Blogs

The Floor is Yours: A Q&A about Bosnia's New Issues Platform

We sat down (via Google Hangouts) with NDI’s Asja Kratovic, Resident Program Officer in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), to discuss the recently released Imate Rijec website. Based on the Issues DemTool, the site brings together the voices of politicians and citizens on some of Bosnia’s most pressing social and political issues. Check out our Q&A with Asja below:

Q: What is Imate Rijec and how was the idea for the site first born?

A: Our inspiration for the site came from a desire to create an open space for two-way, direct communications between citizens and politicians in real time. That type of space is what Imate Rijec (which means “The Floor is Yours”) provides. Featuring video responses from more than 20 different politicians from nine political parties, as well as videos from citizens in three of the largest cities in Bosnia, the platform highlights the stances and positions of a wide variety of people on a series of relevant and popular political issues.

Other teams around NDI have pursued sites like this before, including the team in Belarus with their ePramova.org project. After speaking to the Belarusian team about their platform, we decided to move forward with a regional nonprofit called Dokukino to customize and develop NDItech’s The Issues DemTool to fit our needs.

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Nigeria’s Innovations

Tablets for Nigerian International Observation

Nigerians went to the polls last month to determine their next president in a tightly contested election between sitting president Goodluck Jonathan and retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari. In support of democratic processes for these elections, NDI conducted an International Election Observation Mission and supported the work of a citizen observation mission with Nigerian partner organization the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG). On election day, NDI and TMG observed Nigerian citizens’ patience and strong commitment to the democratic process, and pursued strategic initiatives to share that story through innovations in digital information collection, data visualizations, and database development.

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News and Notes Roundup: April 13

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Digitization is both progressive and necessary

It’s Monday and that means NDItech is back with our weekly news and notes roundup. After an eventful weekend with hit shows “Silicon Valley” and “Game of Thrones” making their season premiers and the cherry blossoms in full bloom, its time to get your daily dose of tech news. This week we look at how digitization is the key for establishing a transparent government plus an interesting perspective on how data collection can improve humanitarian response.
This week in Tech History starts 15 years ago to the day, when the rock and roll group Metallica sued Napster, a website that popularized downloading music for free, over copyright infringement. This lawsuit was historic in that it led to the shut down and bankruptcy of Napster. However, Napster left a legacy so large that it completely changed the online music industry. It opened the door for many sites to give away free downloads of music illegally and presented a challenge to music industry leaders that echoes to this day. Also of note, today marks the 45th anniversary of the explosion of an oxygen tank aboard the Apollo 13 which prompted Astronaut Jack Swigert to famously announce “Houston, we’ve had a problem here”. Against all odds, the three astronauts on board were rescued after being stranded in space about 200,000 miles from Earth for four days. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: April 6

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The Large Hadron Collider is the largest single machine in the world

The weather is beautiful today, Baseball’s opening day is here, and NDItech is back with our weekly News and Notes Roundup. Today, we look at why the Turkish government decided to block Twitter and YouTube, new car models that (almost) drive on their own, the restart of the Large Hadron Collider, and a few case studies that prove mobile health is making great progress.

This week is an incredible week in tech history. 40 years ago on April 4th, 19 year old Bill Gates and 22 year old Paul Allen founded Microsoft. The thinking of these two men changed the landscape of the tech world at the time and is part of the reason computers are so easily accessible to people across the globe. Another pioneer in his field, Martin Cooper, made the first cell phone call on a New York City street 42 years ago. Cooper is considered to be the “father of the cell phone”. Today there are approximately 6.8 billion cellphones in the market with a global penetration rate of about 97%.

Now it’s time for this week’s tech news:

Popular Tech News
-Turkey blocks Twitter and YouTube over hostage photos
-Semi-autonomous cars are making their way to the market
-Does Obama need to crack down on cyber security?
-After two years of reconstruction, the world’s fastest particle accelerator is back in action
-Online test-takers campaign against intrusive anti-cheating software READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: March 30

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This is what the entire UNIVAC unit looked like

It’s Monday, and that means we are here with our weekly tech roundup. March is coming to an end and the weather forecast is finally looking better. As we all prepare for the Final Four matches in college basketball and mourn our inevitably failing brackets, be sure to check out this week’s edition of the News and Notes Roundup. This week, we have reports from the UN and the World Bank on the importance of ICT in developing countries as well as a preview of the new Samsung S6 Edge smartphone.

