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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.

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 »

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 nditech@ndi.org.

DEMTOOLS IN ACTION

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 »

Giving Thanks

We all have a lot to be thankful for.

We’ve got it pretty good, overall, and last week's gluttonous binge/contemplative holiday was an opportunity to think a bit about all the things for which we’re thankful. Here are a few thoughts from our team on what we are grateful for these days.

First and foremost, of course, is you our dear readers. (Hi mom!)

Chris Doten

African tech hubs. I just got back from ccHub and the Idea Hub in Lagos, and they’re fantastic exemplars of this great phenomenon. Pulling smart young techies together where they can learn and grow - and in an environment that is often focused on social good. They’re pragmatic, too - the same sort of reduction of cost barriers to entry you get with coworking spaces here in the US. Made even more valuable by supply of fast internet and generator power.

A declining Ebola transmission rate. I have a lot of love for Liberia and have been heartbroken by the outbreak. The fact that things have been slowing - while far from over - is better than the nightmare exponential growth scenarios we were facing. Might have had something to do with the tech response coordinated by USAID. READ MORE »

A Day for Digital Security

Encryption dominated much of the discussion at the conference

 

Last week I took a Friday trip to the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum for a day focused on the present state of digital security as it relates to surveillance and the news media. The Freedom of the Press Foundation, Open Technology Institute, and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press co-hosted the “News Organizations and Digital Security: Solutions to Surveillance Post-Snowden” event, which drew a capacity crowd of technologists, journalists, media development professionals, and a few folks like me who work in the #Tech4dem space.

The star of the event turned out to be none other than Mr. Edward Snowden himself. After the conclusion of the day’s final panel - fittingly a discussion on “Security Lessons from the Snowden Files” - Snowden appeared for a brief Google Hangout with the audience. Like many of the panelists before him, Snowden called for a “change in attitudes towards digital security.” The (in)famous whistleblower stressed the importance, as he did during the initial release of the NSA documents, for a wider social and policy discussion on issues of digital security, surveillance, and potential regulation. After he wrapped up, the crowd took a trip to E Street Cinema for a screening of CitizenFour, a recently released documentary film tracking Snowden during the days leading up to and the months following the NSA leaks.

READ MORE »

Discussing The Issues: ePramova in Belarus

ePramova Candidate Videos

 

Based on the Issues DemTool developed by NDI, ePramova is an online video platform launched earlier this year in Belarus aimed at fostering questions, answers, and public discussion on important political issues.  We chatted with Michael Murphy, Belarus Director, and Juri Jurkevits, Program Officer responsible for working with ePramova, about their observations of the platform so far. We’ve synthesized their thoughts into a short Q&A writeup below. If you have further questions about ePramova itself or the Issues DemTool platform more generally, contact us at ict@ndi.org.

 

Q: How was the platform introduced, and how was it accepted?

READ MORE »

It’s Complicated: New Users' Challenging Relationship with CiviCRM

CiviCRM Summit

In case you missed it, our team recently presented at the CiviCRM User Summit, a one-day conference that brings together users, consultants, and developers to share ideas and skills, and discuss features of the popular, open source CiviCRM constituent relationship management (CRM) tool. I had the opportunity to moderate the NDI session at the summit, which our friends at AGH Strategies recorded and will be making available in a few days. Until then, I thought I would recap our presentation and share some highlights from the event. READ MORE »

PeaceTech Summit at USIP

Sheldon Himelfarb introduces the new PeaceTech Lab at USIP.

I had the opportunity to attended the United States Institute of Peace’s Engineering Durable Peace Summit last week (#peacetech), an event hosted at USIP as part of their launch of the new PeaceTech Lab. Attended by individuals ranging from mechanical and software engineers to young entrepreneurs, journalists, and tech4dem folk like us, the summit hosted several dynamic panel discussions and a morning filled with quick-hitting “lightning” presentations on some of the most exciting innovations in the PeaceTech space. READ MORE »

Join the Tech4Dem Happy Hour!

#Tech4Dem Happy Hour!

The #Tech4Dem Happy Hour is back, and the D.C. post-work drinking landscape is once again complete! It’s been a while since the last iteration of this DC social calendar staple, and the time has come to start it back up again.

We know you’ve missed brainstorming, socializing and imbibing with other Tech4dem enthusiasts, so if you are in the DC area, join us at 5:30pm on Tuesday, September 23rd at RFD, located in Chinatown at 810 7th Street NW. To RSVP for the event, follow this link to our EventBrite invitation. READ MORE »

Towards a Standard Open Decisions API

Mapping of APIs and data formats and tools are currently being used

Editor’s Note: Cross-posted from NDI's OpeningParliament blog.

