Strengthening digital ecosystems together

Digital transformation represents tremendous opportunities and progress at the global level. However, it also presents partner countries of German development cooperation with specific challenges and groundbreaking decisions. Global innovations, often developed in German development cooperation partner countries, need to be adapted to specific local and sectoral contexts.

Access to information and communication technologies (ICT) is very unequally distributed, and digital divides also exist within a society – between women and men, urban and rural areas, social classes, people with and without disabilities. These are reflected in unequal access to education, employment, and social security systems. Many partner countries have to represent their commercial and geopolitical interests in the digital space with little bargaining power and insufficient knowledge on complex special issues. In many places, the legal framework for digital transformation is still incomplete – for example, nearly 30 African countries have no data protection legislation.

In order to counteract this, we have set ourselves the goal of creating a strong network of locally anchored structures that work with partners in the digital ecosystem to promote innovators and entrepreneurs, shape people-centric frameworks for digital transformation, and implement global standard digital solutions adapted to the local context. Therefore, our structures are the local implementation part of the network.

Our approach – The Digital Transformation Centers

Digital Transformation Centers act as a central consulting point and hub for all actors in the “digital ecosystem” at the local level – governments, companies, and civil society – who want to accelerate their self-determined digital transformation through a global partner network.

Through the Digital Transformation Centers local digital transformation challenges are addressed and democratic and participatory processes to strengthen the economy and society are brought to the forefront.

The Digital Transformation Centers combine innovative capacity, technical expertise, IT knowledge, research, and start-up spirit. In addition, the locally and regionally operating Digital Transformation Centers share their experience in a global network. This enables them to respond quickly and needs-based to the continuously changing challenges in the field of digital transformation.

There are already 17 Digital Transformation Centers established in all world regions from Mexico, Kosovo to Indonesia and another 5 in the planning stage. The first Digital Transformation Center opened in Rwanda in 2017.

Digital Transformation Centers are implemented in different formats, depending on the context of the digital ecosystem. Selected Digital Transformation Centers operate physical innovation, co-creation, and training hubs on the ground, e.g., in Rwanda, Tunisia, and Kosovo. Other Digital Transformation Centers (e.g., in Mexico, Benin, Niger, Morocco, and Indonesia) are based in local GIZ project and partner structures with largely virtual formats.

The Digital Transformation Centers tailor their services to the specific needs on the ground and the maturity of the local digital ecosystem. To this end, we draw on 9 modules that combine standardized solution approaches with individualized and context-sensitive implementation. This modular structure works according to the building block principle. In a designed product catalog in collaboration with regulators and the non-governmental sector, Digital Transformation Centers can implement digital tools locally. Finally, the 9 modules integrate with the EU’s values-based approach and the feminist, social-ecological orientation of German development policy.

9 Modules of the Digital Tranformation Centers

Digital Government

Supporting partner countries in providing digital services to their citizens.

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Disruptive Technologies

Supporting local ecosystems on how to best leverage the potential of disruptive technologies like Blockchain, AI, IoT, and others.

Innovation Promotion

Promoting the development of local digital innovations and start-ups to enable demand-driven digital transformation.

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Data Protection & Security

Working together with partner countries to reduce the risk of attacks in the digital space and protect against unauthorized information disclosure.

Digital Skills

The Digital Transformation Centers provide learning offerings that strengthen the digital skills in the population.

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Green Digital Transformation

Leveraging digital solutions to reduce carbon emissions towards a green and digital “twin transition”.

Digital Economy

Supporting partner countries in the digital transformation of their economy and adapting to new regulatory challenges.

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Women in Tech

Working with international and local partners to close digital gender gaps and empower women in the use and development of digital tools.

Digital Health

Working together with partner countries to improve healthcare through digital transformation.

This structure enables the implementation of our cooperation in the field of digital transformation tailored to the needs and “digital readiness” in the partner country.

Unlike private-sector offerings, which mostly promote elites, the Digital Transformation Centers specifically address the advancement of women and girls as well as population groups affected by the digital divide. The Digital Transformation Centers also work with their political partners, such as ICT and digital ministries, tech companies, and the digital ecosystem across countries to set a sustainable and broad-based course for digital transformation in the partner countries.

Our goal

Our goal is the sustainable strengthening of local, digital ecosystems. In doing so, a delicate line must be struck between social and political responsibilities, ecological balance, and economic performance. Sustainability can only be achieved if the continuous process of change is constantly developed and shaped through genuine co-creation of all subsystems (business, politics, civil society, science). This requires good political, legal, social frameworks, active networks, efficient organizations and institutions, and competent individuals. Knowledge exchange, skills transfer, and consulting are essential to enable our partner countries to shape their own digital transformation toward a sustainable society.

The Digital Transformation Centers 2025

Within the next three years, we will expand the network to more than 40 Digital Transformation Centers. They will strengthen the digital ecosystem in partner countries and help to leverage the opportunities of digital transformation for their citizens while avoiding associated risks. Based on various indicators, we regularly review impacts to achieve this vision in the long term. For example, new digital approaches should be provided per year on a joint exchange platform for Digital Transformation Centers and their partners. Of these, 10 should be targeted at women and groups particularly affected by the digital divide.

We understand digital transformation in the context of development cooperation as a collaborative learning process that brings added value for both German development cooperation and its partners. In this regards, capacity development is the key to reach sustainable success.

Digital Transformation Centers and Fairwork

In order to counteract the precarious working conditions in the gig economy, the Digital Transformation Centers are actively involved as Fairwork supporters. Working on platforms like Uber, Diliveroo and similar generates important income for many people. However, as there is often little protection under labor law or collective institutions, many platform workers face unfair and dangerous working conditions.

As Fairwork supporters, we advocate for a transformation of the gig economy. The Fairwork project’s findings highlight the best and worst practices in the platform economy, helping to make better choices. These guidlines are reflected in our daily activities.

In doing so, we set an example and encourage other organizations to make the gig economy a fairer and safer place to work.


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