Publications

By freely sharing what we learn, we have built a reputation as thought leaders who translate good ideas into action and action into results. You can browse through recently published articles from all our publications ( Developments, Developing Alternatives, DAIdeas, [email protected] ) below—or visit individual publication sites for a full archive.


Afghan Municipalities Raise More Revenues, Deliver Better Services, Enhance Stability

Developments

The long-running conflicts in Afghanistan have threatened to reduce its municipalities to mere clusters of people rather than organized cities operating for the local good. But this is changing. Many municipalities are now gaining strength, establishing financial systems, increasing revenues, and improving service delivery by virtue of technical…

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I Made a Facebook Chatbot (And You Can, Too!)

Digital

I’ve been excited about using chatbots in our work since Facebook’s F8 Developer conference last April, when the company announced that Messenger would begin to support them.

What is a Facebook chatbot?

Our Digital Insights work in Indonesia, Honduras, and Palestine has shown that Facebook and FB Messenger are hugely popular in the places D…

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Crowdsourced Data Collection Provides On-the-Ground Insights

Digital

At the end of 2016, we published a post on the digital data collection sector. In 2017, we’re delving deeper into this growing sub-field of ICT4D with interviews, technology reviews, and guest posts. We’re kicking things off with a piece from our friends at Findyr who specialize in gathering insights from emerging markets using mobile-enabled, t…

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Unemployed? Stop Looking for a Job and Create One—Insights from INC Monterrey

Digital

Guest blogger Caity Campos is a specialist in our youth and workforce development unit. Here she reviews the recent Innovate Network Create (INC) Monterrey conference, a gathering of global entrepreneurs from a variety of disciplines. Finally, a conference that wasn’t boring, cliché, or overly esoteric. The Innovate Network Create (INC) Monterre…

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Six Ways to Mitigate Instability in Central America

Developments

Some people might be surprised to know that most of the migrants trying to cross the U.S. southern border come not from Mexico but from countries to Mexico’s south.Eighty percent of the unaccompanied child migrants detained at the border in the year ending September 2016—roughly 47,000 out of 59,000—came from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras…

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Remote Sensing Part 4: The Everest of Satellite Conferences, SatSummit 2017

Digital

We reached the summit of satellite conferences this week! This is the fourth post in our remote sensing series. See part 1, part 2 and part 3. #SatDiversity and #FatData are two hashtags I did not expect to see blaring across the screen when I attended the SatSummit conference this week. These bold declarations are something new: a compression o…

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More Data, Less Risk: Innovators Chart a Path to Financial Inclusion

Digital

The phrase “Catch-22” was originally coined to describe a paradoxical situation that someone is unable to escape from because of contradictory rules or regulations. Think, for example, about the recent graduate who is unable to obtain a job because he or she does not possess any previous work experience, yet cannot gain any work experience becau…

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Remote Sensing Part 3: Identify Healthy Vegetation From Space

Digital

DAI’s excitement about the upcoming SatSummit is approaching perigee levels, with the conference less than one week away! This is Part 3 of our Remote Sensing Series. In case you missed them, here’s Part 2 and Part 1. You could live a perfectly fulfilled life while taking for granted all the colors that appear in the natural world. However, when…

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Remote Sensing Series Part 2: Landsat is the Stalwart of Satellite Imagery Platforms (and it’s Free!)

Digital

DAI is in a stellar mood about the upcoming SatSummit in Washington, D.C. Part 1 of the remote sensing series can be read here. Some incredible things were happening in the United States in 1972: Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” was the No. 1 song on the radio; the first “Godfather” film was released; and NASA launched the first in a series of satelli…

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Situamos a la Ciudadanía en el Centro del Proceso de Diseño en Guatemala

Digital

This post is also available in English. A finales de 2015, el proyecto USAID Nexos Locales recibió una solicitud novedosa. Fue enviada por Carlos Alvarado Figueroa, que acababa de ser elegido alcalde de Chiantla, un municipio de 75.000 habitantes en el altiplano occidental de Guatemala. Alvarado había sido elegido por su plataforma de transparen…

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What Good Is the Internet of Things to People Who Don’t Have the Internet?

