Technology Salon


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a discussion at the intersection of technology and development

How the Principles for Digital Development Can Be Improved

digital principles

In a vibrant exchange of ideas, the October Accra Technology Salon, which discussed the topic, “Can the Principles for Digital Development be Improved?, explored the 9 Principles and their relevance or otherwise in the face of current trends. As anticipated, the 1-hour session created a divided room where majority believed the principles needed improving, and a handful believed they are still relevant just as they are.

“Whoever says the principles are irrelevant today does not know what they are talking about!”

Lead discussants, including:

All gravitated toward a central theme: “having the user in mind.”

Core Digital Principles

There was consensus on the fact that failure to do this results in a technological vacuum and solutions that are often not fit-for-purpose. Empathy also came up as another integral element in the principle of keeping users in mind. This, according to discussants, would guide developers to design digital solutions that are robust and resilient to counter (un)foreseeable challenges.

Understanding the existing ecosystem was highlighted as another crucial element for sustainability in technology development. The significance of designing with scalability was emphasized by the participants, who also stressed the need to avoid falling victim to the adage of “failing when you are successful.” One discussant shared an anecdote of a project in Nigeria where a deployed digital system’s capacity was insufficient for the high user participation.

Digital Principles Adoption Setbacks

We identified several factors contributing to the setbacks in digital development and adoption, including lack of funding and developers’ lack of knowledge of the 9 principles even as it is almost in its 10th year. Another major challenge identified was the reality of government officials with limited IT literacy usually being assigned to oversee the procurement of digital solutions.

Suggested Changes to Digital Principles

The following recommendations to the challenges were proffered:

Adoption of a 10th Principle – Change Management: Majority of us agreed that there are gaps in the existing 9 principles, and proposed a 10th principle, Change Management, to fill these gaps. Change Management as the 10th principle will encompass solutions to challenges related to maintenance, transparency, and consensus in technology development, especially when there are frequent updates and changes.

Simplicity and “Ruthless” Collaboration: Keeping technology solutions simple and remaining highly collaborative in order to efficiently tackle identified setbacks.

Regulation, Privacy, Security: Adopting proactive security measures, and actively addressing concerns about privacy and regulation in technology development processes. Attention should also be given to making digital developments user-friendly, responsive, and transparent.

Prioritisation of UI/UX Hires: Appointing a User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) Manager as the first hire.

Inclusive UI/UX Language: Using inclusive language, considering gender, and understanding various levels of literacy, and continuing to consider the ecosystem, and adopting an inclusive approach.

What We Can Do Now

Finally, the following strategies were offered to increase the awareness and adoption of the principles particularly in the African technological space:

  • Localizing the principles to ensure their relevance;
  • Continuing to advocate for international development organizations to make the adoption of the 9 principles a requirement for funding.

The October Accra Technology Salon ignited a lively discussion about the fundamentals and challenges of digital development as the tech landscape evolves; these discussions will influence projects and efforts towards addressing everchanging user demands.

By Penplusbytes

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