVID-19, the history of ‘digital transformation (by other names), and the dominance of US big tech in the Majority World; the Amman FDDF watch party had a rich and varied discussion about digital transformation. Which leaves us wondering – what might digital development actors elsewhere identify with and learn from our conversation? And what might we learn from similar discussions in Nairobi, Lagos, and in your city? 

We’re looking forward to continuing these conversations at next year’s FDDF! In the meantime, please share your thoughts in the comments.

By: Jessica Swann, Director of Partnerships for Education

As TechChange’s new Director of Partnerships for Education, I have been in learning mode this week at the Global Digital Health Forum, catching up on what my peers and new coworkers have been working on in this vital and fast-moving space. 

In preparing for the conference, I dove into TechChange’s wealth of materials within the Digital Health space, and I want to share an animated video that caught my eye as a high-quality, easy to understand instructional aide: “Standards and Interoperability in Digital Health: Explained.” It really helped me to understand these complicated concepts.

I’m an education generalist, with a rather eclectic range of experiences. Yet across all my previous roles, whether I’ve been writing about in-depth topics on database administration, or leading a program to strengthen capacity for virtual teaching amongst university lecturers from the Peruvian Public Sector, I’ve seen the importance time and time again of distilling complex concepts into digestible, engaging educational assets. This video is a great example of that – the clear narration, illustrative graphics, and storytelling bring these digital health concepts to life. 

Storytelling to illustrate real-life problems

The video takes us to the fictional country of Onesa, where the government is implementing a national vaccination campaign. We meet Lucy, the National Immunization Officer, and Isaac, a health officer from one of the more rural districts. They share a goal of vaccinating children against disease, but are quickly faced with challenges that arise from multiple systems tracking key pieces of information such as the number of children who need to be vaccinated and the number of vaccines that are available. 

This is exactly the kind of dilemma faced by healthcare leaders in countries around the world as they struggle to manage resources effectively.

Lucy and Isaac consider integrating the systems manually, but this quickly becomes too complex and costly to manage. Lucy has a whole country to manage for the immunization campaign, and Isaac has the other health issues in his district to consider. They can’t afford to spend all their time doing manual, error-prone integration. The systems need to talk to each other in a way that’s efficient and cost-effective. 

Enter the concept of interoperability. 

What is ‘interoperability’ anyway?

Interoperability is the ability for multiple applications to communicate with one another by accessing, exchanging, and making use of data in a coordinated manner.

In the context of digital health, this means that health information systems like OpenIMS and DHIS2 can communicate directly and exchange data. As the video does a great job of explaining, standards help to achieve this. 

What are the different kinds of standards?

The video shows us that there are two different sets of standards to consider for interoperability:

Semantic standards – that help applications establish a common vocabulary; and 

Syntactic standards – that allow applications to share a common grammar to communicate meaning. 

It’s amazing how much this sounds like language acquisition! In order to communicate and share information, systems have to have to understand the words and ways of putting them together…just like people. 

We tackle interoperability in our Architects of Digital Health board game

Countries can invest in a health information exchange, which is enterprise architecture that bundles all digital health applications together to provide guidance to software developers on how to manage interoperability between them. It stores lists of terms and concepts, and maps how they relate to each other. Kind of like the Rosetta Stone of digital health tools. 

These terms can sound abstract, but in practice, standards and interoperability of digital health systems help save lives. Careful, systematic implementation of these concepts allows policymakers and decision makers to see population-level trends and make time-sensitive decisions that impact the lives in every locality, in every age group, and at each point in the health journey. 

Accessible knowledge for all

So there you have it, interoperability in a nutshell. And you don’t need to be a software developer or digital health expert to understand the importance of this concept. 

I love that the video makes it easy to understand the stakes and goals of digital health applications and makes simple the complex concept of interoperability. 

