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.

Under the Guidance of Apollo


Readers here will be intimately familiar with the Elections Data Management tool, otherwise called Apollo, a name that I have realized will come to stay, despite the better messaging strategy pursued by the ICT team. Apollo will keep this name because of its almost mythical appearance in the midst of elections.  The Greek god Apollo was known as the god of light and truth, of prophecy, and healing. Much like the actual Apollo, the elections Apollo is made manifest from the ether to give meaning and direction to an otherwise amorphous and senseless deluge of information during a PVT. Information that is critical to the validation of an election, information with the ability, to stretch a metaphor, to heal, move, and transform societies. Apollo is pulled from the abyss of Github, thrown up on an Amazon server, deployed in the course of an hour, and reconstructed and refit for the needs of a unique observation mission within several days by the near herculean efforts of  NDI’s beloved Python developer, Tim Akinbo of TimbaObjects. However, the product life cycle of this tool may well need heavenly intervention to continue its current course of development. READ MORE »

Join the team!

Mobile Phone Users

We want you!

Forced to choose between your love of politics, international development and your love of tech? We’ve got the position for you! The NDITech team is hiring a Senior Program Assistant to join our team

The successful candidate will work across NDI's programs to create and mainstream innovative project approaches through technology, from proposal development to project implementation. You'll help to keep our team's engines running by attracting more funding opportunities and helping to manage the day-to-day operations. You'll also work frequently with software engineers and NDI staff in DC and in the 60+ offices worldwide to strengthen NDI's democracy programs.

We also get time to think, write and discuss this exciting field with our counterparts in DC and around the world. For the right candidate, there's field work involved, assessing what tech is the right fit for new programs or helping with on-the-ground implementation.

Want to learn more? Check out the job description and apply here

Hello World!

Langston Hughes, Democracy

Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Meron! As a recent graduate from Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program, my passion for exploring the nexus between politics and technology led me to NDItech. As the new project assistant with the information and communication technology (ICT) team, I’ll be working on the strategy, design and implementation of technology to support NDI’s democracy programming around the world. Given the rapidly changing landscape of global politics and technology, I’m eager to apply my academic and professional experience in the areas of good governance and innovation processes while serving in this new role.

I join the ICT team having previously worked as a research assistant at Global Integrity, where I assessed the transparency and accountability mechanisms of African governments. I later served as a peace fellow with the Advocacy Project in Uganda, where I investigated the technology challenges facing an innovative women-led organization that makes handcrafts from recycled materials. During my time at NDI, I’m eager to build on my past experiences related to transparency and accountability, women’s empowerment, and civil society capacity-building. I'm especially looking forward to exploring ways to better harness technology to democratize information, promote social activism and enable public accountability around the world at a time of great need.

Let the fun begin!

We're In a People Business, Not a Computer Business

We're in a people business, not a computer business.

We recently wrapped up hiring for an intern and wow are there a lot of great candidates interested in technology for development. However, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend; I had a number of conversations with great people who were afraid they maybe would not be qualified because they “weren’t techie enough." Most of these people were women.

Tech for international development is in some ways a terrible misnomer. It’s not a tech business. It’s a people business.
Of the best ICT people I know very few of them have been professional programmers or systems and network engineers. As a matter of fact, the sorts of skills and personalities that excell in those fields may not be the ones that will help design and implement a great tech-focused program with a legislature in Zambia.

To be good at this job, you have to really enjoy tech - someone who likes to play and tinker and have fun with tools, read up on the space, keep on top of all the new stuff coming down the pike. Then you have to be creative and excited about the possibilities of using these ideas to do development in new ways to reach way more people or empower them to somehow live better.

Sometimes we’re like Tom Smykowski from Office Space; we’ve got the people skills to deal with non-technical politicians or partners, and enough technical skills to understand the jargon of developers or consultants. It’s easy for generalists to get rolled by tech vendors with flashy presentations or indecipherable paragraphs of impressive jargon; we have to both stop that and translate the general program goals a team has into an actual technical scope of work in a contract. It's a different language. Of course, in this line, sometimes it literally is a different language on top of that. READ MORE »

We're Hiring! NDItech Summer Internship

We work on important stuff.

