6 Steps For Designing A Product With The User (Working Title)

Feature Overload - Source: Dilbert

Principles of Digital Development identifies the following steps for ‘Designing with the user’.

  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!

We're Moving!

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

Afraid you'll miss 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

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 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.


News and Notes Roundup: Feb. 18

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/ 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:


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.


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

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/ 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:


Hurry and RSVP for the Digital Development Principle 6 Meeting on Open ICT4D

ICT4D Principle 6: Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation

Our team is pleased to be co-hosting the sixth Principles for Digital Development Working Group meeting with Futures Group on open standards, open data, open source, and open innovation. For those that are not familiar, the Principles Working Group is translating the Greentree Consensus for Digital Development into practical action to amplify the good work of USAID and other donors in advancing the reach of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in international development. USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, emphasized the importance of this work in the USAID Impact blog on Oct 20, 2014

“We call these principles the Greentree Consensus, and they are built on earlier sets of principles that draw on the insight of more than 300 NGOs with expertise in the field. …We must do more to take these insights into action. Over the next year, we want to hear from the development community about your experiences in bringing technology to tackle development challenges — from promoting media freedom to solving water shortages.” READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Feb. 2

Truth be told, this week is the 80th anniversary of the polygraph machine.

As everyone recovers from the Katy Perry overloaded, beer/car/insurance-commercial dominated and last-second intercepted (sorry Seattle fans) pseudo-holiday that was last night’s Super Bowl, we can’t think of a better recipe to have us all feeling better than another edition of the magnificent NDItech News and Notes Roundup. As you take a read through these notes and quotes from the fields of tech, democracy, and development, feel free (as always) to tweet or email us (@nditech/ with any hot tips.

We begin this week’s look back into “Tech History” by marking the 80th anniversary of the first use of the polygraph machine. The reputation of the machine’s accuracy has certainly taken some hits over the years, but its existence can at least be credited with inspiring one of the best scenes (profanity laced - please be advised) from perhaps television’s all-time greatest show. We also celebrate the birthday of the world’s most influential social network this week - 11 years after the birth of thefacebook on Feb. 4, 2004. And we must mention the 15th anniversary (also on February 4th) of the release of the best-selling P.C. game in history. That game, of course, is The Sims. Perfect for all of us who want to while away our life playing a game about a life that is probably more boring than the one we actually live.

Now, time for the links:


Introducing Our DemTools Newsletter!

Read all about our DemTools-related updates!

Since the launch of DemTools: the Democracy Toolkit in August, the NDItech team has been hard at work. We've developed several new features and integrated our suite of tools into a range of programs that support groups working for democracy, open government, and citizen rights around the globe. To better and share these new developments with interested parties, we'll be sending out a quarterly DemTools Newsletter.

The NDItech team welcomes your feedback and encourages you to stay involved in the toolkit's development process. We want to know how you're using DemTools, what challenges you're experiencing, and what improvements you'd like to see in the future. Share your comments, suggestions, and ideas with us at


Tunisia Elections Observation

Tunisian election monitoring observation group and NDI partner Mourakiboun pursued three parallel vote tabulations, or PVTs, this year to assess the quality of Tunisia's Parliamentary and Presidential elections and verify the national results. Mourakiboun faced a tight timeline for the execution of a software system to manage their data collection efforts. Creating a new database from scratch is a painstaking and long process. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Jan. 26

It's Super Bowl week...

The time has come for a Super Bowl week edition of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. While blizzards blitz the Northeast and America begins to warm-up for its unofficial football-inspired holiday, we’ve been busy catching up on the latest news, notes, and quotes from the fields of tech, democracy, and development. As always, don’t just sit on the sidelines - feel free to tweet or email us (@nditech/ with any tips for future roundups or if you think anything in this roundup is unsportsmanlike or worth of being flagged.

We kick off (football pun fully intended) this week’s look back into “Tech History” with perhaps the most famous inventor of all time - Thomas Edison. Almost 135 years ago, on January 27th of 1885, Edison patented the incandescent lamp. Sticking to the theme of firsts (and first downs, if you will), January 27th is also known as the day in 2010 when we all got our first look at the iPad. Given how widespread the iPad is today, it’s hard to believe it has been just 5 years since its rookie season. And of course we can’t mention firsts without highlighting ‘Elk Cloner’, oft-recognized as the first PC virus code, which was written on January 30th, 1982.