In my role, I get to work with our partners to develop assets just like this, which can help explain complicated concepts and share knowledge across diverse learner communities. Indeed, at this very moment, we’re working with IFAD on creating a digital agriculture course, to help policy makers and extension workers understand how concepts like interoperability have a role to play in the design and application of agriculture and environmental policy. 

You see, standards and interoperability are just as important within digital agriculture as they are within digital health. Systems need to communicate with each other in order to help stakeholders manage information and make timely, evidence-based decisions to maximize yields and get food products to market. 

I’m looking forward to flexing TechChange’s amazing creative skills and instructional design muscles now and into the future, creating new videos and other web-based educational tools to help our partners to communicate all manner of complex ideas in ingeniously simple ways, and seeing the impact of this work in their programs.  

This video was created by TechChange as a part of the Digital Health: Planning National Systems Course to support the training on standards and interoperability, funded by Digital Square, a PATH-led initiative funded and designed by the United States Agency for International Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a consortium of other investors. 

By: Nick Martin, CEO

As TechChange’s CEO and someone who finds great joy in bringing people together to discuss topics that matter, I love pushing the envelope on how we convene. On reimagining what a conference or event can be, and what it can mean for the people who participate. 

And after nearly three years of the COVID-19 pandemic and the distance that it necessitated, people are hungry for connection. The kind that gets brain cells stimulated, but also the kind that you can feel in your bones. We believe TechChange’s hybrid event model brings together the best of virtual technology and in-person experiences for a new kind of convening that is accessible, inclusive, and downright fun

With some help from our founding sponsors USAID, Chemonics, and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), exactly one month ago, we put our hybrid model to convene the first-ever Frontiers of Digital Development Forum to explore the role of frontier technologies in international development. This two-day conference took place online and in Washington D.C., with nearly all in-person elements available to virtual participants and even more virtual-only content and networking opportunities. More than 600 people joined us from 55 countries– because conversations that impact the whole world shouldn’t just take place in D.C. 

What went well

1. Virtual participants felt “centered.” There is such a temptation with hybrid events to focus on the in-person experience. The food, the drinks, the lighting, the seating charts… it can be all-consuming. But we tried hard – super hard – to focus our attention equally on the in-person AND the virtual experience. We wanted to create a hybrid conference that made our virtual participants in Kenya, Jordan, Nigeria, Ghana, Pakistan, Argentina, and everywhere else feel like they matter just as much as those who could be in-person with us in DC. And I’m happy to report that FDDF participants online resoundingly felt exactly what we intended for them: that the virtual experience far exceeded their expectations. In fact, 84% of participants who joined virtually reported FDDF improved their opinion of hybrid events.

TechChange producers kept the Main Stage content flowing so participants felt engaged, which was evidenced by a robust participant chat throughout.

2. Diversity of content types: For a nuanced topic like this, we knew that we needed to look at the subject matter from different angles. For FDDF, we had 25+ engaging and robust conversations, tech demos, breakout sessions, and networking activities that dug into aspirational, frontier technologies and their practical utility for large-scale humanitarian and development objectives. 

3. Surprising session formats: For Day one’s kick-off, we tried a new session format, “The Long Conversation.” This unique Smithsonian-inspired approach staged timed two-person dialogues on frontier tech skepticism, aspiration and progress with luminaries from USAID, Google, and more from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. No moderator, no speeches, and no slides. Just interesting conversations on stage between two people at a time. You can watch it on YouTube or listen on Soundcloud to check it out. 

We livestreamed 2-minute interviews from our Pop-Up Studio in between sessions to participants around the world

4. The Pop-Up Studio: One of the goals of hybrid is to break down the barriers between in-person and online participants. One of the ways we do this that allows online participants to dig into the energy of the conference is the Pop-Up studio. I’m biased, but this was easily my favorite part of FDDF22. I got to interview speakers fresh off the stage for their impressions and hot-takes, and talk with conference goers about what they’re thinking about all the material. Our on-site production team streams these interviews out to virtual participants like TV news. This allows people at home on their computers to get a back-stage view of the conference, and get a taste of the energy of the day.

