Digital Development and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing incredibly rapid changes to the role of technology in our everyday lives, with an outsized impact on digital inequalities.

The pandemic has brought us to a new level of reliance on an open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet as the entire world has significantly expanded remote work, telemedicine, virtual education, online civic engagement, and more. Digitally engaging in civic life requires options for privacy (be it a secret ballot, delicate work conversation, or a sensitive health record), security and protection from digital attacks, and reliable access to these spaces. These challenges and risks are numerous in the best of times; during the pandemic they are dramatically heightened.

When considering the implications of COVID-19 when using technology in your civic space work, check out this curated list of resources.

Cross-cutting implementation guidance:

  • USAID has created a comprehensive set of guides on the impact of COVID-19 and Digital Development, covering “digital payments, data collection, data privacy, cybersecurity, the gender digital divide, digital literacy, and the digital investment tool to inform staff about the opportunities and risks presented by digital tools in the context of COVID-19:” these provide high-level guidance on the programmatic impacts and risks to be aware of in pursuing digital development work in the COVID-19 context.
  • The UN has put out a policy brief on the importance of COVID responses that are rights-respecting.
  • The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has provided Tips for collecting primary data in a Covid-19 era with strategies for remote primary data collection, including cases related to participatory, qualitative and quantitative research as well as information on how to deal with ethical issues that may emerge.

Rights and Governance:

  • ICNL is tracking government responses to the pandemic that affect civic freedoms and human rights, focusing on emergency laws.
  • Article19 discusses the human rights impacts of COVID-19-related apps.
  • Privacy International is tracking multiple impacts of COVID-19, including impacts on freedom of movement as well as apps and telecom privacy.
  • Human Rights Watch has put out an explainer on how apps and telecom provider information can be used, including specific case studies (including Armenia, Russia, Ecuador, China, and Turkey) of where COVID-based emergency responses have vastly expanded surveillance powers.
  • The COVID19 App Tracker focuses on the specific permissions different COVID-19 tracker apps (some mandated) request/require.

In addition, COVID-19 has become a vehicle for misinformation, disinformation, and cyber attacks and malware:

Digital Development in the time of COVID-19