At this year’s Open Knowledge Festival -- a biennial gathering of open government advocates -- there was considerable interest in moving toward greater standardization of APIs (application programming interface) relating to government decision-making processes. Web APIs help promote an open architecture for sharing content and data between communities and applications. Standardization of APIs for government decision-making data would allow tools built by civic innovators or governments to analyze or visualize data about government decision-making to be used across multiple jurisdictions, without needing to re-program the tool to accommodate differing data formats or ways of accessing the data.

Most government decision-making procedures involve similar processes (meetings, requests for public comment, etc.), decision-points (committee hearings, committee meetings, plenary sessions, etc.) and supporting documentation (agendas, draft legislation, information on voting records, etc.). Standardizing the ways that these types of information are structured allows tools for visualizing data about open government decision-making to be used across jurisdictions, as well as facilitating comparison of data and information.

To discuss the state of play with respect to open government decision-making APIs, Open Knowledge Finland, Open North, and the National Democratic Institute organized a session at the Open Knowledge Festival 2014 in Berlin to explore the possibilities for moving toward a global standard for APIs that deal with data on government decision-making.

Ongoing Efforts READ MORE »

Circumventing Twitter Restrictions

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 10.09.24 AM.png

Turkey blocked Twitter. If you happen to have been on vacation over the weekend or haven’t had a chance to check out the newspaper in a few days, The Washington Post and Reuters both have good write ups on the potential political fallout of this Twitter block as well as some background information on the situation. The interesting thing, as noted in the Washington Post article, is that this “restriction” has had little effect on Twitter chatter within the country. In fact, in the aftermath of discovering that they were no longer able to access Twitter, tweets spiked to 138 percent of the normal posting rate, an ironic feat in light of the ban. This statistic begs the question, “How are Turks tweeting, and tweeting rapidly, and about a Twitter ban?”

Well, the answer is simple and not so simple. Turkey has faced routine website blocking for the better part of the last decade, most notably the 2008 restriction of access to Youtube (which was in effect for 2 years). By now, most Turks, especially the younger generation, are well acquainted with the various measures for circumventing such restrictions. In case you are not, here are a few of the ways to access Twitter in the event of a block.

  1. SMS

On March 20th, Twitter sent out a tweet instructing Turks how they could tweet via SMS on both Vodafone and Turkcell networks. SMS tweets are popular in areas with limited access to internet data, but in this case the service is proving to be multi-functional. Users can also receive tweets from friends that the user designates they would like to receive mobile tweets from. Obviously Twitter via SMS lacks much of the user experience of the broader Twitter app and website, but it still proves to be an effective work around.

Pitfalls in Tolerance: An Analysis of Twitter Data for Electoral Predictions

How-to-Follow-the-2012-US-Presidential-Elections-on-Twitter.jpg

As we all know, Twitter is a platform for creating and sharing short bursts of information instantly and without borders. Scholars have taken note and analyze Twitter data to “take the pulse” of society. Since 2010 a number of studies have tried to assess the viability of Twitter as a substitute for traditional electoral prediction methods. They have ranged from theoretical works to data analysis. These studies have been inspired by the lure of access to real-time information and the ease of collecting this data.

In recent study, Daniel Gayo-Avello of the University of Oviedo in Spain examined a number of previous attempts at predicting elections using Twitter data. The author conducted a meta analysis of fifteen prior studies to analyse whether Twitter data can be used to predict election results. He found that the 'presumed predictive power regarding electoral prediction has been somewhat exaggerated: although social media may provide a glimpse on electoral outcomes current research does not provide strong evidence to support it can currently replace traditional polls." READ MORE »

Crowdsourcing Political Incidents Online

Candidate posters, Kenya Presidential Elections, March 2013.

Kenya's iHub recently released its research on crowdsourced information in the highly contested 2013 Kenya Presidential elections. The study sought to clarify the value of information collected from citizens about political incidents from online media, and to answer whether 1) “passive crowdsourcing” is viable in the Kenyan context  - passive crowdsourcing being defined as monitoring social media such as Twitter 2) determine what unique information Twitter posts provided about the election, and 3) determine the conditions in which crowdsourced information is a viable news source. As part of the report, iHub provided a useful set of recommendations and a decision-making framework for practitioners who are considering similar methodologies. 

