In managing and implementing high-profile development and sustainability projects, partnerships, and robust alliances across many countries, our teams value opportunities to test approaches and tools that help our partners better understand and map digital infrastructure and the broader ecosystem in the early scoping process of their initiatives.
As part of our work with the USAID-Digital Economy and Market Development (DEMD) Activity, Resonance conducted its first Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA), a flagship initiative of USAID’s Digital Strategy. The assessment is designed to help identify and delineate risks and opportunities and inform decision-making about digital programming and investments.
What is the Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA) Framework?
The DECA framework is an approximately five-month research process with three phases: desk research and planning; interviews; and analysis and report writing. Resonance performed a DECA to assess the digital ecosystem of Georgia (country) including stakeholders, systems, and current enabling environment, assessing how each component of the ecosystem might impact development and humanitarian assistance programming.
The qualitative interview data captured and documented as part of the DECA is invaluable. This information can help teams not only identify, but contextualize strengths, opportunities, risks, and challenges from the local to national level, giving teams and partnerships both a high-level view and technical insights into the digital ecosystem.
The DECA is part of USAID’s Three-Pillar Digital Ecosystem Framework, depicted with the model below, and includes: (1) Digital Infrastructure and Adoption; (2) Digital Society, Rights, and Governance, and (3) Digital Economy.
Also central to the DECA approach is what is described in the framework as “Cross-Cutting Topics.” Given elements of the digital ecosystem are innately interdependent, there are four foci considered across all three DECA framework pillars:
- Inclusion: equitable access to opportunities and resources for people who might be excluded, marginalized, or vulnerable. This topic goes beyond digital divides in access to and use of digital tools and services to include things like the unique impacts of digital repression on marginalized or vulnerable populations and barriers to full participation in the digital workforce.
- Cybersecurity: how people, systems, and technology protect information kept in digital formats from being taken, damaged, modified, or exploited.
- Emerging Technologies: includes artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, internet of things, drones, robotics, and blockchain.
- Geopolitical Positioning: how the country’s digital evolution is being shaped by international relationships, particularly the global spread of technology-enabled authoritarianism.
These foci and the DECA Framework as developed also provide insight into how USAID is prioritizing its digital development work moving forward and offers a common understanding of digital development. Donors, multilaterals, partners, the private sector, think tanks, and government agencies can adopt and incorporate the Framework to facilitate coordination, program alignment, and identify potential areas of collaboration with USAID.
What did the DECA Reveal about the Digital Ecosystem in Georgia?
Rather than act as an authoritative source on the country’s digital ecosystem, the DECA performed by Resonance is considered a rapid assessment of opportunities and challenges tailored to USAID’s programmatic priorities, and thus may not cover all of USAID/Georgia’s programs and projects in depth.
Nevertheless, the DECA report serves as a valuable resource for not only USAID, but can support the GoG, international organizations, business communities, and civil society organizations (CSOs) to identify the main challenges and priorities for the digital transformation of Georgia. The report is packed with valuable information – from an assessment of the ecosystem and its players, threats to entry and even local broadband pricing – to digital literacy and digital divides. It also includes many case studies and examples.
Key overarching findings from our DECA suggest the Georgian digital ecosystem has a solid foundation, with relatively well-established physical and regulatory infrastructure, government commitment to the development of digital government services, multiple providers of digital connectivity, and a range of digital financial services (DFS). However, access to quality digital tools, skills, and services is not equal across the country; gaps in policy and regulation create uncertainty and limit investment; and cybersecurity threats continue to undermine confidence in digital tools and services. The report also contains additional, specific findings and outlines 13 recommendations for how USAID/Georgia can work with and support the country’s digital ecosystem.
Resources to Help Teams with the DECA Framework and Process
We encourage those with greater interest in the Georgia DECA, as well as DECAs from nearly 20 countries, to visit the USAID website where you can download final reports as well as the Toolkit to help your team conduct similar research assessments. Note that countries affected by violence and conflict pose additional challenges to teams researching digital ecosystem dynamics. To that end, USAID has developed a Conflict and Violence Addendum (and briefer) that discusses principles and practices to help USAID Missions and research teams integrate conflict sensitivity into digital research.
If you are interested in this kind of country-level digital ecosystem assessment research to underscore your sustainability, development, or impact initiatives, and are looking for an experienced team to assist your company or organization, feel free to contact us to explore.