USAID Digital Strategy 2020-2024 – “tilt to digital?”

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After the digital initiatives of the European Union – both within the Member States as well as in some of its partner countries – and the African Union earlier this year, now also USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, has published its Digital Strategy for 2020-2024. The launch of this Digital Strategy will shepherd the creation of a Digital Learning Agenda to promote collaborative exploration of the highest-impact pathways for inclusive, sustainable growth of digital ecosystems.

Digital development has globally become indispensable in a short period of time, due to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. The situation asks both for rapid response in the reallocation of current budgets, but also in the reshaping of future programmes and to use this as an opportunity to rethink on how to include other priority sectors. A good example of this is the EBRD's "tilting to green" recovery spending, in which it plans to turn this stimulus into a key accelerator towards a low-carbon economy.

In the same way, while reallocating current budgets and drafting future programmes, international donors such as the EU, the World Bank and USAID may "tilt to digital" as this has proven to be a key issue. In light of this, USAID's Digital Strategy for 2020-2024, focuses on reaching self-reliance in its partner countries through digitally supported programming – to eventually end the need for foreign assistance altogether.

There are several ways in which digital technology is already enhancing development outcomes and advances national self-reliance and in which we can expect future funding from USAID:
  •  It makes development more effective and efficient – by strengthening government service-delivery systems, by saving time and cutting costs and by prioritizing investments through geospatial analysis.
  • It drives economy empowerment, financial inclusion and trade – by improving resilience through digital financial services, by increasing economic activity and by reducing barriers to international trade through the used of digital systems. 
  • It supports accountability and transparency in governance – by reducing waste and fraud in the distribution of public benefits, by strengthening land-tenure systems and by empowering youth to drive change in their communities.
  • It creates a platform for innovation and inclusion – by providing the economic infrastructure for innovative businesses to offer services to underserved communities and by creating new opportunities for persons with disabilities.
  • It delivers information and actionable insights – by enabling access to data and by aiding in the formulation of strategies and the design and implementation of projects and activities by using powerful emerging approaches like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

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