USAID Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA) : USAID’s DDI ITR / T in partnership with USAID Mali
Position title :
Mali DECA Technical Researcher
Total Level of Effort :
Agreement name : Digital Frontiers
Activities : Digital Strategy
Period of performance :
August 2021 - January 2022 (estimated)
Digital Frontiers is a $75 million buy-in mechanism available to USAID Bureaus and Missions from 2017-2022. DAI implements the Digital Frontiers project, which works closely with USAID’s Development, Democracy, and Innovations (DDI) Bureau;
the Technology Unit within the Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub (ITR / T); USAID missions; the private sector; civil society organizations;
and international and local development organizations to identify successful and sustainable digital development approaches and scale their impact globally.
USAID missions and other operating units can buy-in to Digital Frontiers and essentially fund the Digital Frontiers team to design and implement digital development projects.
Digital Frontiers currently implements over 25 of these buy-in projects; each with a unique scope and client within USAID.
Digital Frontiers has played a key role in supporting the development and launch of the Digital Strategy and will continue to play an integral role in the implementation of the Digital Strategy.
With ITR / T leading the process, Digital Frontiers will work closely with the ITR / T team to ensure a thorough, thoughtful, and consensus led process for the implementation of the various Digital Strategy initiatives.
The USAID Digital Strategy 2020-2024 charts an agency-wide vision for development and humanitarian assistance in the world’s rapidly evolving digital landscape.
The Strategy’s goal is to achieve and sustain open, secure, and inclusive digital ecosystems that contribute to broad-based, measurable development, and humanitarian assistance outcomes in emerging market countries.
It aims to help USAID’s partner countries along their journey to self-reliance through a better understanding of the partner nation’s digital ecosystem.
USAID’s Digital Strategy has two core, mutually-reinforcing objectives : 1) improve measurable development and humanitarian assistance outcomes through the responsible use of digital technology in USAID’s programming and 2) strengthen the openness, inclusiveness, and security of country-level digital ecosystems.
The Digital Strategy’s flagship initiative is the Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA). The DECAs will inform the development, design, and implementation of USAID’s strategies, projects, and activities.
It is a semi-standardized tool that supports the implementation of the Digital Strategy’s objectives to responsibly use digital technology and strengthen digital ecosystems.
The DECA seeks to understand a country’s digital ecosystem using a research framework organized around three pillars :
Digital Infrastructure and Adoption : Digital infrastructure and adoption refers to the resources that make digital systems possible and how individuals and organizations access and use these resources.
Digital infrastructure includes geographic network coverage, network performance, internet bandwidth, and spectrum allocation as well as telecom market dynamics around security, interoperability and competitiveness.
This pillar also examines behavioral, social, and physical barriers and opportunities for equitable adoption (digital divides, affordability, and digital literacy) who uses and does not use digital technologies and why.
Digital Society, Rights, and Governance : Digital society, rights, and governance focuses on how digital technology intersects with government, civil society, and the media.
This pillar is divided into three sub-sections : Internet Freedom; Civil Society and Media; and Digital Government. Internet Freedom explores factors that enable or constrain the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms online.
This includes individual rights to freedom of speech, privacy, and free assembly, and the abuse of these rights through digital repression.
Civil Society and Media identifies key institutions and how they report on, advocate around, and influence online freedoms.
Digital Government looks at the government’s efforts to manage internal IT processes and systems, deliver citizen- and business-facing e-services, and engage with the public through digital channels.
Digital Economy : Digital economy explores the role digital technology plays in increasing economic opportunity and efficiency, trade and competitiveness, and global economic integration.
Areas of inquiry include digital financial services (credit or debit cards, payment apps, mobile money, and digital savings and loan products), financial inclusion, regulation of digital finance, digital trade, e-commerce, and the financial technology (FinTech) enabling environment.
This pillar also assesses strengths and weaknesses in the local digital talent pool and the tech startup environment; a healthy digital economy requires a supply of ICT skills that matches the demand and an ecosystem that promotes technological innovation.
Note that the following topics are cross-cutting and affect all three pillars in a DECA :
Inclusion : Equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. This topic goes beyond digital divides in connectivity access to include things like the unique impacts of digital repression on marginalized populations and barriers to full participation in the digital workforce.
Cybersecurity : How people, systems, and technology protect information kept in digital formats from being taken, damaged, modified, or exploited.
This topic also includes an exploration of cyber harms that exist in a country, who is responsible for harms, and who is targeted.
Emerging technologies : including artificial intelligence and machine learning, Internet of Things, drones, robotics, and blockchain.
Geopolitical positioning : How the country’s digital evolution is being shaped by international relationships, particularly the global spread of technology-enabled authoritarianism.
