What are digital platforms?

Digital platforms enable the networking of stakeholders, the dissemination of information, the processing of transactions and the award of job orders. They operate according to the same principle as a market place in the analogue world: The organiser brings together buyer and seller, information provider and recipient, or exchange partners.

It is essentially possible to distinguish between corporate platforms (business to business), customer platforms (business to customer) and administrative platforms (government to citizen).

Video: Platforms (english subtitles available)

Digital platforms in the Corona response

Information and public sensitization campaigns have a central role in the battle against the Pandemic. Digital knowledge and communication platforms have the objective to provide a response to the demand for information made by citizens on the disease, producing and disseminating truthful information and recommendations on the prevention and control of coronavirus transmission. Solutions such as chatbots and educational apps can spread good practices about social distancing and basic sanitation rules limiting fake news. Digital technologies and telecommunication can be used to diffuse the information about COVID even in remote areas providing information on prevention about COVID even on low cost devices.

Telemedicine platforms allows health care professionals and patients to meet by phone or video chat. Telemedicine can help in reaching remote areas, and in general areas with limited availability of health care professionals. At the same time, telemedicine can help in flattening the curve of infections reducing the contacts of patients amongst themselves and with doctors. Health care professionals can be deployed in ad hoc way when and where needed, increasing the efficiency of the organization of the workforce.

AgriShare

AgriShare is an app for farmers, enabling them to rent equipment which is locally available in their region from a combination of public and private hire services. Rather like Uber and AirBnB, AgriShare enables farmers and private companies to market their services conveniently via their smartphones.

For decades small farmers in Africa and Asia have had inadequate access to important equipment and services, to improve their productivity, their earnings and their ability to create value. Very few private and public production and processing services (rental) are available to the farming communities. There is a major mismatch between supply and demand, and for those who own the equipment, the level of underutilisation is very high.

Logistics-Cluster

The Logistics Cluster offers coordination and information management to assist operational decision-making and to improve the predictability, punctuality and efficiency of humanitarian emergency aid. The Logistics Cluster also simplifies access to joint logistics services, as and when required. As a result of its expertise in the area of humanitarian logistics, the global nutrition programme of the IASC was selected as the lead agency for the Logistics Cluster. The WFP houses the support team of the Global Logistics Cluster in its headquarters in Rome. The WFP functions as a “provider of last resort”, offering joint logistics services when there are critical gaps preventing the provision of humanitarian aid. Click here for an overview of the Logistics Cluster, and here for the highlights of 2019.

Sendy

The Kenyan start-up company Sendy established the first on-demand courier service for direct deliveries in Kenya. Sendy links customers with motorcycle couriers and truck drivers, offering shipment capacity from a single motorcycle up to 20-tonne trucks. Sendy is based in Kenya and it has gradually expanded beyond the country and the borders of East Africa, where the company can transport large quantities of goods. Sendy is convinced that everyone in Africa should trade and flourish.

SICAR

SICAR, the digital administration platform of the KfW, protects rain forest in Brazil: The KfW Entwicklungsbank (Development Bank) assists smallholders with both registration with the environmental registry and with the development of plans for the restoration of degraded areas.

Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN)

The Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN) is a global initiative supporting the scaling and replication of inclusive business models which entered its second project phase in 2020 until 2022. Through its strategic pillars iBAN blue and iBAN weave, iBAN manages the online knowledge platform on inclusive business www.inclusivebusiness.net. The innovative platform provides the possibility of peer learning and facilitates effective partnerships. Aside from the platform, iBAN offers a focused Capacity Development Programme for policymakers as well as an Investment Readiness Programme for investment seeking companies, both in developing and emerging countries. With its new film, iBAN highlights the work of inclusive businesses in Kenya and Myanmar and points out how the selected companies have helped their local communities create a better live for themselves. Ultimately, the film makes clear that companies can be profitable and yet do good at the same time. With its focus on promoting the upscale of inclusive business models and consequently improving the lives of the poor, iBAN is actively contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Advantages of platforms for German development cooperation?

Digital platforms can be usefully employed in German development cooperation projects to network target groups with one another, to stimulate exchange trading or to make information quickly and widely accessible. Other advantages can be derived from specific characteristics of the platforms. These include:

Flexibility and Scalability

For example, platforms can be used for the purpose of job placement. To avoid the exploitation of the platform workers by means of mutual price underbidding, the BMZ-supported Fairwork Foundation has developed five principles of fair work on digital platforms, by means of which they can be assessed. These criteria are as follows: fair payment, fair terms and conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation. They are currently helping around 70 million people in partner countries to find an online job. They enable the outsourcing and crowd-sourcing of jobs across national borders.

Platforms can also serve as loan and exchange facilities. For example, they network local tractor hire firms with farmers, who can compare their offers directly and quickly online.

Transparency and Efficiency

The information which is available to the users on platforms makes the market more transparent and less susceptible to corruption. The information can also often be accessed with a single click, making it faster and more efficient than analogue alternatives.

For optimum use in development cooperation projects, it is important for platforms to generate significant network effects. The more users, the more useful they are. The same applies for the data which is generated: The more data, the better the offering can be structured, the greater the value of the platform. The platform becomes all the more attractive for other providers to offer services on the platform.