What didn’t go so well…

No event is perfect. We had an honest conversation with our organizing committee about what went well and what we’d improve next time. Here are a few:

1. Timeline: I gave the team a deadline that was nearly impossible– under three months to envision, build, and execute a brand-new hybrid event from scratch. And yet they rose to the occasion to meet it. I’m still amazed they pulled it off – and didn’t even once try to kill me in the process!

2. Lack of a content czar: Next time, we’ll build in a longer lead time, and have a content Czar whose job it is to oversee the overall narrative of the conference and make sure all of the dynamic pieces fit together holistically. This is also something some of the partners we support may also want to consider. 

Experimenting with improv comedy at a serious conference = worth trying!

3. Improv comedy is great, but not without some serious preparation: We tried something wild, y’all: we invited comedians to be part of our event. And not to just do some stand-up entertainment at the opening and closing plenary. We wanted them to sprinkle it in throughout the event. Does that sound nuts? Maybe it was, a little?! While we heard positive feedback on the comedians’ prepared sets, we gave them the pretty impossible task of doing improv – on camera – throughout the entire day. But we’re excited to keep exploring ways to make global development content more innovative, accessible and entertaining with more creative partnerships like this. 

4. Not quite enough on-stage controversy: FDDF was meant to explore the boundaries of frontier technology within digital development, not shying away from tough conversations. And we did that – through sessions on the information war in Ukraine, the pros (and cons) of partnering with tech firms, and a feminist, Global South critique on AI. The topics were hard-hitting, but we think we can do more to set the stage for difficult and important conversations in the future. We’ll be exploring the role of anonymous inputs, and crowd-generated content, in order to further engage new voices in each conversation. 

At TechChange, we don’t just put on hybrid events for our partners, and sit back and watch. We are actively involved in putting on our own events, where we have skin in the game and a major role in planning and organizing. These events are our own R&D labs. They help us test out the technology we’re offering to partners, and always keep an eye on opportunities for improvement. Not only that, it keeps us empathetic to the stressors and joys of conference planning. When we say we’ll be the partner that does more for your hybrid event, we mean it. We’ve been there, and we want to put our lessons learned to work for you. From recommending ways to keep global participants engaged from afar to project management suggestions around timeline, our team can help you shorten the learning curve to engaging, inclusive, and fun hybrid events. We love this stuff! 

By: Ariel Frankel (Director of Public Health), and Alex Paone (Program Manager, Public Health)

Just in time for the upcoming Global Digital Health Forum on December 5-7, TechChange added several new videos to our Global Goods video series, developed in partnership with USAID and PATH/ Digital Square, that explain the basics of several digital health public goods. As TechChange’s Director of Public Health, I’m excited that these short, dynamic videos will help promote the benefits of using global goods software to digital health stakeholders, from NGO practitioners to national health officials. 

What are Global Goods anyway?

Global goods are software systems with multiple funding sources that are used across different countries to address a wide variety of challenges. Importantly, they have free and open-source software  and documentation to make customization simple. Moreover, they are built to be interoperable with other digital health software systems. Learn more here

What problems do these Global Goods videos help solve? 

My background with digital health interventions in the informal settlements of Nairobi and at a refugee clinic in Tel Aviv,  showed me the importance of using tools that are widely supported and built for interoperability, rather than “reinventing the wheel” each time and perpetuating fragmentation in the digital health ecosystem. Each Global Goods video uses a common set of concepts and visuals such as animations from user perspectives, ministry official interviews, and software demos that allow viewers to understand each global good independently, as well as how they can fit together and support interoperability. This is a complex and important topic– but at TechChange, we pride ourselves on making easy to understand guides to complicated materials and concepts.

Global Goods Video Series is for all Digital Health Practitioners

These videos on OpenSRP, RapidPro, and iHRIS will join the line-up of course materials in our Digital Health: Planning National Systems course, which has taught more than 250 ministry officials and digital health stakeholders from Chile to the Philippines to design and implement interventions to address national health systems challenges . As one of the course facilitators, I can attest that the material has helped participants advocate for adoption of these software systems within their own national governments. But the Global Goods videos aren’t just for our own students –  they are available on YouTube for public use in training and capacity building.