The USAID Digital Strategy team has been leading efforts related to the roll out and implementation of the Digital Strategy.
Digital Frontiers is providing support to this team during the first and second years for rollout activities including the development and piloting of the Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA).
Digital Frontiers is recruiting an expert digital development consultant with French language skills and knowledge or experience in Mali to be the Technical Researcher who will support a DECA to be conducted in partnership with USAID / Mali.
The ideal Technical Researcher candidate has experience in the digital development sector including qualitative research skills and knowledge of at least one DECA pillar.
This individual should also have extensive knowledge or experience in Mali with a strong preference for French language skills.
This person should have experience conducting client-facing projects, with a strong preference for experience with USAID Missions.
See qualifications at the end of this document for detailed requirements, in particular regarding technical knowledge specifications.)
Note : The Mali DECA Research Team may travel to Mali to conduct in-person interviews, provided COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and circumstances and project plans allow for international travel.
Additionally, for Mali or regionally based consultants, local travel and in-person interviews will be considered, provided COVID-19 restrictions allow.
In-person interviews are typically planned to involve two weeks of in-country fieldwork. If Mali DECA interviews are conducted virtually, it will likely span 5-6 weeks.
TASKS & DELIVERABLES
The DECA is approximately a 6-month engagement (dependent on country context, time zone considerations) that contains three phases :
1) desk research and planning,
2) interviews, and
3) analysis and report writing.
The Technical Researcher will participate in regular meetings with the Mali DECA Research Team and the USAID Mission DECA Team.
The Technical Researcher will work closely with the Mali DECA research team to review and contribute to all written materials final sign-off will be provided by the ITR / T Principal Investigator.
The Technical Researcher will collaborate closely with the DECA Specialist, Research Analyst, and Senior Technical Researcher to prepare and review products that are clean upon delivery to the Principal Investigator.
The DECA is a highly collaborative process, the Research Team will be staffed with the following roles :
Principal Investigator (USAID ITR / T)
Research Analyst - AAAS fellow (USAID ITR / T)
DECA Specialist (DAI, Digital Frontiers)
Senior Technical Researcher (DAI external consultant)
Technical Researcher (DAI external consultant)
Project Kick-off (2 weeks)
Review the complete DECA Toolkit 1 which provides all templates, information, and a step-by-step guide to implementing the DECA
Participate in two orientation meetings prior to project kick-off. These meetings are intended to provide guidance on the DECA Toolkit and processes
Participate in a kick-off meeting with the DECA Research Team and Mission DECA Team to set expectations, identify Mission priority areas, and confirm designated roles in the work plan timeline
Participate in weekly Mali DECA team meetings throughout the project, to include biweekly learning discussions focused on DECA iterations.
Participate in biweekly meetings throughout the project with the DECA Research Team and the Mission DECA Team to ensure regular feedback and open communication and to cultivate Mission ownership of the DECA.
Throughout the course of the Mali DECA, provide critical contextual knowledge that supports the Mali DECA research team to have clear communication with the USAID Mission DECA Team.
Help ensure a good understanding of priority areas for the DECA including sectors (e.g., education, health, agriculture, etc.
and programmatic priorities (e.g., private sector engagement, SME development, disaster risk management, etc.
Deliverables : recognition of responsibilities and deadlines in the project work plan and onboarding documents (detailing process, timeline, tasks, and agreed upon deadlines), thorough review of DECA Toolkit and associated documents.
Phase 1 : Desk Research and Planning (4 weeks)
The goal of this phase is to prepare with the knowledge needed to enter the interview phase well-informed about the country's context and what gaps need to be filled.
Through this process and especially in the early stages, the Mali DECA Research Team will communicate closely with the Mission to understand priority research areas for the DECA (e.
g., important sectors and topics). During this phase, the Technical Researcher will also support interviewee identification and outreach.
The Technical Researcher will lead, conduct, and synthesize research for one of the DECA pillars (to be determined based on candidate expertise).
Specific tasks include :
Conduct desk research : together with the Mali DECA Research Team, gather, analyze, and synthesize detailed information and key data sources on the country’s digital ecosystem, including relevant Mission information using the provided Desk Research Template and guidance provided by the DECA Specialist.
Research to focus primarily on one DECA pillar.
Support the Principal Investigator to communicate with the USAID Mission DECA Team to understand priority areas for the DECA including sectors (e.
g., education, health, agriculture, etc.) and Mission priorities.
