Digital and Technology

Advancing knowledge, shaping policy and inspiring practice on digital development is critical to achieving the Institute of Development Studies’ vision of reducing inequalities, accelerating sustainability, and building secure and inclusive societies.

The digital revolution has ushered in transformative changes to the ways we communicate and organise, with cascading effects across social, economic and political spheres.  Mobile phones and internet technologies are being used positively by women and marginalised groups to access information resources, increase their agency and well-being, and to influence policy and political change. However the same technologies are also used for surveillance, distortion of democratic discourse and to dampen dissent by civil society.

Jackie Jembe, Swaziland. Photo: Tony Roberts 2004

Our cutting-edge research and analysis on the reality of digital development provides insights and ideas for policymakers and practitioners within development and humanitarian organisations seeking to better understand and realise the promise of the digital revolution for poor and marginalised communities.

We focus on three interconnected themes;

  • Gender and technology:  Mobile phones and other ICTs can contribute to women’s economic and political empowerment but the same technologies are often sites of gender exclusion and online violence. Our research looks at these barriers and the pathways to womens’ active participation in digital economies as creators, innovators and entrepreneurs.
  • Innovation and ‘frontier technologies’: Frontier technologies  hold the potential to rapidly address large-scale economic, social or political challenges. However they may also involve the displacement of existing livelihoods and social relations and so carry considerable uncertainty and risk. If technology choices in international development are to be based on more than vendor and media hype then new sources of digital and technology expertise must urgently be made available to development decision-makers.
  • Digital citizenship: New digital public spheres are opening up online, often in response to the closing of offline civic spaces. This is becoming the new frontier on which development policy debates and narratives are being formed. We explore new ways to accelerate innovation in the field of digital citizenship to enable the democratic potential of ICT to amplify citizen voice to be realised.

Collaboration for impact

The quality and impact of our work depends upon us collaborating with governments, international NGOs, local civil society, citizens, donors, businesses and many others to achieve positive change, strategically informed by research and knowledge.

Consulting services

Our consulting services focus on our clients’ most critical issues and opportunities surrounding digital strategies for human development. We bring strong technical, cross-disciplinary expertise grounded in real-world experience and are known for bringing a holistic lens that acknowledges the economic, political and social contexts of digital development. Recent clients include the Digital Impact Alliance, The Malala Fund, UK Department for International Development, USAID, German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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Image of Becky Faith
Becky Faith

Research Fellow

Image of Tony Roberts
Tony Roberts

Research Fellow

Image of Pedro Prieto Martin
Pedro Prieto Martin

Research Officer

Image of Kevin Hernandez
Kevin Hernandez

Research Officer

Image of Inka Barnett
Inka Barnett

Research Fellow

Image of Amy Cowlard
Amy Cowlard

Project Support Officer

Image of Deborah West
Deborah West

Senior Project Support Officer



Malala Fund ‘Full Force’ report research

Research for the Malala Fund ‘Full Force’ report: In the face of rapid technological change, how do we provide girls in low and middle-income countries with the digital skills, attitudes and abilities to thrive in the future labour market?


Towards A More Gender-Inclusive Open Source Community

New research from the IDS Digital and Technology Cluster carried out for the Digital Impact Alliance explores the experiences of women working in open source communities that create software for the humanitarian and international development sectors. For over two decades, free and...


Digital Development: IDS and DFAT InnovationXchange collaboration

This six month collaboration between the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's InnovationXchange (iXc) and the Digital and Technology cluster will strengthen DFAT’s capability to appropriately use technology to more effectively deliver aid outcomes, building on its existing...

Recent work


Tackling online gender-based violence

Technologies such as mobile phones can exacerbate and magnify acts of violence against women and girls, and lead to a silencing of women’s voices online. To address this issue we must hold social media companies to account. Online gender-based violence (GBV) takes many forms including...

3 December 2018


Leaving No One Behind in a Digital World

Published by IDS

In an increasingly digital world, relatively privileged people are able to use their access to mobile and internet technologies to access clear digital dividends including remote access to health and education information, financial inclusion and digital pathways to economic and political...

1 November 2018