This day in tech history, the first commercial computer, UNIVAC, was released in 1951. UNIVAC was originally used by US Census Bureau to hold all of the information the census requires. This is far from similar to the computers any of us use today. UNIVAC was a massive computer that weighs about 29,000 lbs and has a size that occupied 35.5 square meters, which caused its sale to be restricted to huge corporations and the US government. And the cost was just as big; individual units were sold at $1.3 million.

Popular Tech News: READ MORE »

Citizen Loop: Voter Engagement Through Mobile Feedback Loops

Voter Engagement Through Mobile Feedback Loops

We recently put forward a proposal with the folks from The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and CiviCRM to the Knight Foundation News Challenge on Elections. The competition looks for creative ways to help engage citizens, strengthen participation and educate voters.

Our proposal is entitled “Citizen Loop - Enhancing Voter Engagement Through Mobile Feedback Loops”. The concept is relatively simple: an interactive voter engagement tool that increases participation through an automated, dynamic, text message feedback system providing information and helping citizens make a plan to vote.
READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: March 23

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Rio+20_logo.jpg

It’s Monday and we are back with our weekly News and Notes Roundup. It could not come at a better time (for basketball fans), given that today is the first day without any March Madness tournament games since it started. This week we look at articles discussing the UN’s plan once the MDGs expire, Android’s response to the Apple Watch and much more. Be sure to check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and our blog, nditech.org.

In this week in tech history, the Russian space station, Mir, burns up after fifteen years of being in orbit. The station was launched in 1986 and far exceeded its intended lifespan of five years. On a social media note, in 2006 today, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, sent the world’s first non-automated tweet, “inviting coworkers”. As of the end of 2014, Twitter has more that 400 million tweets per day.

Here are the links for this week’s news roundup:

Popular Tech News

ICT and development READ MORE »

Hello Everybody!

Nelson Mandela on democracy

How’s it going, everybody! My name is Peter and I am a VMWARE fellow for NDItech. I have been working here part time for over a month now as well as attending classes at the George Washington University. I am a sophomore in the Elliott School of International Affairs studying international affairs and conflict resolution. It’s my passion for world affairs, technology and social media that makes my position on NDI's tech programs team ideal for me. This “fellowship” (we can call it an internship), is a way for me to observe and gain experience in the ICT4D field and contribute to the great work that our team is doing.

Since I’ve been working at NDI, I have been researching articles for the weekly news and notes roundup, so make sure to check those tech articles out. Aside from that and assisting my fellow teammates with their day-to-day tasks, I have been busy working on updating the ICT country profiles and participating in team discussions and meetings. My time here at NDI thus far has been an incredible experience, and it has only expanded my passion to work on the issues involving democracy and technology that NDI works to solve.
 

A Look Back at Principles for Digital Development

ICT4D and open standards, data, source and innovation

Last month, our team, along with our friends at Futures Group, hosted the sixth Principles for Digital Development meeting on open standards, open data, open source, and open innovation. For those that haven’t attended a working group meeting in the past, these sessions provide an opportunity for members of the development community to share lessons learned and best practices in the implementation of ICT4D projects.

In advance of the Principle 7 meeting in San Francisco next week (it’ll be streamed for those that are interested in attending remotely), I thought a short recap of where we left off would be a good primer for this month’s discussion on reusing and improving existing tools, platforms, and frameworks.

Here were some key takeaways from the Principle 6 discussion: READ MORE »

A Renewed Vision: DemTools 2.0

A Renewed Vision: DemTools 2.0

DemTools are a set of open-source solutions developed by NDI’s Technology for Democracy team (NDItech) to address some of democracy’s most common problems. The tools, which were released in August to NDI partners, the development community and general public, focus on scalability – providing advanced technologies to make their work more effective, while reducing maintenance and sustainability burdens. NDI recently received a renewed National Endowment for Democracy (NED) grant for the continued development and expansion of DemTools. In deciding where and how to allocate these funds, we reviewed current features and updated our roadmap for product development and version release timelines. We determined that better support, enhanced multilingual capacity and increased usability were priorities across all of the tools.

