What is Digital development, ICT4D, Tech4Good?
First part of our series on digital development

Digital technology has become so important in our lives that it has become a necessity. As a result, international development organizations have begun to include digital tools in their programs to improve their impact and achieve more results. On a small scale, the efforts were initially successful. Significant prototypes have been built in various sectors such as health and agriculture. More communities around the world were connected and underserved populations were reached in ways that had not been possible before. However, some digital programs have failed - and often that failure was due to both predictable and avoidable reasons.

Before we turn to the methodology or process aspects of overcoming barriers to positively impacting people's lives, we will begin by defining the terms ICT4D, Digital Development, Tech4Good, ICT4D.  Indeed, these terms related to technology, social and economic development, international humanitarian work, etc. can be confusing and it is important to note the convergences and divergences in order to understand them.

What is Tech4Good?

"Tech for Good" literally means "technology for good". This dynamic indicates a collective awareness that "positive societal impact" must be placed at the heart of tech and digital transformation. It can also become a lever to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is also about demonstrating that "profitability" and "societal impact" are not incompatible and can complement each other virtuously. The Tech for Good dynamic is also based on the one that sees the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) looking for ways to bring its actions to a large scale in digital innovation. For lack of a network or funding, the SSE is often forced to remain at the local level.

Why are we talking about ICT4D?

Tech4Good is also sometimes referred to as ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) and is widely adopted by donors and humanitarian organizations.

ICT4D - Information and Communications Technologies for Development - is an initiative that aims to bridge the digital divide (disparity between "technology rich" and "technology poor" geographic locations or demographic groups) and foster economic development by ensuring equitable access to modern communication technologies. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) include any communication device - radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems, etc. - as well as the various services and applications that make them possible. - Information and communication technologies (ICTs) include any communication device - radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems, etc. - as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning.

The United Nations, through its development program, is actively promoting ICT4D as a powerful tool for economic and social development worldwide.

From ICT4D to digital development

In recent years, as Richard Heeks (Professor of Digital Development at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, UK) pointed out in 2016, there has been a concerted effort to replace ICT4D with "digital development" to signal a shift in how we use technology in development processes.

ICT4D can be seen as the use of digital technologies as a tool for development, while digital development focuses on technology as a platform and means for development that includes the notions of ensuring social economic and social impact and being able to evaluate that impact. The field of international development therefore brings methods such as monitoring and evaluation or theories of change. The term also strengthens the link with the SDGs, which has given rise to sub-fields such as Digital Health, e-Agriculture etc.

Moreover, it is in this sense that Duncan Edwards (UK Institute of Development Studies) said, and I quote: "I never really liked the term 'ICT4D'. What I have a problem with is the "4D". It gives the impression, or at least implies, that it starts from the wrong place - "I have a technology or technological expertise and I'm going to apply it to development" rather than starting with a clear understanding of a problem and what the technology might or might not offer. It also gives the impression of a very top-down view of development, within a classic humanitarian worldview"

So what is digital development?

At Kaikai, every time we launch recruitment campaigns for Digital Development Consultants, we receive a lot of applications from programmers because there is this confusion between digital development and software development. 

Digital Development is a field of both research and practice focusing on the application of digital systems in global development. It brings the link with the SDGs, this dimension of multi-actor context with funding from public, private and donors sources and the context of limited resources.

For an entity, development consists in reinventing itself and modifying its organization, its work procedures, and even its strategy. Digital technology is a springboard to accelerate this transformation in order to improve performance and have the greatest possible impact on its targets.

However, this transformation process can encounter several obstacles such as :


  • Lack of a change management strategy

  • Complex or proprietary software and technologies

  • Difficulty appropriating new tools and processes

  • Continuous evolution of customer needs

  • Lack of a digital transformation strategy

  • Lack of appropriate computer skills

  • Data security issues

  • Budgetary constraints

  • Difficulty to scale up and multiplication of prototypes

  • Corporate culture and poor internal organization

To ensure this impact and overcome the obstacles, a working group of development experts from a number of international organizations including UNICEF, UNDP, WHO, the World Bank and others, through a consultative process, has managed to unify a vision around nine principles for digital development.

These principles for digital development will be the subject of our next article and we will have the opportunity to come back in width on the approach and its importance in order to give all the keys for a good success of the digital development process.


We hope you enjoyed the article and we look forward to hearing your feedback and experiences that we would be delighted to receive.

What is Digital development, ICT4D, Tech4Good?
Mamadou Djigo 4 October, 2022
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CGER's digital transformation - Part I - Diagnosis and strategy
Part I - Diagnosis and strategy