USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security Digital Strategy Action Plan
This post is by Josh Woodard, Senior Digital Advisor for USAID's Bureau for Resilience and Food Security.
In 2020, USAID launched an Agency-wide digital strategy that outlined USAID’s digital vision, along with two mutually reinforcing objectives: the responsible use of digital technology and strengthening digital ecosystems. With this overarching framework in place for how USAID will make constructive use of digital in our work, the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS) set out to develop an action plan for how we would implement the strategy in practice.
This newly launched RFS Digital Strategy Action Plan (DSAP) outlines the principles and priorities that will guide the Bureau’s work in digital over the next few years. It recognizes the potential of digital technology to reduce poverty and malnutrition, increase food and water security, strengthen climate adaptation, and build stronger, more resilient populations, while also being keenly aware of existing digital divides and potential risks from the use of digital technology in our activities.
All of these considerations led to the identification of five digital development priorities for the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security:
- Apply a market-systems approach to digital development in programming that is locally led and demand-driven, and takes into account the digital divide;
- Focus on strengthening local digital ecosystem capacity for using digital data and digital technology safely and responsibly;
- Include a greater emphasis on inclusion, privacy, dignity, and the rights of end users through differentiated programming that reaches program participants through channels that work best for them;
- Strengthen the ability of the private sector (especially local private sector) to deliver contextually appropriate, inclusive, rights-based, and viable digital technologies that address RFS’s development objectives.
- Invest in research and evaluation that helps colleagues better understand the factors driving positive outcomes, the impact of digital technology, and risks or negative outcomes to avoid.
In addition to being guided by the Agency digital strategy, the DSAP is also influenced by both the Principles for Digital Development and the two key principles of inclusive development: “do no harm” and “do nothing about them without them.” Furthermore, it is informed by other key policy and strategy documents, such as the Global Food Security Strategy, the Global Water Strategy, the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy, the Resilience Policy, the forthcoming Climate Strategy, and others. The DSAP also supports USAID’s new priority reforms, which were outlined during Administrator Samantha Power’s speech on a New Vision for Global Development at Georgetown University in November 2021 and include a strong focus on evidence, and locally led and inclusive development.
While the DSAP only applies to RFS and not USAID Missions, it does extend to RFS’s support to Missions. Moreover, I hope that it will be used as a reference for our many implementing partners as they consider how digital technologies may be able to help them to achieve their development objectives in the technical areas supported by RFS.
For those who would like to learn more about some of these issues in practice, as well as to share their experiences, I invite you to check out the upcoming ICTforAg conference, which will take place on March 9-10, 2022. This year’s themes include locally led development, climate, digital inclusion, and digital and data sovereignty.