Digital

As I write this, the annual Consumer Electronics Show has just wrapped up in Las Vegas, having introduced an allegedly eager public to smartphone-enabled hairbrushes, Bluetooth-capable vibrating hotpants, and refrigerators that tweet when you’re running low on soy milk. This is what marketing departments call the Internet of Things (IoT): device…

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GeekFest 2017: Q&A with Ian Schuler, CEO of Development Seed

Digital

Welcome to Geekfest 2017, a series of interviews featuring ICT4D thought leaders. Our goals in launching #geekfest2017 are: to highlight the people and organizations who are pushing the field in new directions, to feature their work and show how it’s different or new, and to support the growth of the ICT4D community. We’re kicking things off wit…

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Sexual Harassment Law Passes Afghan Houses, Awaits President’s Approval

Developments

Harassment in the workplace in Afghanistan is a major deterrent to women’s participation. In the private sector, women regularly suffer verbal and physical abuse, blackmail, and the use of authority to coerce sex. But this treatment extends beyond the private sector.

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We Need More Women on the Frontlines of the War on Hunger

Developments

In developing countries, something is missing in the war on hunger: an equal voice for women.

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Hiring ICT Staff (Or, How to Get 500 IT CVs Without Really Trying)

Digital

Kabul, 2016. I’d been here before: a cold cup of Nescafe and stack of overly formatted CVs on the table next to me, an over-worked HR officer slow-blinking at me from across the room in subtle panic. Of the 35 CVs in the stack, culled from hundreds submitted online, only two had any mention of ICT experience—the rest were full of network enginee…

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[email protected] Year in Review: Top Five Posts of 2016

Digital

That’s a wrap for 2016, folks. We launched this blog in February with a sense of curiosity and caution, unsure who would read it—or if it would be read at all. Since then, we’ve grown steadily to more than 2,000 page views a month, collaborated with colleagues throughout the ICT4D ecosystem to host 12 guest author posts, and had the privilege of…

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We’re Putting Citizens at the Center of the Design Process in Guatemala

Digital

Esta entrada también está disponible en español. Back in late 2015, the Nexos Locales project in Guatemala received a novel inquiry. It was from Carlos Alvarado Figueroa, who had just been elected mayor of Chiantla (CHEE-ahn-tlah), a municipality of 75,000 in the Western Highlands, and he had an idea. Alvarado had been elected on a platform of b…

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Next Steps: Making Countering Violent Extremism Approaches More Rigorous

Digital

This is a guest post by a friend and colleague of the DAI ICT Team, Ben Dubow. Ben is a partner at Omelas, a firm that works to bring together data scientists, software engineers, and counterterrorism experts to defeat violent extremism. Debuted at the annual meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Safe Cities, Omelas currently has operation…

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Remote Sensing Series Part 1: The Foundations and Applications of Remote Sensing

Digital

This is the first in a series of posts about remote sensing. DAI is entering an orbit of excitement about the upcoming SatSummit on January 31!

Origins of Remote Sensing One day in 1800, German-born British citizen and musician-turned-astronomer, Sir James Herschel was doing something we’ve all found ourselves doing on lazy Sunday afternoons:…

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Mobile Data Collection: A Sector in Flux

Digital

In recent years, mobile surveys and data collection capabilities have increased alongside rapidly expanding mobile phone penetration in the developing world. And with this trend, there has been a proliferation of small firms that have entered this space. At DAI, we realize that by allowing us to quickly capture hard-to-gather data and conduct su…

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Onshore Fish Farms Flourish in Gaza

Developments

In less than a year, an onshore fish farm in Gaza has more than tripled the amount of fish it grows and sells by applying technology and assistance from The Compete Project (Compete), a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program implemented by DAI.

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Simple Solutions: Nutrition and Garden Training in Afghanistan Improves Food Security for Thousands

Developments

As in many developing countries, mothers and children in rural Afghanistan suffer from chronic undernutrition, often because they lack knowledge. Thousands of families in northern Afghanistan are now enjoying improved nutrition and food security thanks to work by a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) economic growth program.

