Blogs

News and Notes Roundup - August 3, 2015

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News and Notes Roundup

Welcome to the first Roundup of August! Fall is just around the corner and exciting opportunities abound!

Techie Position at NDI

Are you a techie interested in gender and democracy? Do you want to apply exciting new innovations to help women in democracy and civil society organizations? Well then, you’re in luck, because the NDI Gender, Women, and Democracy is looking to hire a techie with a gender background. Apply now!

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News and Notes Roundup - July 27, 2015

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News and Notes Roundup

Happy Monday and welcome back to the last roundup of July! First up, be sure to check out this month’s DemTools Newsletter to learn how our suite of tools are supporting democracy in Colombia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Nigeria. We’ve also made some exciting new developments with DKAN, our newest DemTool.

Discussion Spotlight:

In a very salient debate, The New York Times presents some views on whether Silicon Valley is saving the world or just making money. Tech luminaries have the potential to revolutionize and change the world, “but are the innovations coming out of the Bay area really creating a new and better world, or just making lots of money for a few people?” Some top leaders in the tech and development share their thoughts in this debate.

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DemTools Newsletter - July 2015

July 2015 Newsletter.. hot off the press!

The vision behind DemTools is to build the capacity of groups to organize more effectively, reach target audiences, and more easily gather and analyze data with simple-to-use web applications. Since launching the toolkit in August 2014, that vision has come to fruition. NDI offices and partner organizations are now using DemTools to engage in technology-empowered programs that would have otherwise been impossible due to cost or staffing limitations. With renewed funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to further the development and expansion of DemTools, our team has been pursuing a renewed vision for DemTools: one that emphasizes better user support, enhanced multilingual capacity and improved usability. We developed roadmaps for our CiviParty and CiviMP, Issues, and Elections Demtools, which chart our way forward. READ MORE »

Aegir Beavers

Chris Doten presenting on The Issues, hosted on Aegir
Just wrapped up a great time at #NYCcamp. NDI hasn't participated in this particular open source hootenanny previously, and I was really impressed. We’ve been long-time supporters of open source software, of course, but it’s fun to see all the people together in action. I was invited down because of our work on Aegir,  the open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) system that we've been actively using for the last year. I had the opportunity to share some of NDI’s experiences with CiviParty in the DRC (post forthcoming!) and Ukraine and with The Issues in Colombia

There’s a lot of clever ways in which the Aegir community was advancing their project, like DevShop, a develop/test/deploy system, and integrating WordPress (!) with it; it's a really vibrant group. Aegir 3 has just dropped, which is really exciting for us. While the system has worked relatively well over all Aegir had its share of bugs and glitches that make things challenging for us, and the move to Drupal 7 is a big leap.

News and Notes Roundup - July 20, 2015

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News and Notes Roundup

Happy Monday and welcome back to another roundup! Keeping up with the rest of the news might take you on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, but you can always count on good, clean technology to stay zen, right?

Wrong. Theoretical mathematics might be pure, but technology is inseparable from the people who develop and use it. We don't shy away from the issues here at the News and Notes Roundup, and we hope you enjoy this week's updates! READ MORE »

Building a Library from Space

Satellites deliver information to Humanity's Public Library

At NDI, we believe that free access to information is a human right. The Internet has dramatically enhanced our ability to exercise this right, but unfortunately most humans cannot access the Internet. Today, over 4.3 billion people cannot connect to the Internet at all and another roughly 1 billion people have their Internet connections censored or monitored. Equitable access to information can be a powerful democratizing force, but when only 20% of humans have truly free access to digital information, that potential is diminished.

That is why our team supports the creation of Humanity’s Public Library, an initiative by Outernet. Outernet broadcasts a data signal from satellites that is free to receive anywhere on Earth. While this is not an Internet connection, it is a free stream of critical information. What information is considered “critical?” You decide.

Outernet and Creative Commons are co-hosting the first edit-a-thon for Humanity’s Public Library on July 18-19 2015 to decide what is included in this library. Anyone on Earth is encouraged to participate - details on how to have your voice heard in this process can be found at http://editathon.outernet.is.

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News and Notes Roundup - July 13, 2015

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News and Notes Roundup
The NDItech News and Notes Roundup is back! I’ll be keeping this tradition alive and I hope you all enjoy this week’s roundup. Feel free to tweet or email us with any scoops on the latest tech and ICT4D news!

First up, shout outs to our very own Jason Baumgartner who’s created a dataset of 1.65 BILLION Reddit comments, spanning October 2007 to May 2015 and weighing in at over 1TB. Not only can this corpus of human interaction prove invaluable for researching natural language processing and trend prediction, but AI as well. Just remember, Genisys is Skynet.

In a special highlight, the Internet Society released its Global Internet Report, highlighting Mobile Internet, which is essential for the Internet inclusion of the next 1 billion users worldwide. “The 2015 Global Internet Report presents data that shows it's not always a question of if it's available, but rather how cost and a lack of useful content are core to why people are not opting in.”

In social media, young Africans have taken to Twitter, YouTube, tumblr, and Instagram to show the world #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou, focusing on positive, diverse images of African people and landscapes while highlighting academic, medical, and technological achievements in Africa. Check it out!

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"Hello, World!"

"It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting." - Tom Stoppard

Hello World, my name is Nathaniel! I’m an incoming graduate student at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program and a new project assistant here at NDItech.

For the past few years, I’ve been studying Arabic in Cairo and working with refugees from all around the Middle East and Africa. In Egypt, I was able to see how the proliferation of internet access, smartphones, and cloud-based applications empowered refugees and Egyptians alike to organize, pool resources, and tell the world what they see on a daily basis.

I’m interested in how technological innovations can help ordinary citizens monitor elections and document human rights violations to ensure accountability and good governance. I’m very excited to see the work that NDItech is doing and even more excited to be a part of it.

This is my first week and I’m extremely impressed with my team and the organization as a whole, and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of the cool apps and tools that NDItech is developing. Stay tuned for updates!

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

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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:

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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

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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

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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...

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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

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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/nditech@ndi.org) 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:

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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.
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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 »

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