Let’s take a look.

Better Data Through OpenSRP

In the OpenSRP video, which was supported by Ona, we see perspectives from frontline health workers and policy makers on how the open source mobile health platform helps with data tracking and decision making. This tool allows continuity of care at the community and facility level. 

OpenSRP provides decision support to health workers to guide them through health encounters, allowing for rapid data entry and follow-ups based on the patient’s specific care plan. The software can be used as an off-the-shelf integrated health system in places transitioning from paper to digital or in the process of replacing stand-alone, single-focus applications. As we see in the video, the adoption of this global good system can lead to faster launches of digital systems including health service applications and dashboards. 

Leverage and Track Mobile Services with RapidPro

In the second video, which was supported by UNICEF, we see how RapidPro workflow logic software helps organizations and systems run mobile-based services. From managing mobile users’ contacts, to analyzing data from multiple communication channels, RapidPro provides a mobile or web-based platform that public health workers can use to send or track a wide variety of information. 

TechChange videos always include real-life applications of any new tool, so that practitioners can immediately see how it might be applied. In this video, we see how health worker Wendy uses RapidPro to help manage her vaccine resources and roll-out. She inputs her data, which national decision makers can then use to help track roll-out across locations and fill in gaps. The adoption of RapidPro can help health workers and leaders respond in real-time to specific public health needs and threats.

Managing a Health Workforce through iHRIS

The third new video, supported by IntraHealth International, details the basics of iHRIS, an open-source human resources platform to track and manage a country’s health workforce.  Users can make evidence-based, effective plans for deploying human resources where they’re needed most. 

To fast track understanding of a tool, it’s important to show features and use- cases, such as iHRIS’s user-friendly interface and powerful data dashboards. By using iHRIS, decision-makers can understand the current status of their health workforce including which healthcare workers are currently employed, those who are qualified but not employed, and those who are in training. Centralized data can help leaders predict specific population needs and proactively solve workforce constraints. 

These three videos are the tip of the iceberg on learning about global goods. You can watch all nine global goods videos in the Global Goods Series playlist (including the first three that we’ve translated to French) here.

We hope that these educational videos are useful to you and your teams. Feel free to share widely – just be sure to attribute and link to TechChange, USAID and PATH/ Digital Square. Thanks for watching!

By: Emma Sakson

Do emerging technologies such as crypto and AI have a place in international development? How do we balance the risks of untested tools with their potential rewards, and impact?

Throughout my time working in ICT4D, I’ve tended to be a skeptic when it comes to the promise that frontier technology can improve development outcomes and, most importantly, people’s lives. Rather than fixate on the newest technology on the scene, I’ve tended to focus on basic tools deployed in ethical and effective ways. At the intersection of technology and development, there are no “magic bullets,” but new tools can unlock exciting ways for people to connect and collaborate with one another.

TechChange believes deeply in that power. To put our values into action, we convened the first-ever hybrid Frontiers of Digital Development Forum (FDDF) to bring technologists, development practitioners, and thought leaders from all over the world together for exciting, tough, and necessary conversations about the role of emerging technology within development. 

We used our innovative approach to hybrid events to ensure that these debates, conversations and demonstrations were accessible, inclusive, and dynamic. Compared to a traditional DC event, the hybrid nature of the Frontiers of Digital Development Forum allowed for critical voices from outside of Washington D.C. to be heard. Overall, over 600 people across 55 countries participated in the forum either in-person, virtually, or both. 

FDDF Day 1

For Day 1 of the conference, 190 people representing more than 60 organizations convened in DC’s historic Capitol Turnaround hall to discuss topics such as the role of technology in humanitarian response, digital transaction of carbon credits, and how crypto can democratize development. 