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Crowdsourcing Ideas—The Challenge Fund Model for Innovation

Digital

I apologize for using the word “innovation” in the title of this post. I know… I work in ICT4D and I’m supposed to be a champion for innovation in all its forms. The truth is, for me, the word has nearly lost all its meaning. Innovation is easily one of the most overused and least-understood words favored by businesses, academia, and yes, intern…

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4 Things I Learned at MIT’s TechCon

Digital

This past week I attended TechCon 2016, co-hosted this year by MIT and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). TechCon is the annual gathering of the Higher Education Solutions Network, a partnership between USAID and top universities to harness the academic power, passion, and curiosity of students, researchers, and faculty to so…

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Market Systems Development Boosts Farming, Nutrition in Bangladesh’s Southern Delta

Developments

Bangladesh’s Southern Delta—home to 30 million people—is afflicted by inefficient farming, persistent poverty, and poor nutrition. But a market systems approach applied by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Agricultural Value Chains Program (AVC), a Feed the Future initiative, is beginning to show great promise for the region.

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Counting People is Hard: Biometrics can Help

Digital

This is a guest post written by Ben Mann, a development specialist at DAI with a wide range of interests. He is a policy wonk; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) technical expert; ICT enthusiast; and general advocate for improved use of data and visualizations. Follow Ben on twitter @bhmann One of the core functions of an effective monitoring…

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Hey USAID, Want to Promote Innovation?

Digital

Earlier this month I had the good fortune to attend the Global Accelerator Network’s (GAN) annual Rally in Denver, Colorado. GAN includes 70 startup accelerators in 100 cities across six continents.

GAN CEO Patrick Riley and the managing directors of startup accelerators at the GAN Summit 2016

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Should Big Data Be Open Data?

Digital

This is a guest post by Michelle Kaffenberger, Applied Research Consultant, and Bill Kedrock, Independent Consultant. The post uses Nigeria smallholder farmer data collected through the Growth Enhancement Scheme as the backdrop for a set of initial principles to guide those weighing the pros and cons of opening big data. We propose that when con…

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App-a-Thon 2016: Viber for Development

Digital

As we’ve ramped up our Digital Insights work over the last few months, we’ve had the opportunity to talk with people around Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East about the digital tools they use to stay in touch with each other and the world around them. These conversations have reminded us that we have to work hard to stay on top of …

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Establishing a Model at the Local Level for Science-Driven Climate Adaptation

Developments

Countries in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB)—Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam—are home to rural populations that are chronically poor or vulnerable. Many of these families still produce much of their own food and are acutely sensitive to weather events such as floods, droughts, and extreme storms that cause crop failures and serious hardshi…

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Geeks Like Us: How Academic Research Can Help us Create Better ICT Programs

Digital

In a not-so-distant past life, I was at the PeaceTech Lab, a spin-off from the U.S. Institute of Peace. For the most part, the Lab executes in-country technology and media projects, but one vestige of its parent organization’s think tank legacy is the Blogs & Bullets project—a research initiative done in partnership with some of the wonkiest…

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Have You Read the 2016 Digital GAP Act?

Digital

Update: Since I wrote this, Congress.gov removed the text of the bill. It’s now pasted at the bottom. Have you read the Digital Global Access Policy (GAP) Act? If you’re an ICT4D practitioner, you should.

The bill was just passed in the House and is speeding toward a Senate vote. So, what’s it all about? In short, it enshrines the growth of af…

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Appified: How Social Media is Doing the Hard Work in ICT4D

Digital

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way. Mary Poppins was on to something significant in user experience, far before that phrase even entered our lexicon. How has the sugary sweet world of social media changed the game in ICT for development (ICT4D)? More than just providing us with new channels to engage our tar…

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App-a-Thon 2016: BlackBerry Messenger for Development

Digital

As we’ve ramped up our Digital Insights work over the last few months, we’ve had the opportunity to talk with people around Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East about the digital tools they use to stay in touch with each other and the world around them. These conversations have reminded us that we have to work hard to stay on top of…

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Mining Companies and Startup Partners Should Begin Developing Local Content Before Breaking Ground

DAIdeas

A typical mining operation lasts 30 years or more. As a result, mining companies are accustomed to becoming long-term fixtures in the communities where they work, and local stakeholders have increasingly high expectations for company contributions to community welfare. Local content development is one tool mining companies have used to foster lo…

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From Data to Knowledge: Applying Schema Agnostic Systems Modeling to Development Challenges

