Digital technologies and ICTs

Dramatic changes brought about by digital and technological advances - including information and communication technologies (ICTs) - have created new economic and social opportunities the world over. Access to and the strategic use of these technologies by individuals, businesses, governments and civil society have the potential to help bring about economic development, poverty reduction, and democratisation. However they also bring many challenges, not least those that threaten environmental sustainabilty and deepen the divides between the 'haves' and 'have nots'. 

Children practice their computer skills on new robust laptops. Rwanda is one of the first African countries to be part of the One Laptop per Child.
Credit: Panos / Sven Torfinn

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

IDS's work in this area seeks to understand how new technologies can be harnessed to improve the lives of the poorest and most marginalised communities and the risks involved. We also explore how ICTs can best support the application of research evidence in development policy and practice.

Photo of Alan Stanley from IDS Knowledge Services More details

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Photo of Becky Faith, Research Officer, Digital and Technology research cluster More details

Photo of Ben Ramalingam, Digital cluster research fellow More details

Photo of Duncan Edwards, ICTs Innovations Manager More details

Photo of Hani Morsi More details

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Photo of Kelly Shephard, IDS Open Knowledge and Digital Services Unit More details

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Photo of Martin Greeley, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Pauline Oosterhoff, Research Fellow, Participation Power and Social Change More details

Photo of Pedro Prieto Martin, Research Officer, Digital and Technology research cluster More details

Photo of Stephen Wood, Participation Research team, IDS More details

Photo of Tony Roberts, IDS research fellow, Digital More details

A Demonstration Project: How Active Data Can be Shaped and Provide Strong Evidence-Based Programming

In an attempt to make better use of what is available, IDS is leading on a pilot programme which examines sets of participatory and systemic data with a view to increase understanding of how data is collected, analysed and shared in development programming. More details

Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities (SDIC)

The “Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities” (SDIC) project aims strengthen technical and institutional capacities by working directly with municipal authorities participating in the Smart Cities Mission in four secondary cities in India: Bhopal and Jabalpur (in Madhya Pradesh) and Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi (in Kerala). More details

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 expertise and experience. More details

GODAN Action - Enabling practical engagement with open data in agriculture and nutrition

GODAN Action brings together agriculture and nutrition specialists and open data experts and will support GODAN in its mission by building people’s capacity to engage with open data More details

mSTAR Real Time Data for Adaptive Programming Conceptual Framework

The project will focus on the growing importance of real-time data and in particular how digital tools can be used to generate information in support of more adaptive, contextually relevant, decision-making and programme management and implementation More details

Open Application Programming Interface (API)

The IDS Knowledge Services Open API (Application Programming Interface) makes the datasets held across our Knowledge Services accessible programmatically to other organisations and individuals to enable others to repurpose and contextualise this knowledge. More details

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Dial ‘N’ for Nutrition? A Landscape Analysis of What We Know About m-Nutrition, m-Agriculture and m-Development

IDS Working Paper 481 (2016)

Child undernutrition is one of the most devastating realities in many parts of the world. Globally in 2015, 159 million children below the age of five years were too short for their age (stunted) and 50 million were too thin for their height (wasted). More details

Front cover for 'Ten Frontier Technologies for International Development'

Ten Frontier Technologies for International Development

As new technologies and digital business models reshape economies and disrupt incumbencies, interest has surged in the potential of novel frontier technologies to also contribute to positive changes in international development and humanitarian contexts. More details


The Impact of Digital Technology on Economic Growth and Productivity, and its Implications for Employment and Equality: An Evidence Review

IDS Evidence Report 207 (2016)

As digital technology has begun to ‘eat the world’ it has also influenced the way that humans interact and transact with each other. Thus, it has inevitably had an effect on global, regional, national and local economies. More details


The Impact of Digital Technology on Environmental Sustainability and Resilience: An Evidence Review

IDS Evidence Report 209 (2016)

Striving for ‘environmental sustainability and resilience’ (ESR) is postulated as a crucial, universal and global challenge of the twenty-first century. Today, this challenge has to be addressed in a world that is dynamic in its societal, economic and political constituents, heightened by increased interconnectedness resulting from globalisation. More details


The Contribution of Digital Technology to Citizenship, Accountability and Rights: An Evidence Review

IDS Evidence Report 208 (2016)

The use of digital technologies has risen dramatically in the past century, building excitement among governments and technology experts about applying technology to improve accountability, transparency and the effectiveness of authorities. More details