As a new TechChange employee, I was thrilled that FDDF did not shy away from polarizing topics, and I was struck by how fresh and inclusive this event felt compared to many  conferences I’ve participated in the past. In addition to select virtual-only sessions, all of the in-person sessions were live-streamed to virtual participants, who could also engage with discussion boards, Pop-up Studio interviews, and virtual networking experiences. 

Our amazing FDDF ambassadors led local watch parties and conversations in Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Jordan. It was exciting to be a part of a new model for convening in this globalized, digital age, and engage with ICT4D practitioners all over the world.

TechChange CEO Nick Martin engages with Nairobi watch party organized by FDDF Ambassador Peter Omondi
Watch party in Dar es Salaam

FDDF Day 2

Day 2 of the conference utilized the TechChange platform for an entirely virtual experience. As one virtual participant from Kenya said, “FDDF2022 was one of the greatest events I have attended. The quality of discussion, unique topics, great panelists exchanging ideas, insightful audience– this was an eye opener.” 

One of the most-watched sessions featured Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation

The user-friendly features of our platform provided not only unfettered access to content but multiple ways to engage with speakers and other attendees. The platform recorded over 32 hours of content featuring 97 speakers, and participants were buzzing with energy– over 1,000 in-session chat messages were sent throughout the forum.

That’s our favorite thing about hybrid conferences- there’s something for everyone. And when gathering together to discuss emerging technology, isn’t it appropriate that we should use an innovative approach that leverages the best of conference tech to ensure a diverse collection of voices are at the table? 

At TechChange, virtual participation isn’t just an afterthought, it’s an integral part of how we make connections and build community. We’re looking forward to applying the lessons we’ve learned to our hybrid events in the future to make them even more engaging and inclusive. This is emerging technology I can get behind.

As we settle into 2018 and launch a variety of new courses, workshops, and ways to innovate our approach to online learning, we’re thankful to you, our TechChange community, for your unwavering support! In the last year, we’ve trained over 7,000 people from 155 countries on our platform alone.

Check out a few of the cool things we were able to do in 2017.

We’ve released new features on our online learning platform!

  • Frontend editing: Course administrators can now type directly into the platform section that you would like to update or add information to. The new inline editing feature means easy access to editing/updating content, a cleaner design, and a direct way to see real-time updates of changes that you’re making to your course content.



  • Completion tracking: Course administrators can now track module completion with our new rules feature. By simply setting “rules” for each slide, submodule, and module, learners will be alerted with a green check mark if they have completed the appropriate section.



  • Progress view: Course administrators can now view the progress of their students holistically with the new progress view. Based upon the rules of each course, the progress view details where students are in relation to course completion, when they were last active, and which modules have been completed.


We’ve developed informative interactive modules!

  • IFC Gender Course: TechChange partnered with IFC (International Finance Corporation) to create a multi-module course on the business case for gender smart solutions. The course is customized with three different industry tracts that users can choose between depending on what is most relevant to their work.
  • Jhpiego MCSP: The Faculty Development Program represents a major accomplishment for the Instructional Design team over the summer and fall seasons. The program is centered around best practices for medical practitioners and is meant to improve educational quality and teaching skills for practitioners in Liberia and beyond.
  • CCAP: TechChange built a self-paced course for the Coastal Cities Adaptation Project of Mozambique that focused on the basics of climate change, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and urban resilience. The course featured many video interviews (filmed by TC staff) with important stakeholders involved in climate change management in Mozambique.  

We’ve created some beautiful content!

