Deploying Technology to Secure Land Tenure: SSG Wins LTS

LTS

Rights to land and resources are at the center of poverty reduction, food security, conflict, urbanization, gender equality, climate change, and resilience. An estimated 70% of land in developing countries is not documented due, in large part, to the complexity, cost, and time required. Under its new USAID Land Technology Solutions (LTS) contract, SSG will work to combat insecure land tenure through the use of accessible technology solutions. SSG hopes to pilot, monitor, and scale the USAID’s Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) technology suite in up to ten countries – deploying participatory technology approaches to map and document land resources. This delineation will be an essential step toward creating incentives for investment, broad-based economic growth, and good stewardship of natural resources.

SSG Advisors to Support MCC on PPPs and Shared Value Partnerships

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a new five-year Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) to provide technical, analytical and advisory support to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on public-private partnerships (PPP) and shared value partnerships. McKinsey is a subcontractor to SSG on the BPA.

According to SSG’s Steve Schmida, “We are simply thrilled to have this opportunity to support MCC as it seeks to develop new, innovative approaches to driving private capital into critical MCC-funded investments.  This is our first engagement with MCC and we are excited to support its unique operating model in frontier markets.  We look forward to working with our colleagues from McKinsey in making this BPA a success for MCC and the countries it serves.”

SSG Awarded Prime IDIQ contract to Support USAID’s Management Bureau

SSG Advisors (SSG) is pleased to announce that it is one of three companies awarded the Management Excellence for Operations (MEO) indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract worth up to a total of $40 million by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

MEO is designed to support the Management Bureau (M Bureau) with strengthening operations and performance management and contributing to USAID’s corporate objective of being a strategically managed and operationally effective development partner.

Under the five-year contract, SSG may provide services such as analyzing operations performance data, processes, and management issues to improve USAID’s efficiency and effectiveness; providing surge capacity, support, and technical assistance to USAID operating units to comply with internal and external requirements related to operations performance management; and improving the Agency’s internal and external communications, products and information management, and monitoring and reporting on operations performance management.

 

SSG looks forward to working with our partners Social Impact and Development Gateway to support USAID’s M Bureau with these important initiatives.

Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals with Connectivity: SSG Hosts Event at Microsoft

by Dominica Zhu

Despite advances over the last decade, more than four billion people around the world still do not have access to the Internet, and the vast majority of those who are disconnected come from poor and marginalized communities in some of the least developed countries. If left unaddressed, this digital divide could increase the inequities between and within countries, leading to an even greater development divide. Through strategic targets like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the international development community has begun to focus its attention on achieving universal internet access by 2020.

DC

SSG Advisors, along with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), hosted a conference at Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Washington, DC, to launch a new report: “Connecting the Next Four Billion: Strengthening the Global Response for Universal Internet Access.” The report serves as a call to action for universal internet access to become a foundational element in socioeconomic development.  More than 100 representatives convened at the center from policy organizations, implementers, private sector companies, donors, and impact investors to discuss connectivity and access for rural and marginalized communities around the world.

The event featured expert speakers, including James Bernard, Director of Strategic Partnerships at SSG Advisors; Jane Coffin, Director of Development Strategy of The Internet Society; Lance Condray, Infrastructure Strategist of Facebook; Jonathan Dolan, Team Lead of Digital Inclusion of USAID; Jonathan Donner, Senior Director of Research of Caribou Digital; Paul Garnett, Director of Affordable Access Initiatives of Microsoft; John Garrity, Senior Connectivity Advisor of USAID; Beth Gertz, Senior Strategy Advisors of DIAL; Priya Jaisinghani, Director for the Center of Digital Development at USAID; Samia Melhem, Global Lead of Digital Development from The World BankPaul Mitchell, Director from the Center for Digital Development at USAID; Nilmini Rubin, Vice President of International Development of Tetra Tech; Kate Wilson, CEO of DIAL and Christopher Yoo, Founding Director of 1 World Connected and Professor of University of Pennsylvania.

Connecting the Next Four BillionConference participants discussed a broad range of topics, from the barriers to connectivity, learning from past successes and failure, growing trends in the ICT industry, and amplifying innovative business models and technologies.

In the report, SSG Advisors made three primary recommendations for helping connect the next four billion people.  In order to achieve this, it’s critical that the international development community:

Mainstream access into the development agenda, so that donor- and government-led investments across all sectors (health, agriculture, education, etc.) include an access component;

Amplify new business models that allow access to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid;

Develop more consistency in approaches to digital access, so that we can learn better from past successes and failures.

As one participant said, “Technology is providing new pathways out of poverty.” SSG Advisors is pleased to be a part of a global community that will contribute to the discussion of how government, development agencies, and technology companies can come together address the global digital divide.

The “Connecting the Next Four Billion” report was also highlighted in a Devex article, titled “How to Fill the Gaps in Response to the Digital Divide” and in “On the Issues,” blog post by Microsoft.

If you would like to discuss the report’s findings or would like to play a role in increasing connectivity and access, please contact James Bernard at [email protected].

Universal Internet Access

Strengthening Global Efforts to Connect the Last Four Billion

The internet is a critical part of the daily lives of many people around the world: it has become essential in much of our work, daily communications, and many other aspects of our lives. Despite remarkable increases in connectivity over the past decade, fewer than half of the world’s population currently has access to the internet, and the vast majority of the unconnected are the urban poor, marginalized groups, and rural communities around the world. This digital divide is becoming a development divide that if left unaddressed, could substantially increase inequities both between and within countries.