Product roadmaps exist at the nexus of supply and demand. DemTools are developed on limited resources, but meet myriad needs. For these tools to remain sustainable yet relevant, we need to navigate carefully a winding road, ignoring diversions and prioritizing needs that provide the most value to our users.

To keep our tools nimble and ensure cost effectiveness, NDItech worked to fine tune our product vision: Who are we developing for? What needs are the tools addressing? What value do they bring to our programs and partners? For weeks, our team had poster boards with sticky notes floating around, stuck to walls and taped to the side of cabinets. READ MORE »

Does "Smart" Make Sense?

Source : Cisco Smart Cities

If you are reading this blog, I bet you have attended an event in the recent past where the new buzzy topic “Smart Cities” was discussed. I have been to several such events lately. Interestingly, each mention of ‘smart city’ I heard carried a slightly different meaning. Further, there is seldom an answer to the question, “To what end are the cities smart?”. So I decided to to clarify “smart cities” for myself. Here are some of my thoughts. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: March 16

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The new and highly secure Blackberry Tablet

It’s Monday, so of course that means it’s time for another NDItech News and Notes Roundup. As we creep towards March Madness and you all begin to fill out your brackets, take a few moments to gain some inspiration from this week's tech and tech4dem links. As always, be sure to check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and our blog site, nditech.org.

This week in tech history, in 1995, the world’s first Wiki, WikiWikiWeb, was created as Ward Cunningham invited people to add and edit content. Cunningham has said the inspiration for the name Wiki came from the Wiki Wiki Shuttle bus he learned of during a trip to Hawaii. Six years later, Wikipedia was launched, although Cunningham had no official involvement. Also this week in tech history, the first internet domain was registered by Symbolics (symbolics.com), a Massachusetts computer company. Since its creation in 1985, symbolics.com has changed owners and is now run by a small inverstor group based in Dallas, Texas. It is the first and oldest registered domain name out of approximately 275,000,000 domain names in existence.

Now, time for the links:

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News and Notes Roundup: March 9

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The debut of the new Apple Watch is today...

Spring has finally sprung, the snow and ice is melting, and we’re back with another Monday edition of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. For more great info check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and our new blog site, nditech.org.

This week in Tech History – March 9, 1999 – Vice President Al Gore famously stated to CNN, “During my service in the US Congress, I took the initiative in creating the internet.” Subtract a few words for tidiness or political expediency, and the story that Al Gore claimed to “invent the internet” was launched. In addition to this famous claim and the world’s first telephone call, this week also featured (29 years ago) the first public offering of Microsoft stock on March 13th, 1986.

This week, there is history-in-the-making, as Apple is about to release another product to separate us from our hard-earned money. The Apple Watch is expected to debut today; you can, er, watch the circus on the @macrumourslive Twitter feed.

And now, time for the links:

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Open Source is Easy. Community is Hard.

Get on the Bandwagon with Open Source Communities

Open source is awesome. I’m a card-carrying zealot; a vast digital public commons has been created that seems to fly in the face of basic economics. It’s one of the great achievements of the technology era.

But… 

We’re in the sustainability business here in the international development sector. Despite what I thought coming into this gig, open source is not synonymous with sustainability. If you think about it, any computer software is the antithesis of sustainability. Hardware changes. Bugs are found. Hackers figure out ways to break it, totally ruining your weekend.

Commercial providers solve that problem by paying developers to work on these problems day in, day out. It’s part of the revenue model, of course - pay for subscriptions or buy the new version when it comes out. How does open source do it? A community. (No, not that one.) Anyone has the ability to download and improve the code. “With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow” is hory wisdom from the open source world. Great; totally makes sense. But how many eyes actually do you have? How big is your community? “Putting the code on GitHub” is not a sustainability strategy.

Open source seems like the right approach for international development. Code developed belongs to the world; taxpayers fund it, and it doesn’t create a profit for anyone. Great. But who’s going to sustain it after the initial funding grant ends?

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the field of international development is littered with the wreckage of well-intentioned – and often well-executed – open source projects that have not been maintained after the initial funding ran out. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: March 2

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This week marks a big anniversary in the history of the telephone.

