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.


9 Lessons on Digital Design From ICT4D 2017 in Hyderabad

Digital

I spent the last week at the 2017 ICT4D conference in Hyderabad, a four-day feast of presentations, discussions, and panels on how international development organizations are using new technologies in their work overseas.

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What Bike to Work Day Tells Us About Open Data

Digital

More than 17,000 Washington, D.C.-area residents are commuting by bicycle today, as part of the 17th annual Bike to Work Day. The event’s rising popularity parallels the region’s growing investment in bicycle infrastructure and multimodal transportation. This is a positive trend, particularly for those of us who want cities and urban areas to pr…

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Philippines Increases Tax Collections by $1.1 Billion Year Over Year—Without Raising Rates

Developments

What would you do with an extra $1.1 billion? That amount represents the additional taxes collected by the Philippines government during the first quarter of 2017 versus the same period in 2016. This 12.2 percent increase—during the country’s tax-collecting season—followed the rapid adoption by taxpayers of an electronic tax-filing system …

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How to Run an Electronic Cash Transfer Program: A Kenyan Case Study

Digital

Working on an ICT team can sometimes feel like being the Morpheus of the development world—all we want to do is show development project teams that digital tools can unleash immense potential. So we try our best to sneak ICT elements into projects in any way possible: short blurbs in project proposals, ICT strategy documents while on technical a…

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GeekFest 2017: Exploring Mobile Money and Women’s Financial Inclusion with Yasmin Bin-Humam

Digital

Welcome to GeekFest 2017, a series of interviews featuring ICT4D thought leaders. Our goals for #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 overall growth of the ICT4D community. In this installment, I’m pick…

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Making Land Rights Real

Developing Alternatives

Land rights are largely taken for granted in the developed world. Yet for many people in developing nations, land rights have no reality. In the developed world, land rights are almost always recorded in secure registers, but this is not the case elsewhere. It is estimated that as many as 90 percent of the world’s poorest people enjoy neither se…

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Using Mobile Technology for First Registration of Land: Lessons Learned in Tanzania

Developing Alternatives

“In the 21st century,” as I write with my co-authors in the companion piece to this article, “land administration systems will nearly always be developed using digital systems. Assuming they are well designed, then they are more secure, more efficient, more transparent, and more accessible.”But the test of any tool is with users in the field. Th…

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Generation Rising: Young, Educated Afghan Women Enter the Workforce

Developments

It is hard to believe in the wake of the past few decades that 1960s and ’70s Afghanistan was relatively progressive for women, with many women and girls freely attending school, working professionally, and dressing fashionably. Since the 1990s, warlords and, later, the conquering Taliban subjugated females—forbidding girls from going to school …

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$83 Million Grain Deal Between East African Countries Demonstrates How the Region Can Feed Itself

Developments

If East Africa grows enough food to feed itself, which it generally does, why are so many of its people going hungry? This question lies at the nexus of two of Africa’s key development challenges—food security and trade—where a recent milestone event may signal a massive change in fortunes for one of the most food insecure regions of the world.

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Takeaways From F8: It’s Zuckerberg’s World—We’re Just Living In It

Digital

F8, Facebook’s annual conference, was my first trip to Silicon Valley—I’ve been to the Silicon Wadi in Israel and the Silicon Savannah in Kenya, but never had I stepped foot where it all began. It was the perfect sort of baptism by fire into the ethos of the place that brought us semiconductors, personal computing and smartphones: a gathering wh…

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Dialogue and Development in Ghana’s Oil and Gas Region

Developing Alternatives

In 2007, oil and gas was discovered off the coast of Ghana, leading to a boom in infrastructure projects and investment in the country’s Western Region, particularly in six coastal districts. Subsequently, large tracts of land have been taken over for the development of oil and gas infrastructure, businesses, pipelines, roads, and areas allocate…

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From Land Tenure Regularisation to a Sustainable Land Register

Developing Alternatives

The evidence is clear: property rights are essential foundations for poverty alleviation and economic development. In Africa, it is less clear as to what may be the most effective way of establishing and especially maintaining those rights, with formal and customary tenure systems both offering degrees of security but radically different develop…

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The Whole Spectrum: A Holistic Approach to Climate Resilience

Developments

Climate change is a growing threat to global stability and national security. Decades of fossil fuel combustion and unsustainable land use have contributed to carbon dioxide levels in the planet’s atmosphere that are higher than in the past 4 million years. With so much carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere, the planet is getting warmer…

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First Contact with the Planet API and NodeJS

Digital

We love remote sensing here at DAI and luckily for us, satellite imagery APIs are starting to pop up all over, like springtime flowers. One of the most prominent imagery providers is Planet, a small company with lofty service and product offerings for remote sensing. Planet builds and launches small satellites that image the entire world every d…

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How Tax and Budget Assistance Helps Developing Countries Help Themselves

Developments

In the United States, April brings warm weather, budding flowers, baseball season and … Tax Day. While not a joyful occasion for most, it is an opportune moment to reaffirm the value of assisting developing countries to improve their tax systems.

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Meet Honduras's Innovation Community

Digital

Chronogram of the 2016 Honduras Startup accelerator from hondurastartup.com In December 2016, I spent a month in Honduras helping launch the new USAID Local Governance Activity and, replicating some work I did in El Salvador last year, I decided to get to know the innovation and technology community. Why? DAI is currently launching four new USAI…

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Public-Private Partnerships for Land Administration: Can It Work in Cabo Verde?

