We're Hiring - Intern Needed!

Hello, my name is intern!
If you are a regular reader of this blog you have a pretty good idea of the wide range of technologies and techniques we get to play with supporting NDI's partner organizations abroad in 60-some countries. It's our job to improve solid democracy promotion ideas by judicious application of appropriate tech.

To work with us you have to be passionate about NDI's mission supporting and strengthening democratic institutions worldwide. A background in social activism, domestic politics, or international development is a good base. You've also gotta be in love with technology and the way it is shaping the world. If you have created a web site just to learn how to do it, or want to stay up late on a Friday night managing critical real-time data flowing in from a hotly contested a Nigerian election, or argued the real impact of internet monitoring on speech, you're our kind of person.

We can promise you a wildly varied job researching new technologies, working closely with our regional teams, playing with cool tools, writing on this blog, doing paperwork* and wrangling social media - all in the name of creating more just societies around the world.  

Oh, the position is even paid. Come apply!  

* Sorry, but it is an internship.

Strengthening Political Participation and Constituent Relations in Colombia

Ciudadanía y Congresistas Platform

Since 2000, NDI has worked with a broad range of political parties in Colombia to develop effective communication strategies that leverage new technologies to improve congressional-constituent relations. The recent launch of the Ciudadanía y Congresistas (aka Citizen and Legislators) platform is the latest example of such a project, which leveraged our Issues DemTool to strengthen the relationship between citizens and their members of congress.

As a refresher, the Issues DemTool is one of four, open source, online platforms that makes up the Democracy Toolkit, a suite of tools launched by our team last August to address the most common challenges faced by NDI partners: organizing contacts, connecting government with constituents, managing election data, and fostering civic debate. Each DemTool was designed to be easy-to-use and inexpensively deployed to support civic activists, political party officials, election observers, candidates for elected office, and members of parliament worldwide. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: May 15

Tux, the Linux penguin, celebrated a big birthday this month.

What’s that you say? You’ve missed the NDItech Weekly News and Notes Roundups so far this month? We know, we know - your Mondays just haven’t been the same without a bit of tech history and some of the freshest links in popular tech and #tech4dem. But don’t fear: we’re back today with a special Friday edition just for you (and our other readers).

Although much has happened in the world of tech anniversaries since our last roundup, we’ll keep today’s Week in Tech History feature short and sweet. Perhaps the most influential day we’ve marked so far this month has been May 9th, which also happens to have been the 19th anniversary of Linux’s groundbreaking decision to create and adopt Tux as its official mascot.

Without further ado or any formal segue, it’s now time for the links:


Social Media Insights on Crime and Violence in Latin America & the Caribbean

Social media analytics on crime and violence in Honduras

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by Victor Hugo Salcedo, Senior Program Assistant on NDI's Latin America and the Caribbean team.

The words “crime” and “violence” go seemingly together when talking about the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala). The words “data” and “hackathon” go together when discussing technical innovation, intricate computer applications, and groups of hackers writing computer code to create the next billion-dollar application. Rarely these four words merge together on the same plane, but when they do, opportunities abound for conversations that have lots to do with innovation and more to do with citizen security and social development. I had the opportunity to take part in such conversations last week during the USAID-organized hackathon focusing on security levels in Central America and the Caribbean.

The event brought together data scientists, programmers, designers, and Latin America experts to find innovative ways to look at crime and homicide rates in the region, and try to find a solution to some of the causes of these maladies. But, what is a hackathon you ask? A hackathon is an event that brings together a group of people to find solutions to an specific problem. My group did just that with our main task: to analyze the extent to which social media analytics can be used as a public opinion tool by academics, civil society, and local governments to assess perception of violence in Honduras. READ MORE »

How the Tech World is Responding to the Earthquake in Nepal

A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal last week

In the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last week, many individuals, groups, organizations, and companies have stepped up to provide assistance. Below are a few highlights of tech-related strategies and efforts to improve and expedite the response and ease the suffering of those affected by this natural disaster and others in the future.

