Digital change in development cooperation

Project description

Title: Sector Project on Digitalisation for Sustainable Development
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global with pilots in various countries
Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, India, Jordan, Iraq, Indonesia
Overall term: 2017 to 2019



Digital change is altering the way individuals, societies and nations interact worldwide and is playing an increasingly important role in development cooperation. Digitalisation is a cross-cutting issue that contributes towards the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Among other things, digital technologies support improved social and political participation, help to make knowledge accessible and help to tap new markets. The promotion of digital solutions is therefore an independent development policy objective that the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is pursuing together with its partners. There are challenges to tackle here, including the unequal access to digital technologies, in order to prevent disparities, such as that between urban and rural areas, from increasing. On top of this, developing countries are only rarely represented in international dialogue on digital issues. They often lack regulations with regard to data protection, cyber security and fair working conditions in the online and offline world.


Approaches and methods relating to digitalisation for sustainable development have been increasingly integrated into German development cooperation.



The project provides BMZ with technical and strategic advice on the topic of digitalisation in development cooperation. It regularly prepares strategy papers, reports and speeches. In addition, it develops German positions and specialist articles in multilateral forums such as the EU, the G20 states or the World Bank. The project also organises events on selected topics and designs pilot measures of relevance to development policy. This includes, for instance, the Digital Africa initiative, which works with the digital economy, the academic world and civil society.


Digital technologies are incorporated into development policy processes in order to achieve goals more effectively with greater participation and transparency. Accordingly, their impact can often only be measured indirectly. 
Within German development cooperation, the number of projects with a digital component is on the rise. In the first quarter of 2019, for example, there were around 480 projects in 90 countries dedicated to this topic.


This project has organised numerous events on behalf of BMZ, including the Innovation Forum and the re:publica Accra 2018. It has contributed towards positioning BMZ and supporting BMZ’s involvement at international events such as the Transform Africa Summit. Various pilot projects are contributing towards the implementation of the goals laid out in the position paper Data for Development: What’s Next?.