In 2016, the Minister for Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, signed the new strategic note of Belgium's Digital for Development (D4D). The note highlights the potential of digital as a lever for development, while making it clear that digital technology is not an end in itself, but a means to increase the impact of interventions and reach more people in need. Three priorities are clearly established, one of which is the use of digital technology for inclusive societies.
In 2017, the European Commission published a Commission Staff Working Document entitled "Digital4Development: integrating digital technologies and services into EU development policy." This document underlines that the use of digital technologies can make a significant contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
To meet these priorities and contribute to the achievement of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in 2017 Enabel launched a reflection process that would lead to the creation of a digital programme focused on social innovation which would be implemented in the partner countries of Belgian Development Cooperation.
In 2018, the programme was officially launched by Enabel with funding from the Belgian government, in partnership with BIO, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries. This competitive funding identifies and supports initiatives that use digital technologies to tackle social and environmental challenges, and that are deployed by public or civil society organisations established in one of Belgium's partner countries. For funding requests from the private sector, a gateway allows them to be redirected to BIO.
Arnaud Leclercq, Manager of the Wehubit programme, explains :
While many cooperation initiatives today target entrepreneurship and private sector development, we see that the private sector does not have a monopoly on innovation and that digital solutions from civil society and public entities certainly deserve attention and investment. As part of our support, it is a matter of helping them to scale up and take certain risks. To speak the language of the start-up world: we finance scaling-up!".
In concrete terms, funding of between 50,000 and 350,000 euros for projects lasting between 18 and 36 months can be granted to initiatives selected through a call for proposals. All of the projects funded are analysed using a human rights-based approach and through the to which Enabel adheres.
In addition to the funding component, the Wehubit programme team is working on the development of a network of partner organisations with the aim of creating a space to share their mutual learning and thus contribute to the production of knowledge for the D4D community. A freely accessible online portal is provided for this purpose.
"Sharing and disseminating knowledge makes it possible both to learn from one's mistakes and, above all, to overcome them. By making this knowledge freely accessible, the Wehubit programme wishes to contribute to the evolution of D4D in Belgium but especially in Africa," explains Maxime Heyndrickx, D4D expert for the Wehubit programme.
The role of network facilitator in D4D, developed by the Wehubit programme since its implementation, also offers new perspectives in terms of collaborations and synergies with the other actors of Belgian Development Cooperation, and should allow the programme to welcome new partners and to continue its action beyond its initial deadline in 2023.
In Uganda, for example, Barefoot Law's Lewuti project, funded by Wehubit, offers tailored legal assistance via SMS and Interactive Voice Service platforms to women who have been dispossessed of their land; in Benin, small cashew farmers can now combine environmental benefits and profitability by receiving targeted support thanks to the use of drone technology as part of the CajuLab project, developed by TechnoServe and supported by Wehubit; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, clinicians are encouraged to document sexual violence through the app developed by Physicians for Human Rights; in Morocco, Wehubit supports the Moroccan Foundation of Education for Employment through , a project to empower young people with digital skills to increase their chances of integration into the labour market; in Palestine, Burkina Faso, Mali... A total of eighteen projects supported by Wehubit are currently underway, and five new projects should soon receive funding following the 5th call for proposals on resilient cities!
- Click here to discover the projects supported by Wehubit.
- Pictures : Wehubit header/ © Will Boase, PHR 1/ © Physicians for Human Rights, PHR/ © Physicians for Human Rights, TS/ © Techno Serve / © EFE Maroc