The report provides great detail about the research methodology and data sources (Twitter, online traditional media, targeted crowdsourcing platforms like Uchaguzi, and fieldwork). Particularly impressive are the mechanisms described for capture, storage and classification of tweets and the detailed approaches to filtering for newsworthy tweets. The glossary is helpful in clarifying terminology such as that of "passive", "active" and "targeted" crowdsourcing of information from citizens. (NDI prefers the term "citizen reporting" over crowdsourcing for citizen-generated incidents data.) READ MORE »

Just Your Average Tech User

Lesley here- travel junkie, steak enthusiast, and hardline supporter of the oxford comma. What brings me to ICT, you ask? Good question.

For the last six years I have devoted myself to the study of international affairs and political science, not an uncommon background for our team here at ICT. I have traveled extensively and lived for prolonged periods of time in Turkey and recently returned to the U.S. from a short stint in Berlin. From these experiences, one thing has become increasingly clear to me: Technology matters. More than that, technology matters to everyone, not just tech devotees and computer scientists. Technology impacts every person, every day, around the world. This is what brings me, a normal everyday tech user, to ICT.

Technology is an ever expanding asset for civil society and democracy development. As I watched my beloved Turkey go through the Gezi Park protests at the end of May, I couldn’t help but wonder at how technology and media impacted what was going on. It wasn’t just the use of social media to coordinate and spread the word about the protests, but also the silencing of media that prevented the rest of the country from knowing what was happening in Gezi Park. READ MORE »

NDITech Adventures: Mining Big Data For Public Political Sentiment

Leveraging Multiple Public Content Sources on the Internet with Crimson Hexagon Allows Us to Gauge Public Opinion
The United Nations estimates that more than 2.7 billion people will be online this year. What if there was a way to leverage the power of 2.7 billion people to tell their stories about how they feel about political topics? NDI recently received a grant from Crimson Hexagon to use their ForSight platform to delve deep into the public Internet to get answers to complex political questions.  The platform is based on mathematical algorithms developed by a team of academics at Harvard.  As we are rolling out Crimson Hexagon's platform for specific programs we run, we wanted to test it on a topic we are keenly interested in.  So, we decided we wanted to know more about what the global discussions are relating to "Technology and Democracy." 
 
Forsight uses a powerful supervised machine learning algorithm developed by Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. It allows users to examine a huge volume of public information on the Internet such as tweets and Weibo posts, public Facebook posts, forums, Youtube, news, blogs, comments, and reviews -- all in nearly real time. Forsight identifies content by keyword associations and users "train" the algorithm by categorizing a small set of the found content into specific categories. Once trained, the platform scans the internet and its historical database for content that is matching the user-defined criteria and categorizes it according to the user’s specific schema.  Because Forsight allows users to go back in time it is very useful for learning more about the context of events, or other political and social phenomena, prior to their occurrence. 

Academic Perspectives on #Tech4Dem

International Studies Association Annual Convention 2013 Recap

Last week thousands of international studies scholars from around the world converged on San Francisco’s Hilton Union Square for the International Studies Association (ISA) annual convention to discuss issues ranging from national security and feminism to democracy and development. The week-long event featured dozens of panels on tech for democracy and development. Although I was only able to attend a few of the many panels on Tech and Democracy and Development, the ones I did attend were engaging.

One panel, “Theorizing Media Governance and Regulation in the Global Information Society,” highlighted trends in the development of legal and regulatory practices across countries and over time. This panel highlighed many of the issues currently being faced by democracy development organizations and activists on the ground. Three of the papers on the panel examined the spread of ICT rules and regulations across national borders. The process of legal and policy creep across borders can significantly affect Internet freedom and access in whole regions and impact the effectiveness of organizations to engage in development activities. READ MORE »

Mali Speaks...and Listens

Mali Speaks, Al Jazeera

There are two projects in Mali that caught our eyes - or should we say, our ears? Al Jazeera, in partnership with mobile vendor Souktel, conducted a mobile survey in Mali, asking citizens' opinions via SMS about whether France's military intervention in the country was legitimate.  Al Jazeera then translated, tagged, and displayed responses on a color-coded map as part of its Mali Speaks project.  It is not entirely clear how many responses were recorded but the map is illuminating and well designed, illustrating how some sgment of the population feels about France's military intervention (Hint: Overwhelmingly positive). Of course, such citizen polls are not representative and tend to skew towards more literate, more urban, male, and wealthier resondents. Nonetheless, if combined with more systematic and stringent polling methodologies, they can provide a sense of the sentiment of citizens and can be conducted inexpensively in close-to real time. Combined with compelling visualizations, they can also be used by citizen groups as a tool for advocacy and by policy makers as a barometer of public opinion.