Now, time for the links: READ MORE »

Testing Mobile Applications for Election Monitoring

Are mobile applications the future of election monitoring?

NDItech has written extensively on the challenges and innovations of  election monitoring programs.. To understand and assess these election processes, partner groups rely on the transmission of rapid and reliable data from observers to data centers.  Getting information to the center quickly can be a challenge as observers are often located in far-off rural areas perhaps days from the capitol. As a result, most observation exercises rely on capturing information via paper forms and later using phone calls and SMS-based communication systems to transfer information. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Jan. 20

Apple launched the Macintosh personal computer this week in 1984

It’s Tuesday, which is practically a Monday, which means it’s time for the NDItech News and Notes Roundup.. We hope you all had a restful and reflective MLK day on Monday, and are ready to start this work week off right by reading this roundup. As always, tweet or email (@nditech/ with any tips for future roundups.

We kick off this week’s look back into “Tech History” with the January 19, 1999 introduction of the BlackBerry - the first device capable of real-time email. Although the BlackBerry has certainly been influential, it was another product introduction 15 years prior that had an even more lasting impact. On January 20, 1984, during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, Apple aired it’s famous ‘1984’ commercial introducing the Macintosh. The Macintosh, although prohibitively expensive for many, became the first mass-market personal computer with a mouse and graphical UI. Of course, when talking about influential products and inventions, we have to give a shout-out to a product that has revolutionized countless kitchens and influenced innumerable meals - the microwave oven. The patent for this appliance was issued 65 years ago this week. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Jan. 12

Wikipedia went online 14 years ago this week.

It’s Monday. We’re back. Time for this week’s dose of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. As always, tweet or email (@nditech/ with any tips for future roundups.

We’ll start this week’s look back into “Tech History” with a shout-out to the first flight of the legendary Boeing 747, the world’s original jumbo jet, which took place on January 12th, 1970. Of course before the commercial airliner came the mass-produced automobile, the first of which (Ford’s Model-T) began assembly-line production 101 years ago this Wednesday. Also of note this week: the birth of “911” as an emergency telephone number in 1968; Wikipedia going online for the first time on Jan. 15, 2001; and the 20th anniversary of the registration of Yahoo dot com (originally named “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” !!!) on the 18th of this month.

Now, time for the links:

Popular Tech News: READ MORE »

The Right Message on Digital Security

Is the right message being heard?

Over the last few weeks in Nigeria, I had the opportunity to conduct capacity-building training sessions almost every day. While many of these sessions were enthusiastically received, discussions on digital security fell on deaf ears.

For one of these training sessions, I’m invited to train on “ICT,” and offered no further parameters. To be frank, I feel a bit like I’m Noah being asked to choose animals for his ark: decidedly “ICT” is too broad a category for training. So, I decide to prepare a few different topic areas and let the audience determine where we should focus our time.

The day arrives, I enter the room, and rows of eyes look out at me. I do my typical intro: why I’m here, what I’ve done, what my areas of expertise are, and I ask: READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Jan. 6

The Morse telegraph system helped revolutionize long-distance communication.

Welcome to the first NDItech News and Notes Roundup of 2015. Although it may seem weird to our usual crowd that we’re posting this Monday tradition on a Tuesday, we promise that this week’s roundup is worth the wait. As always, tweet or email (@nditech/ with any tips for future roundups.

This week’s “Tech History” begins way back on January 6th of 1838, the day when Samuel Morse first demonstrated his telegraph system, beginning a revolution in the world of long-distance communication. Many years later, another communications revolution of sorts began when Steve Jobs introduced the Phone on January 9th, 2007. This announcement came exactly six years after Jobs introduced another game-changing platform - iTunes.

Now, time for the links:

Popular Tech News:

  • Web blocking by Indian government causes anger

News and Notes Roundup: Dec. 29

It's been 15 years since Y2K.