Developing Alternatives

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have a long history as effective mechanisms for delivering infrastructure projects and more recently as vehicles for service provision. The use of PPPs for land administration services is less common, though there are a few notable successes in developed economies. In a development context—where donor-funded ti…

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Digital Insights Rwanda: How Do Rural Youth Use New Technologies?

Digital

In early March, I spent a week in Rwanda building a profile of how young people in rural areas use media and technology and interact with rural financial institutions (RFIs). With the help of the Rural Youth Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), we interviewed 116 young people (aged 17 to 34) in a ring of towns and villages outside the capital, Kigali.

A …

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Despite Regional Instability, Lebanon’s Honey Sector Reaches New Heights

Developments

Even before more than 1 million Syrian refugees crossed into Lebanon, the nation’s agriculture sector was struggling to serve its 4.5 million citizens.

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SXSW 2017: The More Trends Change, the More They Stay the Same

Digital

The annual South by Southwest Interactive Music and Film Festival with all of its thought-provoking panels, workshops, keynote speakers, and booths demonstrating the latest gizmos, gadgets, applications, and trends has come and gone—and for the second year, I was in attendance to make some sense of it all.

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Unlocking Capital: How USAID Pushed the Frontier of Financial Services and Built a Foundation for Economic Growth in Kenya

Developments

In 2010, as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) designed the Kenya Financial Inclusion for Rural Microenterprises (FIRM) project. FIRM aimed to push the frontier of financial services into the agricultural sector where smallholder farmers—the bulk of Kenya’s 45 million p…

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Doubling Access to Safe Drinking Water: How Four African Countries Did It … and How Others Can, Too

Developments

In 1990, the East African nation of Ethiopia stood among the nations in most dire need of water development. Seventeen years of war had left its government and systems in disarray. Only 11 percent of its more than 48 million people had access to piped or other improved water sources; the rest used unimproved sources such as unprotected wells and…

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Ethiopia Land Registration Ready for Lift Off: Now What?

Developing Alternatives

Large-scale land registration programmes such as the U.K. for International Development (DFID)-funded Rwanda Land Tenure Regularisation Programme have demonstrated that it is possible to roll out land registration programmes quickly and cheaply, on a national scale. Now, a similar but even more ambitious U.K. initiative in Ethiopia—the Land Inve…

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A Call to Arms: Shaping a More Innovative Approach to Adaptive Programming in Democracy Assistance

DAIdeas

While adaptive programming is at the forefront of development programming, its basic tenets are not new. As the name suggests, this approach implies adapting a programme to the specific circumstances in which it will be implemented and to the needs of those it targets, as they evolve. Adaptive programming means that the programme’s purpose, stru…

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Jhatkaa: Tech-enabled Citizen Advocacy in India

Digital

Our top post of 2016 was my interview with Avijit Michael, the director of Indian citizen advocacy organization Jhatkaa. In his interview, Avijit mentioned they had created a tool for citizens to report local issues via WhatsApp. Needless to say, we were intrigued. So, in the spirit of investigative journalism, we sent one of our staff members t…

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Digital Insights Bangladesh: How Urban Youth Stay Connected

Digital

It’s late January in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which means I’ve managed to avoid the usual heat and humidity, but the bustle and throng are just what I’d expect of one of South Asia’s largest cities. Even though I grew up in India, I’ve never had the chance to travel to its sister republic to the east. And yet, all at once, everything seems familiar—th…

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The Law of the Land: Recent Cases Show Legal Support for Local People

Developing Alternatives

International efforts to secure the land and resource rights of local and indigenous peoples are increasingly finding a friend in the law. National and international law, policies, and jurisprudence are coming together with “soft” legal guidelines and principles to yield stronger standards related to indigenous land and resource rights. Landmark…

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Legitimate Land Tenure and Property Rights: Fostering Compliance and Development Outcomes

Developing Alternatives

At the request of the U.K. Department for International Development, DAI recently undertook structured research into the following question: What policies and interventions or approaches have been successful in fostering compliance with legitimate land tenure rights and what impact have these strategies had on development outcomes? The research …

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Enhancing Women and Girls’ Land Rights in Rural Sierra Leone

Developing Alternatives

Around 70 percent of Sierra Leoneans live in rural areas, the large majority of them depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. Issues of land ownership, tenure, and inheritance rights are therefore crucial to virtually every rural household. But these issues are bound up in a system of customary law that in turn reflects endemic gender dis…

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Ecosystem Insights: How Trade Associations in Rural Afghanistan Use Mobile Tech

Digital

We’re pleased to launch a new research product on the blog today: Ecosystem Insights (EI). EI seeks to understand how key groups of stakeholders use digital tools to connect with each other and share information, pushing beyond the individual personas of our Digital Insights work to gain insights into how groups access and use ICT in both their …

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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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Investing, Leasing Land, and Compensating Landowners: The Addax Bioenergy Experience in Sierra Leone

Developing Alternatives

Much has been written about the impacts of long-term land-based investments on local land rights, development, and livelihood opportunities—and much of the commentary, driven by notable controversies, has been hostile to the land investor. But while investors now have a plethora of guidelines and principles to follow in implementing their projec…

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Delivering Large-Scale Land Certification Programmes: Lessons from Rwanda

Developing Alternatives

The challenge was steep but straightforward. Survey, collect, and clarify information for all land parcels in Rwanda—an estimated 7.9 million plots that eventually turned out to be millions more—and provide lease certificates to all rightful claimants. Never before attempted in Rwanda, yet alone accomplished, this feat had to be executed in line…

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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

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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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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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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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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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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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.