Download the Principles for Innovation and Technology in Development in English here. For Spanish download here, French here, and Portuguese here


Principles for Innovation and Technology in Development

These principles are not intended as hard and fast rules but meant as best-practice guidelines to inform the design of technology enabled development programs.

1. Design with the User

  • Develop context appropriate solutions informed by user needs.
  • Include all user groups in planning, development, implementation and assessment.
  • Develop projects in an incremental and iterative manner.
  • Design solutions that learn from and enhance existing workflows and plan for organizational adaptation.
  • Ensure solutions are sensitive to, and useful for, the most marginalized populations: women, children, those with disabilities, and those affected by conflict and disaster.

2. Understand the Existing Ecosystem

  • Participate in networks and communities of like-minded practitioners.
  • Align to existing technological, legal, and regulatory policies.

3. Design for Scale

  • Design for scale from the start, and assess and mitigate dependencies that might limit ability to scale.
  • Employ a “systems” approach to design, considering implications of design beyond an immediate project.
  • Be replicable and customizable in other countries and contexts.
  • Demonstrate impact before scaling a solution.
  • Analyze all technology choices through the lens of national and regional scale.
  • Factor in partnerships from the beginning and start early negotiations.

4. Build for Sustainability

  • Plan for sustainability from the start, including planning for long-term financial health, i.e. assessing total cost of ownership.
  • Utilize and invest in local communities and developers by default and help catalyze their growth.
  • Engage with local governments to ensure integration into national strategy and identify high-level government advocates.

5. Be Data Driven

  • Design projects so that impact can be measured at discrete milestones with a focus on outcomes rather than outputs.
  • Evaluate innovative solutions and areas where there are gaps in data and evidence.
  • Use real-time information to monitor and inform management decisions at all levels.
  • When possible, leverage data as a by-product of user actions and transactions for assessments.

6. Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation

  • Adopt and expand existing open standards.
  • Use open data and functionalities and expose them in documented APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) where use by a larger community is possible.
  • Invest in software as a public good.
  • Develop software to be open source by default with the code made available in public repositories and supported through developer communities.

7. Reuse and Improve

  • Use, modify and extend existing tools, platforms, and frameworks when possible.
  • Develop in modular ways, favoring approaches that are inter-operable over those that are monolithic by design.

8. Address Privacy & Security

  • Assess and mitigate risks to the security of users and their data.
  • Consider the context and needs for privacy of personally identifiable information when designing solutions and mitigate accordingly.
  • Ensure equity and fairness in co-creation, and protect the best interests of the end-users.

9. Be Collaborative

  • Engage diverse expertise across disciplines and industries at all stages.
  • Work across sector silos to create coordinated and more holistic approaches.
  • Document work, results, processes and best practices and share them widely.
  • Publish materials under a Creative Commons license by default, with strong rationale if another licensing approach is taken.
  • When possible, leverage data as a by-product of user actions and transactions for assessments.

UNICEF innovation principles have been endorsed or adopted by the following partners: UNICEF, WHO, HRP, USAID, Gates Foundation, EOSG Global Pulse, WFP, OCHA, UNDP, SIDA, IKEA Foundation, UN Foundation, and UNHCR.