  • Making Cents International Report: An exciting collaboration between the Instructional Design and Creative Teams for The Rockefeller Foundation & Making Cents resulting in a youth-oriented toolkit for demand-driven training. Click here to view the report and here to view the interactive website!
  • DCA animation and pamphlet: USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) uses loan guarantees to increase access to finance and promote growth in developing countries. The creative team was tasked to create multiple short animations to explain how the Development Credit Authority works and its benefits to those in developing countries. Click here to view our whiteboard style explainer video and click here to view our mobilizing local wealth for entrepreneurs around the world animation .
  • DIAL animation: We had the pleasure of working with DIAL (Digital Impact Alliance) to explain the Principles for Digital Development and its importance to the digital development community. The team was tasked with creating a 2 minute explainer animation that is both attractive and informative. Assets and animation was spearheaded by our senior illustrator & animator John Kim. Click here to watch the video.
  • mPowering animation: The Creative Team worked on a beautiful animation for mPowering’s OpenDeliver, a mobile-enabled delivery system for health resources that includes a feedback loop to supply analytics. Click here to watch the video!

We’ve hosted interesting workshops and traveled to many places!

  • Mozambique for CCAP: In January 2017, Shannon, Emily, and John traveled to Maputo and Pemba, Mozambique to record interviews with key stakeholders involved in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts across the country. The interviews were incorporated into the four-module self-paced course built to empower individuals with the fundamentals of climate change, preparedness, and urban resilience.
  • Maine for PopTech: In October, the TechChange team headed to Camden, Maine for the 2017 PopTech Conference: Instigate, where we provided tech support, photography, and conference marketing support.
  • Boston for Connected Health Conference: In October, Chris, Yohan, and Meronne went to Boston, Massachusetts to provide event support with photography and video interviews.
  • Qatar for WISE: Chris and Austin traveled to Doha, Qatar for the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE Summit) for a series of plenaries and workshops on the future of education.
  • Washington, D.C. for the World Bank Youth Summit: Nick gave an interactive workshop on blockchain for international development.
  • Instructional Design Workshops: Throughout the year at TechChange Headquarters, Isabel lead different instructional design with Articulate 360 workshops. Click here to sign up for the next one!
  • TechGirls 2017: For the fifth year in a row, we’ve had the honor of hosting two brilliant young leaders from the TechGirls State Department program. This year, Passant Abu-el-Gheit and Reem Saado shadowed the various teams hard at work making online courses in the TechChange office, and contributed a few creations of their own. Read the full blog post here!

We’re launching new online courses!

  • TC116 Blockchain for International Development: This four-week online certificate course will attempt to cut through the hype and evaluate the potential of this technology on everything from remittances to supply chain management, voting practices, smart contracts, land titling, educational credentialing, health record storage, and more. Learn about the course here!
  • TC310 The Future of Digital Health: This four-week online certificate course will explore how a range of emerging technologies — blockchain, artificial intelligence, drones, sensors and Internet of things, wearable devices, and more — are contributing to patient care and management, disease tracking, point-of-care support, health education, remote monitoring, diagnostics, supply chain management, and logistics.The course will also take a hard look at complexities surrounding patient privacy and security, limits to access, training and capacity building challenges, interoperability issues, regulation and policy hurdles, and more. Learn about the course here!
  • TC301 Artificial Intelligence for International Development: This four-week online certificate course will cover the basics of artificial intelligence from natural language processing and object differentiation, to comparative facial recognition and more. It will draw from a variety of case studies, particularly in financial services, education, and healthcare. It will also explore challenges to adoption that exist around automation, hype cycles, ethical concerns, security, sustainability, and more. We will also explore machine learning, a narrower subset of AI that focuses on data analysis and building algorithms that reduce the need for human intervention. Learn more about the course here!
  • TC101 Online Learning for International Development: This four-week course will include a number of innovative case studies as well as demos of our favorite emerging technologies to support and enhance learning. Over the past 8 years, TechChange has built 500+ online courses on all kinds of topics for a variety of audiences and in a range of formats. In that time, we have had to contend with every imaginable hurdle: diminished attention spans, bandwidth constraints, translation issues, security challenges, and more. This is why we’ve decided to package all of this experience into an online certificate course. Learn more about the course here!