Are you a tech junkie? Do you believe that politics matters? Do you want to make the world a (ever-so-slightly) better place? Nothing particular going on this summer?

You're in luck. We're hiring.

This paid internship, available immediately, would give you an important role on our little team. If you read our blog you'll get a sense of what we're up to - there's always an interesting mix of work designing and implementing creative, appropriate tech-empowered programs across NDI's 60+ program countries. You'll be in charge of thinking how to apply cutting-edge technology to developing-world problems, testing out tools in our lab, researching what shenanigans autocrats around the world are up to, attending events, blogging right here, managing our social media platforms, setting up happy hours, and more. It only gets overwhelming sometimes.

The NDItech team sits at the intersection of three worlds. We strongly believe that empowering citizens and making government work better matters. We love technology. We care about sustainable international development. A perfect background would bridge  organzing, campaigns, or government, time overseas, and a drive to tinker with tech. We're not expecting you to be a programmer or systems administrator - we need people who can think about how to apply tech to real-world problems in some of the globe's most challenging environments.

Please check out the posting and apply!

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


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 »

We're Hiring! Part-time Writer

Digital Writing

We're hunting a savvy and passionate student writer and thinker to blog for the NDItech team.

The position is over 3 months for between 10-20 hours per week, and you don't have to be based in DC. You'll write concise pieces that address hot topics in the technology and democracy arena, as well as highlighting tech-focused programs conducted by NDI. We also want you to have a hand in our social media outreach, and then measure your impact via analytics.

You need to...

  • Be a good, fast writer
  • Rock at creating content for the web
  • Have social media skills
  • Be passionate about the intersection of democracy and technology
  • Have experience with a content management system like Drupal
  • Be interested in tracking impact with analytics
  • Want to learn about tech in development

We're flexible on the hours you work, as long as you can create engaging content.

Think you fill the bill? Apply through -> Internships  -> Part Time Blogger/Writer Intern -> Information and Communication Technology. Also feel free to email Have a blog post or two ready as an example.

We Want You!

Come join us!

Torn between your love of politics and your love of tech? Fret no more!

The NDITech team is hiring a Senior Program Officer to join our crew. 

The Senior Program Officer will work across NDI's programs to create and mainstream innovative project approaches through technology, from proposal development to project implementation. You'll help to keep our team's engines running by attracting more funding opportunities and helping to manage the day-to-day operations of our team. You'll also work frequently with our team, software engineers internally and externally, and other NDI staff in DC and in the 60+ offices worldwide to accomplish NDI's democracy programs, with your passport potentially getting some good use to help with on-the-ground implementation.

Want to learn more? Check out the job description and apply at, --> "4. Technology" and "Senior Program Officer".

Hiring Friday! #tech4dem Jobs Galore!

There is no democracy unless we all sing

It's Hiring Friday in the #tech4dem field! Here is a line-up of jobs and internships of interest to those working on tech-for-democracy projects.

  • Making democracy work and working for democracy with tech - here at NDI. @NDITech has openings for software developers and interns. Intern position information is here - the deadline is approaching!  We also have several software engineering positions open.  All involve working with dynamic project teams to conceptualize, design and implement technology into NDI’s democracy assistance programs around the world. International travel may be required.  Go to --> Technology to see the current openings.
  • Human Rights First is looking for a full-time web developer to help maintain and extend Drupal website, maintain the existing Wordpress website and deploy digital advocacy products through Salsa. The salary and benefits for this position are competitive, the team is collaborative and creative, and the position is located in the NY office. Details here
  • New America Foundation - The Open Internet Tools Project (OpenITP) seeks a well-organized, persistent researcher with investigative skills for a part-time consulting contract lasting approximately 4 months, to research and report on the state of circumvention technology usage in Asia, concentrating on mainland China. Pay will be based on experience. The research will likely involve travel to Asia, with expenses reimbursed. More information here. 
  • The Citizen Lab in Toronto is seeking a Software Developer to engage in software development to support a range of research projects at the intersection of information communications technologies, global security, and human rights. You will work with the Citizen Lab team to develop existing and new projects, assisting with all phases of software development from requirements gathering and implementation to testing and deployment. Full details here. 