The ice is melting, warmer weather is coming (we hope) and the month of March is finally here. And of course, what goes better with the great late-winter thaw than another excellent edition of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup? Nothing - except for a new logo of course! In addition to another set of hot links to keep you going on these cold nights from the worlds of popular tech and tech4dem, this roundup is also the first to be sent out under NDItech’s new logo. If you haven’t seen it yet (which would be kinda hard to do if you’re reading this piece right now), be sure to check out our bold new look on Twitter, Facebook (we just switched pages, so help us pick up some likes), or the blog, which is now at nditech.org.

Now that all that self-promotion is over with, we can turn to “This Week in Tech History.” Perhaps the most notably anniversary from this week will occur on March 5th. That day will mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of Yahoo! on the internet. Also of note this week is 139th anniversary (feel free to check my math) of Alexander Graham Bell winning a patent for an “Improvement in Telegraphy” on March 7. This patent - U.S. Number 174,465 - later became known as the variable resistance telephone.

And now, the links: READ MORE »

6 Steps For Designing A Product With The User

Feature Overload - Source: Dilbert

As you all know by now, we're big proponents of the Principles of Digital Development. One of them is "Designing with the User" which suggests the following six steps:

  1. Developing context-appropriate solutions informed by user needs.

  2. Including all user groups in planning, development, implementation and assessment.

  3. Developing projects in an incremental and iterative manner.

  4. Designing solutions that learn from and enhance existing workflows and plans for organizational adaptation.

  5. Ensuring that solutions are sensitive to, and useful for, the most marginalized poulations: women, children, those with disabilities, and those affected by conflict and disaster.

Leadership in the Digital Economy - 20 MPs from around the world hit DC and Silicon Valley

The NDItech Team Blog has Moved!

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We're Moving!

Congrats! If you're here you've found the NDItech team's new home.

Afraid you'll miss DemWorks.org? Never fear - there's a bunch of exciting new content coming from the entire NDI family! There are initial posts from our president Ken Wollack as well as our own Christine Schoellhorn. We believe this new NDI-wide DemWorks blog will be a great chance to share a variety of stories from an individual perspective.

News and Notes Roundup: Feb. 23

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Still waiting on our first Oscar win here at NDItech...

For the first time in seemingly forever, we are back with an on-time, regularly scheduled Monday edition of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. As you debate the merits of last night’s Oscar winners, losers and snubs around the water cooler or in-office kegerator today, feel free to sprinkle in some conversation about the Roundup’s hot links in tech, democracy, and development. And as always, feel free to tweet or email us (@nditech or nditech@ndi.org) with any tips.

This week’s look into “Tech History” starts out by acknowledging the February 26th anniversary of the release of the world’s first web browser. WorldWideWeb, later renamed Nexus, was released into the public domain in 1991. We should also mentioned that this Sunday, March 1st marks 39 years since the legendary Steve Wozniak completed the basic design for a circuit board that became the bases of the Apple 1 computer.

Now, time for the links:

Popular Tech News: READ MORE »

Zambia Elections: Using Facebook for Targeted Messages

A special guest post by Phil Brondyke (@brondyke) from NDI’s Elections team.

Presenting the analysis of election day observation to the right audience is a critical component of citizen monitoring organizations’ outreach strategies, and one of which NDI has provided technical assistance to partners on for decades. In some countries where NDI works, Facebook has become synonymous with the Internet, and the use of Facebook for election day outreach has become an increasingly useful tool for communicating with certain audiences.

During January’s snap presidential election in Zambia, the Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) was able to combine Facebook-optimized infographics that showed the findings of their PVT with targeted advertising campaigns to broaden their organization’s digital footprint in a very narrow timeframe.

Facebook estimates that there are roughly 900 thousand users in Zambia (for reference, there are about 4.2 million in Kenya and around 900 thousand in Zimbabwe) so the potential audience was limited, but is disproportionately under thirty five years old (76%). This is a critical demographic for communicating competitive election information. By contrast, two of the three largest newspapers have print circulations of 29,000 and 25,000, while the largest is estimated at 40,000, according to EISA.

READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Feb. 18

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Obligatory Presidents Day photo...

One might assume that with Monday’s holiday and Tuesday’s D.C. “blizzard” the NDItech News and Notes Roundup might’ve just given up on this week. But of course, we all know what assuming does. Not only has the greatest roundup this side of the Potomac persevered through snow day and holiday, but it’s honored America’s Presidents during this holiday week with an extra special edition. As always, feel free to tweet or email us (@nditech/nditech@ndi.org) with any hot tips.