Digital

By now the much-vaunted “Big Data Revolution” that technologists have endlessly touted is in full swing. Almost all industrial and economic sectors are actively recognizing and harnessing the potential of digital data. International development is no different, as an ever-increasing number of programs are being conceived with data for decision-m…

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Learning From Local Content Policies: Insights From a Study of Six Resource-Rich Countries

DAIdeas

Since the 1970s, dozens of countries have enacted local content requirements in an effort to translate foreign direct investment, particularly in extractive industries, into local economic development. These policies require multinational companies to source local goods, services, and labor in a wide range of sectors, from civil works to transpo…

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Building Cluster Maps with the AidData API

Digital

AidData is an awesome organization. It has built a lightning-fast application program interface (API) that exposes a massive amount of structured data about aid finance, projects, locations, and sources of funding. More broadly—and quoted from its Twitter bio—AidData, a research and innovation lab at the College of William & Mary, is “provid…

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App-a-Thon 2016: LINE for Development

Digital

As we’ve ramped up our Digital Insights work over the last few months, we’ve had the opportunity to talk with people around Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East about the digital tools they use to stay in touch with each other and the world around them. These conversations have reminded us that we have to work hard to stay on top of …

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Applying Market Systems Approaches to Financial Inclusion Projects

DAIdeas

The market systems approach to economic development has gained prominence within development work that prioritizes inclusive economic growth. Donors such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) have endorsed market syste…

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National Governments Hold the Key to Sustainable Local Climate Change Adaptation in the Mekong Basin

Developments

Over the past few years, farmers in the Lower Mekong Basin have had to change how they win their livelihoods: diversifying crops, reconfiguring livestock husbandry practices, addressing water quality and quantity, even moving their planting schedules. Utilizing local knowledge and experience, these farmers and communities are adapting to the cha…

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Chevron’s Nigerian Initiative Found to Decrease Business Risk, Attract Local Investment, and "Bring Hope"

Developments

When Chevron launched the Niger Delta Partnership Initiatives (NDPI) Foundation in 2010, it knew there were no easy solutions to the instability felt by Nigeria’s youth, poor, and unemployed. Ethnic and religious conflicts had long festered and flared, including in the Niger Delta, where Chevron has extensive oil and gas operations. Taking a reg…

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Unveiling a New Methodology for Measuring Market Systems and Their Impact on Local Development

Developments

When the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) was launched with Chevron’s backing in 2010, it also meant that a time would come to assess whether the team was achieving its goals—primarily, to open doors for broad-based economic opportunity in the conflict-affected Delta.

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New Opportunities Emerge to Support Meaningful Democratic Reform in Sri Lanka

Developments

By 2014, DAI was winding down the Reintegration and Stabilization in the East and North (RISEN) program in Sri Lanka on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transition Initiatives. Over more than four years of operations, the program worked locally with people in civil society and government, implementing g…

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Agriculture Goes Prime Time: Enthralling a TV Audience of Future Farmers

Developments

Each Wednesday night, up to 11 million viewers tune into Makutano Junction, a hit TV series that airs on Citizen Television in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is the most-watched locally produced program in Kenya, but Makutano Junction is not just any soap opera. Africa Lead II, a Feed the Future program of the U.S. Agency for International Dev…

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Domestic Resource Mobilization Takes Root in El Salvador ... and Beyond?

Developments

An encouraging trend in development is gaining speed: more countries want to do more to fund their own development, and donors are on board. At the July 2015 Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attended by more than 110 heads of state, ministers, and officials from 38 countries, donors pledged a…

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Big Data and Domestic Resource Mobilization: How Donors Can Help Developing Countries Increase Revenue

Developing Alternatives

Domestic resource mobilization (DRM)[1] is the capacity of a government to generate income through taxes, fees, levies, or other related resources. Increases in DRM are often achievable through the improvement of tax administration and taxpayer compliance. Increasing DRM enables developing countries to invest more of their own resources in high-…

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Unlocking Local Content: Harnessing the Power of Data-Driven Decision Making

DAIdeas

As new reserves of oil, gas, minerals, and other natural resources crop up around the world, multinational companies are seeking to enter new markets and invest in establishing supply chains. Increasingly, developing local content has become a popular means of maximizing supply chain resilience, lowering costs, reducing risks, and building relat…

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Plugging In to Jordan’s Rising Demand for Electric Cars

Developments

Just shy of Amman’s “7th Circle” on Zahran Street stands a car showroom featuring a different kind of sedan. Take one walk around the Renault Zoe and you will spot the difference. This 88-horsepower super-mini features all the design elements of a car twice its size, except one: a gas tank.