As we continue to build and create beautiful courses, we’re excited to start licensing our online learning platform to organizations and continue building our expertise in online learning. A recent study on capacity building done by the Global Knowledge Initiative listed TechChange as the number one cited source individuals and organizations used most to improve curriculum design, further teaching pedagogy, develop online modules, and build presentation and facilitation skills. We look forward to continue building our online learning skill sets.

We hope to see you online, in person, or in a course!

TechChange courses are designed for busy young professionals. Today we are very excited to chat with Grace Kim, the project manager for the Global Innovation Exchange, who participated in TC103: Technology for Disaster Response. She discusses her experience with the overall program, and how it has impacted her work.

Q: Why did you decide to enroll in the Tech for Disaster Response course?

I spent 8-years as a software sales executive at IBM and several startups, but I had always wanted to focus on T4D. My initial plan was to try T4D from the private sector side, but soon realized that most companies have not integrated products and services serving the development industry into their core business. This makes it difficult to find a full-time, dedicated role focusing on T4D in the private sector. In May 2015, I decided it’s time to change careers, but felt I needed to brush up on development technology. I have always been interested in disaster response and humanitarian aid, but never really figured out how to break into that sector. So I searched online for courses, TC103 came up…and the rest is history!

Q: How did the Technology for Disaster Response course impact your professional life and/or professional development?

While I was taking TC103 in June 2015, I was spending more time and effort (by choice!) on the course than on my day job. It made me realize that life is too short to spend my life doing something that I was not passionate about so I LEFT MY JOB! During my “funempoyment”, I did 60 informational interviews in DC between August and November (Chris Neu, COO of TechChange, was #38 and Nick Martin, CEO of TechChange, was #51) and landed my job at USAID by the end of December. TC103 helped me to learn very quickly about the technologies available in disaster response and develop a network of practitioners in this space. Being able to name drop relevant organizations and people during my informational interviews and job interviews allowed me to demonstrate that I wasn’t a complete foreigner coming from the private sector.

Q: What caught your attention about TechChange courses, or got you interested in taking them?

First, TechChange offered a course that was of personal interest to me – technology for disaster response.  Second, it was affordable for me to pay out of pocket. Third, the platform was really easy to use, and encouraged participation and collaboration between students so I truly felt that I got to develop some good relationships with other classmates.  Fourth, the instructor, Timo Leuge, was very knowledgeable and brought experts in the field as guest lecturers, which I thought, were really great.

Q: What would be an advice to other participants taking a TechChange course? How can they get the most out of it?

1. Do all the reading because you will learn a lot from them.  2. Participate in the course and earn points (for your certificate) by commenting and jumping in on various discussion strings.  You will feel more connected to your classmates. 3. Visit the TechChange office in DC…they are super friendly!

Q: How have you been able to use what you learned in the courses in your work, and how has the program overall been helpful to you?

The Global Innovation Exchange covers all sectors in development so I’m using the learnings from TC103 to make sure that we have the disaster response/humanitarian aid sector content developed in terms of innovations, funding opportunities, resources and events relevant to this sector.

Q: What is the Global Innovation Exchange?

The Global Innovation Exchange is an online platform that is a “one stop shop” for development innovations, funding opportunities, resources and events.  It is free to create an account to connect with like-minded individuals and experts, browse content by sector/topic/region, and share your expertise for the benefit of the global development community.  The goal is to democratize and provide equitable access to information, reduce duplication, and allow us all to make informed business decisions across the development industry.  It’s a great tool to see what people are working on and where, and search for funding opportunities, resources and events that is relevant to you.

Q: Are you new to the ICT4D sector? 

Yes, although I’ve kept a pulse on T4D even when I was in the private sector, joining the Global Development Lab is my first job in the T4D sector.

Q: Would you recommend TechChange courses to a friend?

100%!!!  It is great to see TechChange evolving to offer new courses like the diploma course in M&E and white labeling courses for organizations.  What’s truly beneficial is that the instructors are practitioners who bring real-life experience to the course along with their network of experts who guest lecture.

