Enabling the use of digital technologies for development cooperation

Project description

Title: Sector Programme Digital Development
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global
Overall term: 2014 to 2022


Digital change has a major impact on political, social and economic processes. It follows from this that digitalisation also plays an important role in development cooperation. Digital technologies offer brand new opportunities to make development policy and development cooperation more efficient and effective. New methods such as e-learning, educational formats and AI applications provide an opportunity to reach important target groups and partners more easily. Applications like Blockchain can also help to create greater transparency and accountability. The rapid development and dissemination of technology means that flexible structures and cooperation with innovation partners from industry, initiatives and associations are required. Although this subject and the opportunities for development cooperation are now being recognised, the skills needed to make adequate use of digital change are still lacking.


Digital approaches and methods are being used to a greater extent across sectors in German development cooperation.


The sector programme advises and supports German development cooperation actors in applying digital approaches and methods. The programme thus contributes to implementing BMZ’s position paper ‘Digitalisation for Development’ and the German Government's ‘Digital Strategy’. For a broad-based application of digitalisation in German development cooperation, organisational forms and general conditions need to be adapted. In addition, proven concepts and methods must be reworked in suitable formats. Digitalisation also requires international networks to spread knowledge of the topic and strategic cooperation arrangements to implement flagship digital projects.

These measures aim to harness the opportunities that digitalisation provides in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda more quickly, easily and cost-effectively. For example, digital technology can contribute to alleviating poverty through increased market transparency and the direct sale of products using new information systems and trading systems. It can also promote gender equality, for example by facilitating access to important services for women. Furthermore, digital technology can strengthen democratic processes and good governance, for example by providing appropriate regulatory advice.

The project works in five thematic areas: employment and the economy, innovation, equal opportunities, good governance and human rights, and data for development. As a separate component within the project, the FAIR Forward initiative also focuses on integrating and empowering partner countries in the field of artificial intelligence. The project is also responsible for cross-cutting processes such as providing technical and strategic advisory services to BMZ and establishing the topic within national and international politics.


Digital technology usually serves as an instrument to achieve development policy goals more effectively. For this reason, it is often impossible to measure its direct impact. It is not enough to simply identify the use of technology, as this does not allow conclusions to be drawn as to whether it has also made development policy processes more effective. Nevertheless, the following projects provide an insight into the potential of digital technology in development cooperation: in Uganda, a special app has allowed the value chain to be organised more efficiently, thus reducing the administrative costs of the coffee farmer organisation by 11 percent. A project in Bangladesh offers another example of efficiency. In this project, administrative software is making health care provision and the monitoring of the health situation in 15,000 health facilities easier and more effective.