Towards Greater Effectiveness and Accountability in Impact Investing

IDS Policy Briefing 126 (2016)

Impact investing – investing for social and environmental returns alongside financial returns – is a growing phenomenon in financial markets. However, concerns exist regarding the demand for robust impact evidence and accountability for impact claims when compared to a public sector aid model. More details


The Potential of M-health for Improved Data Use: Workshop Report

IDS Evidence Report 201 (2016)

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS), in partnership with World Vision Indonesia, are exploring whether a recently implemented nutrition surveillance intervention, known as M-health, is being used to improve community-based data collection on nutrition. More details


Mixed-Method Impact Evaluation of a Mobile Phone Application for Nutrition Monitoring in Indonesia

IDS Evidence Report 200 (2016)

Child malnutrition (includes both under- and overweight) remains a challenge. Routine growth monitoring is a common practice. More details


Testing TwitterWeave: An Application of the New IDS Web Tool for Tracking Research

IDS Evidence Report 191 (2016)

Understanding how people engage with research is a key issue for researchers, donors and anyone concerned with research impact, but observing this type of engagement is not easy. However, thanks to today’s widespread use of social media, it is now possible in principle to capture some of this engagement. More details


Real-time Monitoring in Disease Outbreaks: Strengths, Weaknesses and Future Potential

IDS Evidence Report 181 (2016)

This Evidence Report analyses the potential contribution of epidemic real-time monitoring (ERTM) initiatives to enhancing and augmenting disease surveillance systems in developing countries. More details


A Real-time Web Application for Tracking Twitter Exchanges about Research

IDS Evidence Report 177 (2016)

Understanding how people engage with research is an increasingly important issue, and not just for researchers. Funders, the media, politicians and ultimately the wider public are increasingly concerned about value for money and maximising the impact of research investment. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Evaluating Digital Citizen Engagement

The World Bank (2016)

This guide provides practical steps to assess the extent to which digital tools have contributed to citizen engagement and the help to understand the impact that the introduction of technology has had on the engagement processes. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC learning Event paper Transforming Governance: What Role for Technologies?

Transforming Governance: What Role for Technologies?

The technological innovations of the last two decades – cell phones, tablets, open data and social media – mean that governments and citizens can interact like never before. Around the world, in different contexts, citizens have fast-increasing access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) that enable them to monitor government performance and express their views on it in real time. More details


Ensuring Developing Countries Benefit from Big Data

IDS Policy Briefing 107 (2015)

Big data is already creating a big impact. Some herald it as the new ‘data revolution’, others worry it is a tool for manipulation, while many in development cite it as key to successfully implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. More details


Big Data and International Development: Impacts, Scenarios and Policy Options

IDS Evidence Report 163 (2015)

Many people are excited about data, particularly when those data are big. Big data, we are told, will be the fuel that drives the next industrial revolution, radically reshaping economic structures, employment patterns and reaching into every aspect of economic and social life. More details


Strengthening Evidence-Based Policy: Outputs April 2014 – March 2015

Accountable Grant Outputs Brochure (2015)

In much writing about development, policy and practice are portrayed as if they are joined at the hip. Policy shapes practice, while learning from practice informs policy processes. In this portrayal, practice is usually understood to refer to development practice, or how development programmes and projects are implemented. More details


PDS ‘To Go’? ‘Portability’ of Rights through Real-time Monitoring: the Centralised Online Real-time Electronic PDS in Chhattisgarh, India

IDS Evidence Report 133 (2015)

Information and communications technology (ICT)-based reforms are increasingly being used to improve the delivery of public services. More details


The Future of Knowledge Sharing in a Digital Age: Exploring Impacts and Policy Implications for Development

IDS Evidence Report 125 (2015)

We live in a Digital Age that gives us instant access to information at greater and greater volumes. The rapid growth of digital content and tools is already changing how we create, consume and distribute knowledge. More details


Tracking Research and Policy Conversations in Online Spaces

IDS Evidence Report 122 (2015)

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is engaged in a major four-year programme entitled Strengthening Evidence-based Policy, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Central to this programme is the production and communication of policy-relevant research findings. More details


Knowledge Sharing and Development in a Digital Age

IDS Policy Briefing 87 (2015)

Digital technologies are reaching ever further into remote parts of the world, changing how people access, use, and create information and knowledge. More details

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