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Financing Digital Markets: What vaccines can tell us about scaling digital technologies in low- and middle-income countries

The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) worked with researchers at the Tableau Foundation and PATH to determine whether the lessons from the innovative market-shaping activities that transformed the vaccine market could be applied to digital products. Specifically, we hypothesized that business models that aggregate demand, standardize pricing, and create transparent and timely procurement processes could significantly expand government markets for software, mobile services and data products.

While the range of digital products and services is much larger, and the scope of underserved populations is wide, for the purposes of this study we focused on software, core mobile services and MNO datasets purchased by governments in low- and middle-income countries.

Our findings are promising. This research surfaced parallels between the vaccine markets of the 1970s and 1980s and the challenges faced by digital products and services today. The same market-shaping tools that helped grow the vaccine market may have the potential to solve similar challenges faced by software, core mobile services and data today.