Al Jazeera has conducted other Speaks projects in Somalia, Uganda, and Libya. Souktel, earlier this year, also worked in Kenya where local youth leaders used the service to conduct and participate in live polls and votes via SMS to elect a board of directors, choose a name for their network, and determine an organizing structure for their regional youth movement. READ MORE »

Twitter: Expanding Voice and Space for Political Discourse In Highly Restricted Countries?

Twitter Revolt

A recent article in the New York Times argues that Twitter is used by citizens in Saudi Arabia to increase the political space for public discourse that did not exist before:  "Open criticism of this country’s royal family, once unheard-of, has become commonplace in recent months. Prominent judges and lawyers issue fierce public broadsides about large-scale government corruption and social neglect. Women deride the clerics who limit their freedoms. Even the king has come under attack. All this dissent is taking place on the same forum: Twitter."

The NY Times staff writer Robert Worth, an often-astute chronicler of the MIddle East, argues that "Unlike other media, Twitter has allowed Saudis to cross social boundaries and address delicate subjects collectively and in real time, via shared subject headings like “Saudi Corruption” and “Political Prisoners,” known in Twitter as hashtags."

Is Twitter becoming "like a parliament, but not the kind of parliament that exists in this region,” as Faisal Abdullah, a 31-year-old lawyer, is quoted in the story -  even a "true parliament, where people from all political sides meet and speak freely?"

Or is allowing citizen to express themselves publicly via social media  a clever tactic by rulers in  highly restricted to allow citizens to let off steam while violently quelling real reforms and street protests?  Is Twitter really expanding 'political voice' and 'space' - the ability of citizens to have the capacities and articulate their interests and needs and engage in democratic processes to claim their rights and  identify appropriate avenues to address their issue  concerns?   READ MORE »

Tech4Dem Tuesdays in DC - Join Us (and see TAILS, the Safety and Anonymity Tool)

If you are in Washington, DC, join us for the first-ever Tech4Dem Tuesday Happy Hour this coming Tuesday, August 28 at RFD. Think beer, open government, tech for parliamentary monitoring, elections, good governance - all things tech for democracy worldwide. Laugh, cry, and drink with your fellow DCers who work to make democracy work with tech the world over.

Who: If you're working on or interested in tech for democracy, fair elections, good governance, a free media, and citizen voice, come on over. We'll feature several interesting projects each month (informally, over the din of the bar), so if you have cool stuff to show off, bring it!  We'll be bringing TAILS, the tool that gives you privacy for everyone anywhere. 

Where: RFD Bar
810 7th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001

When: Tech4Dem Tuesday, of course - August 28, 5:30pm on.

Why: Because anyone who works in this field knows that we love to socialize, talk shop, and share ideas.  And hey, as they say, working for democracy and making democracy work never ends, but it's better with a beer.

RSVP below so that we have an idea of headcount and can warn the bar. We may just spring for your first round if you let us know you're coming!

RSVP: http://tech4demtuesdays.eventbrite.com READ MORE »

Lessons Learned: A Shift in ICT Programs

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. - Einstein

Just like any other industry, the ICT for Development (ICT4D) field has experienced significant shifts. As major international development stakeholders have begun focusing on funding ICT projects, these shifts have widespread implications for how programs develop in the field.

The tone of the conversation surrounding ICT4D seems to be changing, as more emphasis is being placed on the strategy and implementations of projects instead of the infinite potential of technology. We have been a part of this converstaion, rethinking the question sustainability, ICT as a means and not a goal, and escaping the tunnel vision of technology.  Richard Heeks wrote about the early history of these changes in a paper entitled The ICT4D 2.0 Manifesto. Mr. Heeks explained the difference in earlier attitude between the first programs, and the projects in the field today. Early programs relied upon "technovelty" and focused more on spreading access as quickly as possible instead of on thoughtful implementation. He generalizes the outcome of those early projects into a few words: “failure...and anecdote[s].” Often programs would return with great stories about how technology had changed one individual's life, without analysis to the larger effects. Past the promotional materials, positive impact became difficult to assess, which in turn led to many projects today being framed by sustainability, scalability, and evaluation.  READ MORE »

Are you listening? Consultation in Policy Development

Pirate Party - Direct Democracy, with style

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to work with Social Democratic party members from around Southern and Eastern Europe (Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia) as part of a conference coordinated by NDI’s Regional Party initiative (RPI) and the ruling party in Montenegro, Demokratska Partija Socijalista. Thematically, the conference focused on ICT and political participation through sessions on transparency and accountability, campaigning, youth leadership and policy development.

