Advancing Local Digital Solutions: Insights from ICT4D Conference

  • Diana Kurth

This past March, the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Technology and Democracy Practice attended the 12th Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) Conference in Accra, Ghana, along with four of the team’s civic technology (civic tech) partners – Commit Global, Layertech Software Labs, Red De Innovacion Local (RIL), and Youth Voice for Peace. The conference, organized by Catholic Relief Services, convenes non-governmental and community-based organizations, private sector companies, governmental and multilateral agencies, investors, donors, and academic and research institutions to share their experiences, lessons learned and innovations using digital technologies to advance development. This was the first time IRI and its partners had participated in the conference, which aims to advance global knowledge exchange and build the capacity of the ICT4D and digital development community to drive more impactful use of technology for good. 

The two-day conference focused on key themes that closely align with the Technology and Democracy Practice’s core areas. The discussions centered around advancing locally-owned digital initiatives to address governance challenges such as climate change, public health improvement, and bridging digital divides. The sessions also emphasized the best practices for sustaining digital tools, innovations in data analytics, and the impact of artificial intelligence-driven innovations. Reflecting and reinforcing a key approach in IRI’s civic tech work centered on supporting locally-owned initiatives, the conference particularly highlighted the importance of supporting and developing community-driven digital solutions. 

Given the alignment in IRI’s approach to digital democracy work and the areas of focus in the conference, IRI was invited to host a panel session at the ICT4D Conference, where its civic tech partners presented their locally-driven projects funded by IRI. The panel session included an overview of their initiatives, and shared best practices and lessons learned in advancing locally-driven digital solutions to governance challenges. The session featured the following projects:  

Over 35 individuals attended and participated in the panel session, which highlighted one of the critical themes of the ICT4D Conference: advancing digital initiatives by the community at a local level. Most questions from the audience centered on better understanding how engagement with local government is key to digital efforts, especially at the local level.  

Reflecting on the conference, IRI’s civic tech partners were inspired by the connections they made and the knowledge they gained from attending the ICT4D Conference. They found the opportunity to engage with potential collaborators and learn from industry leaders invaluable, especially in the context of promoting locally-driven digitization, underscoring the importance of convening local innovators at global conferences such as these. 

The participation of IRI in the ICT4D Conference highlights the significance of collaboration and knowledge-sharing in bringing about positive change through technology. This conference recognizes the importance of locally-driven digital solutions, an approach IRI has consistently advanced over the past four years, paving the way for initiatives that utilize technology to enhance governance and democracy. 

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