Work with the Mali DECA Research Team to identify key themes and knowledge gaps in the desk research. Collaborate to validate gaps to fill during interviews with the USAID Mission
Work with Mali DECA Research Team to complete four research brief(s). Lead author for one DECA research brief, to be finalized with input from designated USAID ITR / T technical experts - Principal Investigator provides final review and sign-off before sharing with USAID / Mali.
Review and provide feedback on four research brief(s) with a country context lens.
Support the DECA Specialist to identify key stakeholders to interview (e.g., country government, other donors, implementing partners / other international development organizations, private-sector startups, tech companies, civil society, academia, etc.).
Support the DECA Specialist to organize logistics for the interview phase.
Coordinate primarily with the DECA Specialist to prepare relevant inputs for the DECA Introduction Presentation for a broad USAID Mali audience, depending on Mission preference the format or timing of this presentation may vary, flexibility is key.
Deliver the DECA Introduction Presentation PowerPoint presentation to include desk research findings, share with USAID Mali Mission DECA Team for review,
Deliverables : desk research contributions in Desk Research Template and associated research brief, inputs for interview tracker, DECA introduction presentation PowerPoint
Phase 2 : Interviews (3-7 weeks)
Based on the desk research and available networks, the Technical Researcher will support identification of, and conduct outreach to, key informants to schedule interviews to add context and fill gaps for the final DECA products.
Specific tasks include :
Provide contact information and / or introductions to key stakeholders, when relevant.
Conduct outreach to specified interviewees (requiring non-English communication). Copy relevant Mali DECA Research Team members on all emails and track all communications and contact information in the provided interview schedule tracker.
The overall process will be managed by the DECA Specialist.
Prepare specified interview guides in coordination with the DECA Specialist, Research Analyst, and Senior Technical Researcher.
Lead about 20-25 specified interviews, especially those that require local knowledge and non-English language skills.
Record specified interviews when relevant and allowed (given interviewee consent), take detailed notes for all interviews.
Translate interview transcripts to English, when relevant.
Prepare (in English) detailed post-interview summary reports including key takeaways, gap identification, and additional contacts (when relevant) to be shared with the Mali DECA Research Team.
Provide translation during interviews in cases where it is determined appropriate and or important for other Mali DECA Research Team members to join an interview conducted in French.
Participate in interview debrief meetings with the Mali DECA Research Team. Frequency to be determined dependent on time zone considerations and interview phase duration.
Participate in a midway synthesis session with the Mali DECA research team led by the Principal Investigator for gap identification and targeting of additional key informants (and with USAID Mission DECA Team (if they are available and interested).
Collaborate with the Mali DECA research team to synthesize, develop, and deliver content for the DECA Post-Interview Presentation PowerPoint presentation based on preliminary interview phase findings and recommendations.
depending on Mission preference the format or timing of this presentation may vary, flexibility is key.
Deliverables : interviewee scheduling and contact information for specified interviews, recorded interviews, translated interview transcripts, detailed post-interview summary reports, contributions to and review of the DECA Post-Interview Presentation PowerPoint.
Phase 3 : Analysis & Report Writing (10 weeks)
The goal of this phase is to bring together the desk research, findings from the interviews, and specific actionable recommendations for how the Mission can integrate digital into their programming and processes to meet their development objectives.
The Technical Researcher will be the lead author for one DECA pillar (based on expertise). Two versions of the report will be published : internal USAID, and external 2 .
Specific tasks include :
Participate in a post-interview synthesis session led by the Principal Investigator to identify key themes and potential recommendations with the DECA Research Team and with USAID Mission DECA Team as available and interested.
There may be a need for more than one synthesis session.
Review both the internal and external reports to ensure accuracy of country context considerations and specified interviews at key points : Report outline Early draft (pre-technical peer review) Near final draft (post-technical peer review, pre-copy edit) .
Support the Principal Investigator to communicate specified DECA pillar considerations to the USAID Mission throughout the report drafting to ensure findings and, in particular, recommendations align with Mission priorities, capacity, and plans.
Lead author for one DECA pillar of the report (findings and recommendations), based on expertise, with support from the DECA Research team, especially the Research Analyst, Principal Investigator will review, provide direction, and edit throughout.
Coordinate with the Mali DECA Research Team throughout the report writing process for technical and writing support, ensuring time is built in for all team members to review all sections.
Principal Investigator will sign off on the following interim deliverables : Outline for specified DECA pillar (findings and recommendations) Draft findings section for specified DECA pillar Draft recommendations section for specified DECA pillar
Ensure consistent writing quality in simple non-technical language. The Principal Investigator provides final review and sign-off.
The Technical Researcher is responsible for any required rewrite and feedback integration of relevant report sections.
Support the DECA Specialist, Research Analyst, and Senior Technical Researcher to manage the peer review process (tracking reviewer comments), focus on integrating technical feedback.
