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Five Ways to Use the Digital Ecosystem Evidence Map

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Photo credit: Power Africa

The international development community talks a lot about “data-based decision making” and “fit for purpose” practices. But how do we find and internalize the data? How do we determine what “fit for purpose” practices are suitable in given contexts? 

The USAID Digital Strategy’s Digital Ecosystem Evidence Map—or DEEM—is a new tool that partners can use to stay up-to-date on all aspects of digital development. The DEEM is a publicly available, searchable database of nearly 1,000 digital development projects, policies, and research from around the world. It includes peer-reviewed articles, government reports, white papers, toolkits, working papers, and more. 

The database is focused on eight sectors and 12 intervention areas. Whether it’s digital finance tools in agriculture, digital literacy in global health, data privacy policy, or e-government solutions, the DEEM covers every aspect of the digital ecosystem in international development. 

USAID and our partners in the development community need to strengthen the practice of capturing evidence, integrating learning, and surveying emerging trends to inform best practices. This easy-to-use tool presents an opportunity for anyone—especially USAID’s partners—to integrate best practices into their development projects, design more effective and sustainable digital programming, and achieve better development results over the long term. 

Here are just a few of the ways you can use the DEEM:

  1. Write strong proposals for grants, contracts, and agreements. Responding to a Request for Proposals (RFP) means putting your best foot forward. The DEEM can be used to find up-to-date evidence on a particular topic, which you can then use to strengthen the arguments in your proposal and demonstrate you understand the local digital ecosystem.
  2. Design an activity. If you have funding to complete an activity with USAID, the DEEM is the perfect place to go to ensure that you’re designing digital development interventions using best practices. This could include making sure that the intervention accounts for recent research or policy ideas in the country or region you’re focusing on. Using the DEEM, you can search for the most rigorous evidence by country, such as randomized-controlled trials and peer-reviewed articles.
  3. Inform an evaluation plan. We all want to know whether our projects work. And for that we need to decide on indicators, metrics, and evaluation plans for success. The DEEM can help you find evaluations of similar projects conducted elsewhere in the world, allowing you to pick up the best ideas and adapt them for your context. For example, the DEEM has a range of evaluation reports across digital finance, e-government, digital literacy, and digital inclusion intervention areas.
  4. Share resources with a colleague. We don’t conduct our work in isolation. As you’re collaborating with other partners or funders, using the “Share View” feature on the DEEM is a great way to make sure you’re all on the same page when it comes to recent digital development topics and evidence.
  5. Help on-board a new employee. Have someone new on your team who needs to be brought up to speed on all things digital development? Consider having them explore resources on the topics they “need to know” to become a strong contributor to your mission. By filtering by sector or intervention area, you can point your new employee to the most essential information.

Whether you’re a new partner or have worked with USAID for years, the DEEM can be a fantastic way to incorporate research and best practices into your work. It helps demonstrate a clear commitment to understanding the digital ecosystem and designing effective projects. 

Partners who use the DEEM also have an opportunity to share the results of the work: by submitting articles, evaluations, and other research products through a survey on the website, new partners can have their work incorporated into the DEEM and added to the global collection of data and best practices on digital development.

We’re excited to see how our partners use this new tool and incorporate it into their work. If you have suggestions, feedback, or just want to share how you’re using the tool, please use this brief survey (also linked on the website) or contact digitaldevelopment@usaid.gov

USAID’s Digital Strategy is a five-year Agency-wide vision for development and humanitarian assistance in the world’s rapidly evolving digital landscape. Follow @USAID_Digital and sign up for the Digital Development Newsletter to stay up to date on all things digital at USAID.