The days, weeks, and months have passed. The seasons have turned. The New Year is on our doorstep, and with it the final NDItech News and Notes Roundup of the old year. While 2015 holds much promise - highlighted undoubtedly by the continued meteoric rise of this weekly roundup tradition - we must look back at 2014’s final week before we look forward. As always, tweet or email (@nditech/ with any tips for future roundups.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t start this week’s “Tech History” feature with a shoutout to the great New Year’s panic of December 31, 1999. Of course, we are referring to the “crisis” of Y2K. And although Y2K came and went with few of the problems anxiously predicted, it certainly left a legacy. Fifteen years prior, on Jan. 1, 1985, the internet’s domain name system was created. Just two years before that, in 1983, ARPANET began officially using Internet Protocol, and in doing so created the seed that would become the modern internet.

Now, time for the links:


News and Notes Roundup: Dec. 22

What goes better together than the holiday season and the movies?

Time for a festive Christmas-time edition of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. In a holiday season often consumed by empty offices, slow work weeks, and travel delays, hopefully this edition of our roundup can help you fill some of that down time. As always, tweet or email (@nditech/ with any tips for future roundups.

Unsurprisingly, this week’s “Tech History” feature has a decidedly holiday feel to it - beginning with December 22nd’s 132nd anniversary of the first electric Christmas tree lights. Sticking with the holiday theme, Christmas day in 1987 witnessed the world’s first “widely disruptive computer worm.” The bug, cleverly named CHRISTMA EXEC, affected IBM mainframe computers across the globe. And going back to another piece of 19th century greatness, the world-renowned Parisian frères Lumière debuted their Cinématographe during the world’s first projected movie screening on December 28th, 1895.

Now, time for the links:


Viral Messaging in Nigeria

Supporter holding a #VoteNotFight sign

Nigerian non-profit Vote Not Fight has a compelling mission and a persuasive message. Their work: to empower youth to participate in Nigeria's elections and eschew election violence. Nigeria has a huge youth bulge who are disproportionately unemployed, and they are often the focus of groups looking to stir election violence for partisan political gains. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Dec. 15

The Wright Brothers first flight took place 111 years ago this week.

Another weekend has come and gone and that wonderful Monday tradition is upon us. That’s right, it’s time for another edition of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. As always, please tweet or email (@nditech/ with any hot tips for future roundups.

Before we move on to the links, let’s take a look at “This Week in Tech History.” Ten years ago to the day, on December 15, 1994, the first commercially developed web browser, Netscape Navigator 1.0, was released. Exactly one year later, the world saw the launch of AltaVista, which became the first world wide web search service to gain popularity. And of course we should mention that one of technology’s crowning achievements, the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight, took place on December 17, 1903.

Now, time for the links:


NDItech - Product Development Process

© Dilbert Project Management

This is the first in a series of posts on the NDItech team’s product development process. NDI’s tech products attempt to solve specific problems for people and organizations in emerging democracies. In this post, will look at the example of DemTools development to get an insight into our development process. More about DemTools can be found here.

For the last six months, our team has been following follow the scrum methodology, which is an agile software development framework, for the development and evolution of DemTools. Agile methodology allows us to be flexible, prioritize tasks, and respond to the evolving requirements of our customers.

We wanted to share a bit about how we’re using this agile methodology for developing tech-powered political change programs here at NDI. In this post we’ll tell you how we relate to people and programs, how we think about requirements, and the timelines for our sprints, and the tools we use to glue it all together.


For the purpose of development of DemTools, the primary customers are the country teams at NDI. The country teams in turn help political parties and civil society organizations in their respective countries use and benefit from NDI’s technology efforts, such as DemTools. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: Dec. 8

It's a big week in the history of the computer mouse

It’s Monday, you know the drill. Time for another edition of the NDItech News and Notes Roundup. As always, please tweet or email (@nditech/ - with any hot tips for future roundups.

This is a very special “Week in Tech History”. On December 8, 1975, the Byte Shop opened its doors as one of the first retail computer stores in the world back when it was the ultimate geek hobby. Just under a year later, Byte Shop ordered the first 50 computers from the struggling Apple Computer company. The rest, as they say, is history. Not to be outdone by the 8th, December’s 9th day will forever be remembered for the first public demonstration of the computer mouse which caught the public’s eye in 1968, when Douglas Englebert highlighted the invention to a crowd of about 1000 computer professionals.

And now, time for the links:


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