Collaborate with the Principle Investigator and DECA Specialist to create an external version of the report (redact specific / sensitive USAID information)
Coordinate with the Mali DECA Research Team (primarily the DECA Specialist and sign-off from the Principal Investigator) to develop and deliver portions of the DECA Final Presentation (if requested by the USAID Mission), sharing high-level findings, and highlighting important recommendations.
The team will work with the USAID Mission DECA Team to ensure the content and delivery method maximizes utility for the USAID Mission.
Interim Deliverables to be cleared by the Principal Investigator : findings section outline and draft for specified DECA pillar, recommendations section outline and draft for specified DECA pillar
Deliverables : inputs to synthesis documents, report outline (for specific pillars), specified draft and final written report content (findings and recommendations), contributions to and review and delivery of the DECA Final Presentation PowerPoint
The table below summarizes all project deliverables and estimated due dates. Due dates are subject to change depending on length of the interview phase and any other unforeseen adjustments.
The contract length and LOE accounts for these potential adjustments.
Project Kick-off : Review and agree on project work plan and tasks
Week 1-2 (Aug. 2 - Aug. 13)
Phase 1 : Desk Research and Planning
Contributions to Desk Research Template
Week 3 (Aug. 27)
Specified contributions to four final research briefs
Week 5 (Sept. 10)
Interview tracker contributions
Week 5 (Sept. 10)
DECA introduction presentation PPT
Phase 2 : Interviews
Interview notes and recordings
Week 6 10 (assuming 5-week interview phase) (Sept. 13-Oct. 15)
Interview debrief notes
Week 6 10 (Sept. 13-Oct. 15)
Midway synthesis session summary
Week 8 (Oct. 1)
DECA post-interview presentation PPT & recording
Week 10 (Oct. 15)
Contact list (interviewees, and all consulted contacts)
Week 10 (Oct. 15)
Phase 3 : Analysis and Report Writing
Synthesis session prep and notes
Week 11 (Oct. 22)
Specified contributions to report writing (to author about one-third of the report) :
Findings section outline
Draft findings section
Recommendation section outline
Draft recommendation section
Week 12 18 (Oct. 25-Dec. 10)
Peer review integration
Quality control and one-voice editing
Week 20 (Dec. 24)
DECA Final presentation PPT
The consultant will report to Digital Strategy DECA Specialist, Raiyan Kabir.
TIMEFRAME AND LOE
This scope of work is expected to run approximately 6 months from August 02, 2021 January 31, 2022 and request roughly 75 days of LOE (level of effort) to complete the above deliverables
Location : Flexible, with the option of being located in Mali or the region and the ability to work flexible hours to conduct the DECA virtually.
The Technical Researcher must be available to work Eastern Standard Time (EST) hours.
At least 6 years of experience in international development and a Master’s degree, or 8 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree
Demonstrated experience conducting qualitative research and analysis, writing reports, and leading interviews
Excellent English written and oral communication skills
Proven ability to summarize large volumes of information in a concise, digestible format
Good project management, organizational and knowledge management skills
Available to meet during USAID Mali Mission working hours
Experience working closely with USAID Missions or familiarity with USAID programs and policies
Experience and expertise in digital development, with preference given to candidates with deep expertise in at least one of the DECA pillars : Pillar 1 : Digital Infrastructure and Adoption Expertise in connectivity infrastructure (fiber optic, mobile network coverage, alternative connectivity solutions like TV white space) and the associated market dynamics and policies Expertise in inclusion in the digital space including issues around digital divides, digital literacy, affordability, and adoption Pillar 2 : Digital Society, Rights, and Governance Expertise in digital rights and repression including freedom of expression online and data privacy and protection as well as censorship, misinformation, disinformation, and digital surveillance Expertise in the role of civil society and digital media in a country’s digital ecosystem Expertise in digital government (e-government) services, policies, and platforms Pillar 3 : Digital Economy Expertise in digital financial services including the barriers and opportunities for last-mile digital financial inclusion including knowledge of FinTechs and the sector’s enablers Expertise in digital trade including e-commerce Expertise in digital talent pool and labor market analysis
Ability to communicate across diverse teams and cultures
Fluency in French
Experience working in or deep expertise in Mali
At least 8 years of experience in international development and a Master’s degree, or 102 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree
Experience in operations and logistics management
Strong communication skills with a wide variety of stakeholders (e.g., private sector, government, donor)
Experience conducting cross-sectoral research
1 Publicly available DECA Toolkit forthcoming, est. Summer 2021
2 The external report is simply a version of the internal report with sensitive information redacted.