So Long, Farewell

auf Wiedersehen, adieu!

It’s an exciting time to be involved in the ICT4D space, as any technologically-inclined activist can tell you. People around the world are using tech to educate their friends on digital security, international leaders are starting to take tech seriously, and YouTube now offers automatic face blurring on videos.

During the last six months, I’ve learned more about Information and Communications Technology than I realized was out there: how our work can impact individuals, cool tools like Tor and Tails, and that a huge community of people are passionate about #tech4dem and are excited about creating solutions together. I learned about digital security practices, risk assessment, and that passphrases will always be better than passwords. READ MORE »

How to Become an NDItech Intern in 4 Easy Steps

If we wanted a coffee-wala we wouldn't offer hourly compensation.
  1. Read this post in its entirety
  2. Go to, click on Internships, and read the JD entitled "Intern/Project Assistant: ICT Programs"
  3. Apply to the ICT Intern position with your shiny, impressive resume (don't forget your grammatically correct cover letter)
  4. Do a celebratory dance and wait for us to call you.

For bonus points, you could write us a love song and sing it to us in a YouTube video, create a meme around digital security, or solve the Traveling Salesman problem. Actually if you solve the Traveling Salesman problem you should probably go ahead and apply at the NSA.

Working on the ICT team isn't like your internship on the Hill. Yeah, there's paper to be pushed and research to be done*, but ICT interns get to work on some really cool stuff, not to mention attending events and posting on this blog. And the team is pretty awesome, too: we're a knowledgeable group from diverse backgrounds, all passionate about technology and democracy. If you like all things international, tech, and/or activism, our team is probably the right place for you.

Oh, and did I mention it's a PAID internship?** READ MORE »

The more you know...

...and knowing is half the battle

"Imagination is more important than knowledge" - Albert Einstein

...and perhaps technology allows the opportunity to use both. That's at least what I believe. Before moving to DC, and starting as a Project Assistant on the ICT team here at NDI, I spent 3 years as a social worker in Chicago. Besides enjoying the amazing food in the city, I got to see firsthand the empowering effect technology gives new users. After explaining to one client struggling with barriers to employment how her computer mouse was not the type she had to "shoot at in her basement," I showed her how she could both simplify her job searching and use instant messaging to talk to her grandson. Both of these realizations (mostly the latter) gave her the encouragement to come in once a day, five days a week, to regularly look for jobs, and to regularly send smiley faces to her grandson as she chatted with him after school. Sure enough, she eventually found employment and was able to give her grandson the presents he wanted for his birthday. READ MORE »

This is the part where I pretend I'm new.

what my first "web site" looked like.

My name is Alayna, and I'm a geek.

But not your typical geek - okay, yes, I do love Battlestar Galactica, I follow Stephen Hawking on Twitter (even though the last time he Tweeted was over two years ago), and I may or may not be teaching myself PHP. But aside from all that: I love the outdoors, speaking Spanish, and traveling.

Which means the NDI ICT team is the perfect place for me - we're a team with interests and backgrounds that vary from system administration, accessible education, Mandarin, and table tennis, but we're united by our common interest in technology. Last year I graduated with a BA in International Studies and Spanish from Hope College in Michigan, moved to DC in February, and started hanging out with ICT in March.