The latter, policy development, is central to the conference series, and we discussed ways that smart applications of technology can improve the outcomes of policy development.

As we’ve witnessed in the last few years, the “internet public” reflects the changed nature of human beings as social and civic individuals.  As part of this phenomenon, new connections are increasingly important, and pertinent information gets shared rapidly. One driver of these tools for political use has been the perception that political bodies are self-interested, dysfunctional, and don’t represent citizen interests. We’ve seen citizens rebelling against this order in ongoing Arab Spring uprisings, the Occupy Movement, and newly founded political parties and organizations. READ MORE »

Lessons from #PDF12: leaving the republic of Nerdistan

What my after-school coordinator tweets might have looked like.

I spent more time tweeting during my 48 hours at PDF12 than I had in the past six months. This is not an exaggeration; I ran the numbers. (And you can too, if you follow me, @hillaryeason. Ahem.) Part of this, of course, was due to the fact that I was at a conference that was About Technology; not only was this kind of tech widely used, it also acted as a signaling mechanism, establishing the Tweeter as someone who was engaged and tech-savvy. In that respect, at least, the demands of this job differ substantially from my last gig.

But as I was thinking about the ways in which I, as an NDI employee, actually use Twitter, I realized that I certainly could have used this kind of technology the last time I worked in this city. I ran an after-school program in a high-crime, low-income neighborhood that served 200 kids and employed 20 staff. I had next to no resources, was constantly trying to communicate information to overworked teachers who were never in the same place at the same time, and had to somehow funnel info on all of these challenges to my bosses at the public school district in order to make any kind of change. Isn't that what Twitter is for? READ MORE »

Yesterday game boring and hate. New game!

The author's old classroom in Korea, where her students had no qualms indicating if her lessons worked or not.

Greetings!

My name is Hillary, and I'm so excited - no, really, you have no idea - to announce that I've arrived @NDITech. I'm a former journalist, teacher, and toy store employee who grew up in a house of tinkerers and tech enthusiasts, and I recently graduated from the Fletcher School in Boston. More importantly, my background has made me passionate about tech and media use across disciplines, and coming to NDI allows me to put those interests to good use.

My main interests on the tech team include nonformal education, public diplomacy and outreach, and social marketing, as well as the larger (and related) issues of user interaction and the effects of tech projects from a systemic perspective. I believe strongly that technology needs to be engaging and desirable as well as accessible - not just from an infrastructural perspective, but in terms of the ways in which people go through their daily existence. Which brings me to the title of this post.

As anyone who's ever taught can attest, children can be a very, very tough crowd. A few years ago, I was teaching English in Korea, and one of my fellow teachers put on her Facebook an exchange she'd had with a student. It's now been added to the (long) list of internal memes I maintain.

STUDENT Teacher! Today play game?

TEACHER No, we played a game yesterday.

STUDENT Yesterday game boring and hate. New game! READ MORE »

Re-Mixing and Story Telling: From the Classroom to the Field

Digital Storytelling
Last week, as my colleagues focused on Digital Security Awareness week, I traveled over to the west coast to attend the 2012 International Studies Association conference. This trip was a part of my graduate studies at Georgetown University (where I am pursing a Masters in Communication, Culture, and Technology), and while I was there I was reminded of the important relationship that exists between creating and editing stories and international development projects.

The panel I was a part of stemmed from a course (Technology, Culture, and Development) I took last semester.  As a part of the class, students are asked to create a Cultural Identity Narrative, which is a 6 minute video that remixes a novel and a film from the developing world.  The project allows students to create a story that explores a particular aspect of a culture, using the authors' and directors' words rather than their own.  The project teaches students to think about how they construct narratives and understand how they chose to edit existing stories to create their own. READ MORE »

Tweeting International Women's Day

In celebration of International Women's Day, the Women's Political Participation program here at NDI hosted a tweetchat featuring the State Department (@S_GWI), Secretary Madeleine Albright, and iKNOW Politics (@iKNOW_Politics). The discussion included opportunities and challenges to women's roles in politics. This event is an innovative approach to provide a space for stakeholders in women's empowerment to engage with thought leaders and policy makers across countries. Below is our Storify for the event: READ MORE »

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