Our session on digital maturity assessments at the Global Digital Development Forum

A screen grab taken from the session yesterday.

Yesterday, we co-led a workshop on digital maturity assessments with David Eaves from the Harvard Kennedy School, at the second edition of the Global Digital Development Forum (GDDF).

The GDDF was created last year following the start of the pandemic. It celebrates the use of digital technologies that help the world get closer to the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s organised by a coalition of development organisations, including USAID, the Digital Impact Alliance and Save the Children. GDDF gathers thousands of participants from the development community and the public sector and offers hundreds of sessions on topics such as digital inclusion, the responsible use of data and project financing.

This year, we decided to talk about digital maturity assessments. Digital transformation is a never-ending journey, but it should not be a solitary one. It’s not always easy for organisations to take a step back, and evaluate the work they’ve done, and where they should focus their efforts next. Sharing experiences and insights with peers is important. So is adopting a structured and holistic approach.

This is why we started our session by introducing the Harvard Kennedy School Maturity Model for Digital Services. This model was designed in 2018 based on the input from digital government teams gathered at the first annual Digital Services Convening. The Convening is now co-organised each year by the Harvard Kennedy School and Public Digital.

The model has 6 dimensions:

  1. Political environment

  2. Institutional capacity

  3. Delivery capability

  4. Skills and hiring

  5. User centered design

  6. Cross-government platforms

Each dimension is split into three or four categories, assessed from 'low' to 'high'. Take “Political environment” as an example. Digital units that enjoy formal relationships with executives from other departments, that are codified through administrative acts like presidential decrees, and who provide advice and challenge for their core sponsor, can be rated 'high'. Conversely, digital units that work as insurgents, without any formal executive sponsorship or political support, and whose standards are entirely voluntary for departments, may be considered 'low' in that dimension.

This is the theory.

In the second half of our session, we talked about how we have tested this framework to assess governments’ digital maturity. We introduced the example of the Government of Madagascar, whom we recently worked with. We interviewed hundreds of people from the central government, local governments, the academic sector, the private sector, and civil society. These exchanges allowed us to build a 3-year roadmap for the government’s digital transformation. The Harvard Maturity Model was very useful in helping us ask the right questions, and align stakeholders in the government about where the immediate challenges and opportunities were, and what should be prioritised next.


This session offered participants – from NGOs, donor agencies and governments around the world – the opportunity to reflect on the digital maturity of their organisations or the organisations they work with, and their priorities. We hope it inspired new ideas and initiatives! Let’s see, and reconvene in a year, for the third edition of the Global Digital Development Forum. 😊

Meanwhile, if you’d like some help on this topic, don’t hesitate to visit the Harvard Kennedy School website or email us.

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