The Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA), a flagship initiative of the Digital Strategy, identifies development opportunities and risks in a country’s digital ecosystem. It informs decision-making about digital programming and investments for USAID and partner governments, donors, the private sector, and civil society. The DECA is approximately a five-month research process with three phases: desk research and planning; interviews; and analysis and report writing. 

The DECA Toolkit

The DECA Toolkit is a step-by-step guide designed to provide Missions and research teams with the tools and information needed to independently conduct a DECA. The DECA Toolkit was developed based on lessons learned during four pilot DECAs conducted in partnership with USAID Missions in Colombia, Kenya, Nepal, and Serbia between Winter 2019 and Fall 2020.

Learn more and download the DECA Toolkit.

Toolkit Addenda

  • Conflict and Violence Addendum: Countries affected by violence and conflict pose additional challenges to teams researching digital ecosystem dynamics. This Addendum (and briefer) discuss principles and practices to help USAID Missions and research teams integrate conflict sensitivity into digital research.
  • Cybersecurity Addendum: This Addendum provides guidance on how to conduct robust cybersecurity research, breaking down the complexities by providing clear definitions of technical topics and providing context for why cybersecurity is a critical development priority.

What is a Digital Ecosystem? 

A digital ecosystem comprises stakeholders, systems, and an enabling environment that together empower people and communities to use digital technology to access services, engage with each other, and pursue economic opportunities. 

Learn more in our new Digital Ecosystem Framework!

How to use the Framework

The Framework can help you consider how each component of the ecosystem may impact development and humanitarian assistance programming and help identify risks or opportunities beyond a specific technical area. For example, an agriculture intervention that uses digital technology for ag extension services will certainly consider digital literacy, but may not account for potential online harms, cybersecurity risks, data privacy and protection legislation, or the existence of national data systems.

The Framework also provides insight into how USAID is prioritizing its digital development work moving forward and offers a common understanding of digital development. Donors, multilaterals, partners, the private sector, think tanks, and government agencies can adopt and incorporate the Framework to facilitate coordination, program alignment, and identify potential areas of collaboration with USAID.  

Cross-Cutting Topics: Since elements of the digital ecosystem are innately interdependent, there are four topics considered across all three of the DECA pillars:

  • Inclusion: equitable access to opportunities and resources for people who might be excluded,  marginalized, or vulnerable. This topic goes beyond digital divides in access to and use of digital tools and services to include things like the unique impacts of digital repression on marginalized or vulnerable 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.

  • Emerging Technologies: includes artificial intelligence (AI), 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.

DECA Reports:

Download the DECA Factsheet.