In 2016, the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) brokered a peace accord that ended nearly five decades of internal armed conflict. After years of reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts, the Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA) report published by USAID and DAI’s Digital Frontiers project revealed that new emerging threats to civil society, while digital, had a potential link to physical violence. The team recommended that USAID/ Colombia invest in cyber hygiene programming to assess and improve online and offline safety for its implementing partners. Today, USAID/Colombia partners with Digital APEX to build just this type of cybersecurity capacity.

As more Missions like Colombia grapple with the emerging opportunities and challenges of our digital world, USAID’s Digital Strategy is shaping the Agency’s response. In order to design policies and programs that take advantage of technology, stakeholders need to first understand the building blocks of a country’s digital landscape. The DECA, a cornerstone of the Digital Strategy, is helping USAID Missions to do just that.

The DECA emerged from a close working partnership between USAID’s Technology Division within the Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub and DAI’s Digital Frontiers project, who, together, set out to define the digital ecosystem. As part of the initial implementation of USAID’s Digital Strategy, the Technology Division worked with the Digital Frontiers team to design and pilot the DECA. After two years of piloting and iterating the methodology in the field with four Missions, the DECA became not just a standalone assessment, but a versatile and broadly applicable tool. Building on these pilots, the team developed the Digital Ecosystem Framework to better explain the digital ecosystem to the Agency and their implementing partners. The DE Framework now guides the whole of USAID’s digital development approach.