Call for Case Studies! Responsible Data Practices in Digital Development

Do you have a digital technology project that manages personally identifiable or otherwise protected/sensitive data on beneficiaries in the field?

Have you struggled with and addressed challenges around balancing the need for information, protecting it from misuse, and mitigating privacy risks?

Would you like to engage with and inform USAID on development of best practices for ethical data collection, use, and management in field-based programs?

We want to hear from you!

mSTAR is looking for up to three projects where we can test and apply our draft good practice guidelines for ethical collection, use, management, sharing and release of data in field-based digital development programs.

The use of digital technologies is increasing in development programs. This has the potential to yield tremendous benefits but also increases the chances of exposing individuals and communities to harms and privacy risks related to poorly managed and protected data. USAID and its implementing partners recognize these challenges, especially the need for good practices to guide collection, use and sharing of data in a responsible manner.

Therefore, in collaboration with Sonjara, Inc., Georgetown University and the USAID Global Development Lab, mSTAR is conducting research on existing practices, policies, systems, and legal frameworks through which international development data is collected, used, shared, and released. Based on this research, the team will develop good practice guidelines for USAID that will be tested against real world experiences in field-based digital development programs and that will help:

  • Mitigate privacy and security risks for beneficiaries and others
  • Improve performance and development outcomes through use of data
  • Promote transparency, accountability and public good through open data

mSTAR is looking for digital development projects to assess how our guidelines would work in real world settings. Once selected, the research team will conduct field visits of 1-2 weeks per project, in order to understand “on-the-ground” context and project needs. The research team will work with the project management team to apply draft practice guidelines to each case, help identify what practices work and any gaps in the guidelines. The team will also capture feedback from the project management team and partners on implications for project costs and timelines, as well as document existing good practices and lessons learned from the project on how they manage their data. These findings will be used to further refine the USAID Responsible Data Practice guidelines.

What types of projects are we looking for?

  • Ongoing or recently concluded projects that are using digital technologies (SMS, IVR, mobile based data collection, USSD, software, social media platforms, sensors/IoT, etc.) to collect, store, analyze, manage, use and share individuals’ data.
  • The data could include personally identifiable information (PII) and/or other personal information such as health records of pregnant mothers, teachers’ attendance, financial transaction history of individuals, HIV/TB status, and/or other potentially sensitive information like LGBTQI status, membership in vulnerable groups (disability, ethic/tribal minority etc.), geocoded information, etc.
  • The project should have informal or formal processes for privacy/security risk assessment and mitigation especially with respect to field implementation of digital technologies (listed above) as part of their program. These may be implicit or explicit (i.e. documented or written). They potentially include formal review processes conducted by ethics review boards or institutional review boards (IRBs) for projects. Submissions of cases are NOT limited to only projects that have conducted formal ethics review. Projects that have been clearly defined as “research,” however, are excluded from this analysis. Note that, while information security processes are highly relevant to the overall problem of mitigating privacy risks, we are NOT looking for case studies that are entirely about information security/cybersecurity practices.
  • All sectors of international development are welcome to submit case studies. We are looking for diversity in context and programming.
  • Projects from all geographical regions are welcome.
  • We prefer case studies from USAID-funded projects but are open to receiving case studies from other donor-supported projects.

If your project or activity falls under the above criteria, please take a few minutes to share your project information here. We welcome multiple submissions from one organization; simply reuse this form for each case study proposed.

Contributions must be received by March 1, 2017.

Your help and support are much appreciated! Please share this call with others who may be interested in contributing case studies.

Click here to submit your case study. 

The Digital Finance for Development Handbook

This article originally appeared on ICTWorks here

The Digital Financial Services for Development Handbook was developed by USAID and FHI360 for use by USAID personnel to maximize the Agency’s use of and contribution to the growth of digital financial services in emerging markets around the world.

As an Agency, USAID brings significant comparative advantages to the collective effort required to build out financial services and market infrastructure that serve the poor and create pathways out of poverty. The Handbook is for use across USAID, though content is often framed with a Mission perspective in mind. It explores practical ways in which USAID personnel can advance digital financial services in support of USAID’s mission: partnering to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies.


Why does USAID see value in strengthening and using inclusive digital financial services?

Access to finance is not a banking challenge. It’s a livelihoods challenge and an empowerment challenge that cuts across all sectors (particularly with respect to gender and rural communities). If we resolve this challenge, we can transform lives by improving economic resilience and creating new market opportunities.

Although evidence substantiates the importance of financial inclusion to broad-based development, many of the world’s poor remain excluded from financial services because they are simply too expensive to deliver through traditional banking models (see Figure 1). But the prospects for deepening financial inclusion are bright for two reasons:

  • the incredible, rapid growth of connected technologies, especially mobile telephone infrastructure; and
  • the advent of branchless banking models that, when paired with the mobile phone, can make a host of useful services and products possible.

Together, these two elements constitute a key market infrastructure for a new, highly accessible digital economy that upends long-standing constraints to traditional business models. The value of this market infrastructure—digital financial services—is apparent in at least three broad ways:

  1. reducing loss (tied to theft, time, corruption, and business processes);
  2. increasing social protection (by enabling fast, secure transfers and extending saving, insurance, and credit services); and
  3. creating new market opportunities (for new business models, products, and services in every sector).

A central message of this handbook is that a digital financial services ecosystem is a key means to many ends. In addition to helping to expand financial inclusion, it can also be used as a channel to achieve other development outcomes. For example, it can be used to facilitate conditional cash transfers aimed at increasing school attendance, improve agricultural yields for smallholder farmers, and extend the reach of critical services such as power and water.

The Digital Financial Services for Development Handbook is intended to be used in concert with other resources being developed by USAID to equip its staff to harness the power of information and communication technology for development (ICT4D).


Paper-to-Mobile Data Collection: A Manual

This toolkit is written in order to give USAID program and contracting staff, implementing partner M&E and program staff, and researchers a better idea of what mobile data collection is, to evaluate its suitability and added value to a given project, and to give guidance in how it can best be put to use. It is directed at USAID Missions and implementing partners engaged in monitoring and evaluation, and offers the resources necessary for making an informed choice and an effective transition process from paper and pen to mobile. It will lay out the benefits of MDC use for implementing partners, as well as incorporating these methods in M&E related solicitations (RFAs and RFPs), when appropriate.

Access the tool here.