  • Apple restarts iTunes Red Cross donations to benefit Nepal earthquake recovery

  • Microsoft responds to Nepal earthquake with free Skype calls

  • Another way to help humanitarian efforts in Nepal: Start Mapping

  • OpenStreetMap allows contributors from around the world to support humanitarian orgs by digitizing data from satellite imagery

  • Google opens its Person Finder tool to aid earthquake relief efforts in Nepal

  • How Facebook and other social media are/can be effective tools for life and death emergencies like the earthquake in Nepal

  • Timeline infographic on how the world is searching about the ‘Helping Nepal

ElecTech Abidjan - Talking Tech and Elections in Cote d'Ivoire

Working group discussions of Ivorian electoral challenges.

Cote d’Ivoire has an election coming up this fall. The last one didn’t go so well. As such, there is a lot of focus on - and anxiety about - the months ahead from the international community.

Last month, NDI and our partners from the Platform of Civil Society Organizations for the Observation of Elections in Cote d’Ivoire (POECI, as they are known to their friends) hosted a conference pulling together all the key players in the upcoming election: leaders from political parties, technologists, civil society, the election commission, journalism and academia. NDI has done a number of these gatherings in the past convening folks at the intersection of technology and electoral politics - we call them ElecTechs.

There was a lot of interest in the topic from the geeky political world and we ended up with quite a full house, with over 60 people in the room; POECI needed to turn away gatecrashers. Core to this whole conference (and probably all my future posts about Cote d’Ivoire) was the work by Akendewa, an Ivorian technology hub and POECI member. Akendewa is awesome; they’re a remarkable group with impressive capabilities and enthusiastic members. You’ll be hearing more about them in my next post. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: April 27

Facebook's Safety Check helped Nepal families located each other after the earthquake

It's Monday and that means NDItech is back with our weekly news and notes roundup. Be sure to take a break from all the hard work Monday mornings bring and enjoy the best articles this week in technology and ICT4D. This week we look at Nigeria’s preliminary plan to bring Wi-Fi to its most populous city as well as Google’s new plan to use balloon technology to connect remote regions of the world to the mobile networks.

This day in tech history Xerox introduced the 8010 Star Information System which was the first commercial system that used a computer mouse. Despite its early 1981 release, the 8010 was focused on selling to businesses and did not sell much commercially. Therefore, the Apple Lisa and the later Apple Macintosh were the two technologies that really brought the mouse into the mainstream. Also this day in 1999, the Chernobyl PC Virus erased the hard drives of millions of PCs across the world. the most affected areas were in Europe and Asia.

And now its time for the tech links...


An Earth Day Reminder to Responsibly Dispose of Your Electronics

Remember to recycle your electronics responsibly

At NDItech, we love our technology and love our planet. For Earth Day 2015, here is a quick reminder on the best ways to reuse or recycle your technology products.

Fix it: Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. If your cell phone, computer, tablet, monitor or other device is in working condition and still meets your needs, look to a local repair shop or contractor to do a quick fix on a still good item. Or better yet, buff up your own repair skills and tackle that motherboard yourself. READ MORE »

News and Notes Roundup: April 20

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the first YouTube video ever posted.

April showers bring more NDItech News and Notes Roundups. Forget about the cherry blossoms and all the freshly bloomed flowers around town, it’s our compilation of the freshest links in popular tech and tech4dem that really make this season so great. As always, feel free to tweet or email us (@nditech/ with any tips for keeping our roundup hot as the weather continues to warm.

This week’s look into “Tech History” begins with a notable release that occurred 22 years ago on April 22nd (which also happens to be Earth Day for those who weren’t already aware). On that day in 1993, version 1.0 of the world wide web’s first graphical interface software, Mosaic, was released. Although obviously things have come a long way since then, Mosaic will always be the browser perhaps most credited with helping to popularize the world wide web. Another notable anniversary this week comes on the 23rd of April. That will be the 10th anniversary of the first-ever YouTube video. In case you were wondering, the video is called “Me at the zoo”, and currently has over 19 million views despite not being all that interesting.

Now, time for the links:


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 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.


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.


News and Notes Roundup: April 13

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

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

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.

News and Notes Roundup: March 23


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,

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

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,

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 (, a Massachusetts computer company. Since its creation in 1985, 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:


News and Notes Roundup: March 9

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,

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:


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.


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

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

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 »

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