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Zika and the Americas—A Call to Action for Surveillance and Preparedness

Developments

More than 30 countries in the Americas have reported Zika virus infections, with up to 4 million people projected to be infected in 2016. The mosquito-borne virus has now also been linked to sexual transmission, causing public health experts to predict that the virus could spread locally in the United States and elsewhere. U.S. agencies are resp…

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USAID-Backed Fellow Inspires Malaysian Renewable Energy Policy

Developments

When people think of solar energy, they often envision banks of solar panels producing electricity that powers lights and household appliances. While the use of photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity can contribute to reducing carbon emissions, another important and simpler use of the sun’s rays often goes overlooked: the genera…

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Clean Water for All by 2030. No, Really.

Developments

The audacity of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 6—to ensure clean water and sanitation for all by 2030—is balanced by a few encouraging realities: there are myriad ways to attack the goal collectively, there is real clout behind global water initiatives, and—most promisingly—the world has already achieved notable results in water…

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SERVIR Demand Activity: A Key Link in Connecting Space to Village

Developments

Alerting rural villages to floods, detecting remote forest fires, and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions are some of the capabilities of SERVIR Global, a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). SERVIR integrates imagery and data from Earth-observing satellites and geospatial technologies to give pol…

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A Good Use of U.S. Taxpayer Money: Helping Countries Mobilize Domestic Resources

Developments

Tax Day—April 18 this year in the United States—is a day that sparks controversy for many constituencies. For tax opponents, it is a reminder of the burdens borne by the taxpayer. For foreign aid skeptics, it is an opportunity to bemoan the sums spent on international development. For aid advocates, it is a moment to point out how tiny those sum…

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When Tax Reform Leads to Increased Funding for Health Services

Developments

For people across El Salvador, it can be difficult to find medical treatment. Local health facilities in marginalized and rural areas often run short of basic medicines such as antibiotics. A doctor or nurse—if available—might have difficulty locating supplies and tools such as syringes and stethoscopes. But this scenario is brightening.

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Energizing the Support Network for People with Disabilities in Vietnam

Developments

As in most countries, people with disabilities in Vietnam lead disadvantaged lives. Their plight has been exacerbated by the facts that until recently Vietnam was a very poor country without strong government social services, and the wars from the 1940s through the 1970s left many victims, adding substantially to the disability burden. The lega…

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Positively Mobilizing Urban Communities for WASH

Developments

Despite gains elsewhere in the country, urban Indonesia suffers from the lowest rate of access to improved sanitation and the second lowest rate of access to safe water among all ASEAN member nations. Only 32 percent of Indonesia’s urban population has access to piped water and only 73 percent to basic sanitation, which translates into higher ra…

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Scaling Up Mobile Health Services to Expectant and New Mothers in Cambodia

Developments

Working in Cambodia, the Czech organization People in Need (PIN) had already produced a pilot maternal health product. Its mobile phone-based service—named Baby Care Village—was reaching select mothers and caregivers with messages on how to care for newborns. While the new service proved valuable, surveys indicated its messages were meeting just…

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Engaging Both Men and Women to Link Nutrition to Agriculture

Developments

Severe food insecurity and a lack of diversified farming systems present serious challenges to Malawi’s government and development community. One great obstacle is misinformation. Many Malawians hold deep misconceptions about food—for example, that eating oranges or other citrus will shrivel a mother’s breasts. This misinformation works against …

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Developments

DAI’s newsletter, offering feature articles, opinion pieces, and interviews on DAI projects and global development issues.

Developing Alternatives

A forum for our professional staff and guest authors to share their ideas in depth and address issues of enduring interest.

DAIdeas

A companion publication to our Developments newsletter, showcasing innovative thinking in capsule form.

[email protected]

DAI’s Digital for Development blog on what we’re learning in the rapidly emerging field of ICT4D.