On February 22, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), SSG Advisors, and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) will release new research at the  Accelerating Progress Towards the SDGs Through Universal Internet Access event, hosted by Microsoft in Washington, D.C.  SSG Advisors assessed the landscape of global efforts to accelerate access to the internet, with a view to identifying gaps and understanding how those could be filled. The outcome of this analysis is Connecting the Last Four Billion: Strengthening the Global Response for Universal Internet Access, which offers three recommendations for global actors to take more and more collective action to accelerate internet access and adoption by the most vulnerable populations.

Children in a Danajon Reef community utilizing the internet access in their village due to a TV Whitespace project with the Philippines government and Microsoft. The project has created access for over 20,000 Filipinos.

Many organizations are already working to address gaps in internet access. For example, Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative is supporting local innovations for affordability and last mile connectivity in a variety of ways, through grants to help scale business models, and education programs to support digital literacy. New businesses, such as Mawingu in Kenya, and AirJaldi in India, are using new technologies, including long-range Wi-Fi and TV White Space to increase access. In addition, USAID’s Digital Inclusion program is working with the public and private sector to extend rural broadband coverage by leveraging funding at the country level and by crowding-in private sector investment.  Increasingly, organizations such as GSMA’s Connected Society program and the Alliance for Affordable Internet tackle a variety of barriers to access, including lack of availability and infrastructure, issues of affordability and cost, and insufficient digital and internet literacy.

We’ll discuss opportunities to advance and build upon these promising activities on February 22. In addition to releasing Connecting the Last Four Billion: Strengthening the Global Response for Universal Internet Access, USAID will release and describe findings from a second piece of research, Closing the Access Gap: Innovation to Accelerate Universal Internet Adoption.  This study, prepared along with DIAL and Caribou Digital, provides examples and insights on business model innovations for improved access and adoption by the underserved. We invite you to join us for presentations, panels and discussion from 8:30am-1:00pm, at Microsoft on 901 K Street in Washington, D.C.  Please register via EventBrite to RSVP.

Five Key Concepts to Build Partnerships and Create Purposeful Technologies for Frontier Markets

by Dominica Zhu

 

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Every year, innovators in international development from across the Pacific Northwest convene at the Global Washington Conference in Seattle. This year’s theme was Allies for Action. The conference celebrated effective public-private partnerships, shared lessons learned from failed projects, and brought experts together to discuss the future of multi-stakeholder methods in global development.

James Bernard, Director of Strategic Partnerships at SSG Advisors, hosted a panel discussion titled Tech for Good: Inspiring Purpose Driven Technologies, with a goal of stimulating conversation on how appropriate technology can be developed and implemented for frontier markets to create sustainable impact. The panelists included: Anay Shah, Head of International Partnerships of Remitly; Charlie Matlack, Co-founder and CEO of PotaVida; Emily Bancroft, Vice President of Village Reach; and Maurizio Vecchione, Senior VP of Global Good and Research and Intellectual Ventures. Each panelist brought a unique perspective on collaborative partnerships and lessons learned through past and current development projects.

Five Key Concepts from the Tech for Good Discussion

The panel explored a range of subjects including the appropriate use of technology in development, collaborative processes for both the development and implementation of technologies for good, effective business models, and how to develop measurable goals. The discussion raised five key concepts that international development practitioners should consider when building technology programs or projects for good:

  1. Harness the power of technology for outcome- rather than output-based measurements: It is critical that international development organizations push for accountability and the measurement of development outcomes rather than outputs. Technology’s ability to rapidly collect and analyze data offers the promise of better outcome measurements and informed action. However, unless programs are set up to measure the right outcomes and people on the ground are empowered to act on the insights that data can provide, organizations risk not taking full advantage of the real power of technology.
  1. Create the right tool for the right job: When designing new technologies, organizations need to keep in mind the three “A’s”: appropriate, affordable, accessible. Technologies should be built for the demographic and community they are serving, with appropriate features and usability for the context. For example, health applications that require high levels of literacy and numeracy may not work in communities with low education rates. This may even mean working with local groups to design and test features, rather than assuming that what works in Western contexts will work elsewhere. It goes without saying that technologies must also be affordably priced for local customers, and should be geared to use available connectivity speeds to make them accessible. As one panelist said, “Are technologies built to solve a problem, or is this a technology in search of a problem?”
  1. Failures can be expensive but are crucial for success: The panelists shared lessons learned from past technology failures, such as computers that sit locked in a closet in the back of a classroom, or mobile products that serve a purpose but not a market. Learning from market and technical failures, is extremely important and the key to understanding new approaches using purpose-driven technologies. By developing and testing multiple iterations of a technology, organizations can improve its usability, market value, or ability to solve a social problem.
  1. Collaboration, especially with community-based organizations, is fundamental: It is easy to collect the most brilliant minds in science, innovation, and research to solve a problem, but it can only get so far if there isn’t a strong focus on the communities that the technology is meant to serve. “Collaboration and collaborative efforts are the key to understanding,” said Vecchione. “It can make the difference between spending considerable time on a project to really making a focused impact.”
  1. Understanding learning and communication styles is crucial in stimulating behavior change: In considering how technology can be used to influence positive behavior change, it is important to assess variables such as the literacy and numeracy level of the community so technology education can be designed accordingly. With the understanding of how members of the community learn and understand concepts, welcoming and adopting new technologies is much more likely. It has been found that the importance of adoption of technology is highly dependent on the role of community and how the benefits are translated through storytelling. With the support and role modeling of respected community members, novel solutions can be integrated and positive behavior change can be realized.

The conversation continues as organizations and technology experts study best practices and set their own precedents with inventions, strategies, and partnerships that are designed to improve the quality of life and address some of the world’s toughest problems. There is still much work to be done. With the new technology innovations and greater connectivity,  now is the time to come together to create collaborative partnerships and solutions that address the technology access gap that currently affects billions of people in the developing world.