As we not so subtly hinted at in this roundup’s opening stanza, this week’s look into “Tech History” will focus on American Presidents. Unfortunately, not that much happened this week in history when it comes to Presidents and tech - so we’ll keep this section short this time around. Perhaps the only noteworthy item to mention is that February 22nd is the anniversary of the first Presidential radio address. On that date in 1924, Calvin Coolidge reached an audience of 5 million listeners with his speech from the White House.

Now, time for the links:

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Zambia Elections: Scaling Local Tech Rapidly

Installing a fiber internet cable just days before the Election.

Presidential elections in Zambia were called after the death of President Michael Sata last October, and were won in January by Defense and Justice Minister Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front. While the second-place candidate called the election “stolen”, based on the findings of the Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG), the official results as announced by the ECZ reflected the ballot casts at polling stations. Lungu was inaugurated shortly after, and the opposition are already looking toward the next round of elections in 2016.

Systematic citizen observation can be an important stabilizer in tightly contested elections. To collect the necessary evidence to be that stabilizing agent, NDI’s partner, CCMG, needed to scale it’s local technology and data systems rapidly, and also needed for them to work flawlessly.

In a data collection and internal communication exercise sufficiently large and complex, NDItech helps our partners to integrate globally state-of-the-art tools within local communications and technology infrastructure. The intermediate goals being analysis of over 20,000 messages from 800+ people, the ability to shift data collection priorities immediately, and consistent communication between decision-makers and implementers.

READ MORE »

Discussing Data: Visualizing Nigerian Pre-Election Trends

Part of NDI partner TMG's Nigerian pre-election reports, visualizations like this help highlight key trends in the data.

In the lead up to the March 2015 Nigerian elections, NDI partner, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), deployed a team of over 750 pre-election observers across each of the country’s local government areas (LGAs). These observers have spent the past few months collecting and submitting short message service (SMS) reports on various indicators of interest. This incoming data can be a lot to digest, so to help make some initial sense of it all, the team has turned to data visualization as a component of their analysis. Here to help explain the pre-election observation (PREO) process and its data visualization component is Ryan Dalton, Senior Program Assistant on NDI’s Nigeria team in D.C.

Q: Could you briefly explain the pre-election observation efforts in Nigeria? READ MORE »

NDItech's March Towards Resilience - Lessons From Supply Chain Industry

At NDItech, we build innovative software products, consult with the regional teams to solve program needs through mobile and web based solutions, and innovate in the Tech4Dem space with breakthrough ideas and partnerships. In the face of multiple customers, diverse products, and evolving challenges, the NDItech team aims for resilience:  tolerate variability, adapt continuously, and maximize opportunities.

I recently came across a great piece titled “From Risk Management to Resilience” on Sloan Management Review. The article discussed the Supply Chain Resilience Assessment and Management (SCRAM) methodology. SCRAM involves identifying vulnerabilities in an organization and developing and strengthening capabilities to mitigate the vulnerabilities and thus improving resilience.

In this short blog, I attempt to list the key vulnerabilities of the NDItech team and map them to capabilities that we have developed and/or developing to address those vulnerabilities.

Our nine member Scrum team works across the gamut of topics and operates at capacity with very little buffer for additional demands. Our key vulnerabilities are the following; READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Feb. 10

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What does the new Ubuntu phone really mean for open source?

Definitely a day late and more than likely a dollar short, we’re back with another edition of the literary masterpiece known as the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. Since we are already running tardy, we’ll spare you the usual loquatious introduction and jump right into the good stuff. As always, feel free to tweet or email us (@nditech/nditech@ndi.org) with any hot tips.

We will keep this roundup’s look back into “Tech History” short and sweet. Although many interesting tech-related anniversaries (such as the first long distance telephone call!) take place this Valentine’s week, perhaps none has had more of a recent impact than the launch of YouTube. Exactly 10 years ago this week (February 15th to be exact), the world’s 3rd most popular website (trailing only Google and Facebook) began its re-invention of the way we view, share, and talk about videos.

Now, time for the links:

READ MORE »

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