About Grace:

Grace Kim is a Korean-American returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Los Angeles. She spent over 15 years in the private sector in environmental consulting, digital development and enterprise software.  And recently, she joined USAID | Global Development Lab as the project manager for the Global Innovation Exchange.grace-kim-headshot






We consume and produce data at ever growing rates, aiming to better understand the past, observe the now, and to be better prepared for the future. However, data can only fulfill its purpose when we can make sense of it, generate insights, and put it into action. The process of turning data into insights requires many steps, and doing it effectively involves many strategies.

Step 1: Visualization

One of these key steps is visualization, which is the visual organization of data using various shapes, sizes, colors, and layouts. Visualization creates data charts such as bar graphs, line graphs, scatterplots, and even maps and networks. This step helps us make sense of large volumes of abstract information, without much effort. Effectively using the visual language for data provides a natural, intuitive way to see and understand features and trends in data.

Step 2: Interaction

Another key step is interaction. When you ask questions, focus on certain properties, or change the visual representations, you are engaging in an interactive dialogue with your data. The vast computing capabilities in our digital devices allow us to dynamically filter across categories, resort items, pan map views, retrieve details, and explore alternatives. Together, visualization and interaction with data lets you find the answers you are looking for, and answer the questions that you didn’t know you had!

Step 3: Putting It All Together

How can you start your data dialogue? There are many tools to help you collect, transform, and visualize data in many different forms. However, with so many options, choosing the best approach based on your needs, your data, and your experience level is not trivial. You may start visualizing your data with tools that offer a graphical interface. This allows you to import a dataset and construct data charts by selecting chart types or mapping data attributes to various visual elements and components (shapes, colors, layouts, x-axis, etc.). Existing graphical charting tools still require training to make effective visualization decisions, or they do not let you easily engage in rich analytical conversations with your data in multiple synchronized perspectives. For customized analysis and design needs, you can use programming based tools, but these require significant technical knowledge to figure out and execute the best strategies. How can you get the most from your data, with the least amount of effort, and in the shortest time?

The Solution: Keshif

Keshif is a new web-based tool that brings life to your tabular data by converting it into a beautiful interactive visual interface. Unlike other tools, it creates an environment where you focus on interpreting your  data, rather than specifying the visualization details and getting lost in the many visual  options that may slow you down, or mislead you. Keshif is designed to fit your data exploration needs, the structure of your data, and expands on the best practices. Your categorical data becomes bar graphs, your numeric data becomes histograms, your time data becomes line graphs, all without any effort. For more in depth analysis, you can view your data by percentiles and map regions. Each record of your data can be shown individually in a list, grid, map, or network (if your data supports it).

Everything in a Keshif data browser is connected and highly responsive so that every action is a potential to a new insight. You can highlight to get a quick preview, filter to focus on details, or lock to compare different sections of your data easily. You can import your data to Keshif from Google Sheets, CSV, or JSON files, and decide which attributes you want to explore. This can be done by summarising their characteristics, and manipulating  your data in various ways to explore different trends and relations. From journalism to government, transportation to finance, and music to sports, Keshif can be used for data in many different domains. With it’s minimal, yet powerful features, Keshif lets you make sense of your tabular data quickly, analyze it in multiple perspectives, and reach new insights.


Keshif is under active development by Ph.D. candidate M. Adil Yalcin and his advisors Professor Niklas Elmqvist and Professor Ben Bederson at the Human Computer Interaction Lab at University of Maryland College Park. To learn more about Keshif, visit its homepage, find a topic that interests you across the 150 datasets specially compiled, and watch the short tutorial video

About the Author:

M. Adil Yalcin, is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Computer Science at University of Maryland, College Park. His goal is to lower human-centered barriers to data exploration and presentation. His research focuses on information visualization and interaction design, implementation, and evaluation. He is the developer of Keshif, a web-based tool for rapid exploration of structured datasets. In his previous work, he developed computer graphics techniques and applications.

If you have any further questions, join Keshif’s email list or contact