My interest in technology started back in middle school, when I discovered at my local Hamburg Township Library a small, hard-backed book that proclaimed it would teach me how to build a website. I was immediately intrigued - I took it home and had my first webpage coded and up (read: hosted on my local machine and displayed in the browser) in a matter of minutes. That first "Hello World!" set me down a path that led to a 2nd place national win in a website design competition in high school, declaring a Computer Science major (later demoted to a minor) by the end of freshman year of college, and now, to a place on the ICT team at NDI. 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 »

Afghanistan: Innovation Nation

Kabul Innovation Lab

Innovation is, according to Bill Gates, the "key to improving the world." Innovative technology is making its mark in the developing world, garnering the attention of both the public and private sectors. Companies like Nokia, Microsoft, and Google have led the trend of "reverse innovation," designing technologies especially for emerging markets. More direct, people-led innovation is occuring in Innovation Hubs all around Africa. These tech hubs, which provide space for collaboration and innovation, should continue to grow in 2012 and beyond. Last year, we all marveled at the ingenious mobile phone system created by the rebels in Libya - further raising confidence in the innovative minds of North Africa. But this week has helped bring awareness to innovation in a seemingly unlikely place - Afghanistan. READ MORE »

Monitoring the North Pole

Are "Reindeer Games" a form of elections?

I've blogged about the importance of studying failures, but the most recent Fail Faire inspired me to speak out today about the tech team's most disappointing failure to date: the persistent status of the North Pole as the last truly closed society. Even North Korea regularly leaks reports and video via channels of dedicated citizen journalists using stealthy new technologies.

And while I can't speak to the details of our (*cough*netfreedom*) work, I can say that I'm sorely disappointed that not a single report from rumored "Reindeer games" to select the sleigh-leader has surfaced. This being a season for hope, I'd like to believe this is because the happy elves simply don't have any messages to broadcast to the outside world. But we all know just how unaccountable the Workshop can be, so if you find any curious images or recordings on your shiny new Christmas electronics, please let us know. READ MORE »

Intern Hunting Season!


It's that magical time of the year... It's less than 100 degrees outside, back-to-school sales are on, the Nationals have given up, and NDItech is hiring an intern!

If you're passionate about technology, care about international democracy and human rights, like to think about how social media is changing societies, and are always exploring the latest technological tool, then read on.  

As a summer intern and soon to be part-time fall intern, I’ve had a chance to explore the latest technological tools and approaches and identify how they can be used in NDI programs.  I also assisted in implementing a project for the Liberian Legislature that taught me the ins and outs of Drupal and how a website can be used to increase government transparency.  Other projects included included crashing tech events in the area, contributing to this blog, and helping out with paperwork (woo!)  In short, it’s been a fun and enriching experience, which is why I’m staying on board in the fall.

So, if you enjoy thinking about how technology can help build democratic institutions, create open societies, and build civil society, then you're our kind of person. READ MORE »



Hi blog readers! My name is Cynthia Medina and I will be joining the NDI ICT team for the summer. My interest in ICT stems from my desire to combine my undergraduate background in International Relations and current graduate studies in Communication, Culture, and Technology at Georgetown.

While I always knew that I wanted to do something international and something having to do with technology, I did not figure out what this "something" was until earlier this year when I took the course Technology, Culture, and Development. Sitting in the classroom I had an "aha" moment: "This is what I want to do". Reading through theories of development and previous project implementations, I learned how culture is critical, yet too often forgotten in development. I also studied the role ICT can play in not only bringing culture back into the development equation, but also providing citizens with a voice in the development process. From blogging to being inspired to protest after watching television coverage to sending text messages to report election violence, ICT provides tools that allow people to participate in new ways.

On a personal note, I grew up in Latin America and enjoy keeping up with political news in the region. I also love traveling and trying new restaurants. I look forward to working at NDI this summer and learning more about ICT4D.

Job Post: ICT Program Officer

An experienced veteran of  technology in politics or development? The NDItech team is looking for you!

We are recruiting for a senior position on our team - ICT Program Officer. NDItech program officers juggle the strategy and implementation of appropriate technology on multiple NDI democracy programs concurrently. In one day you may advising DC's regional experts on  inserting language for IVR systems in a grant proposal, joining a Skype call with software developers in a field office working to design a custom app for an upcoming election, and playing with the newest release of FrontlineSMS to see how it might work in NDI's programming.

We also get time to think, write and discuss this exciting field with our counterparts in DC and around the world. For the right candidate, there's a lot of field work involved, assessing what tech is the right fit for new programs or helping with on-the-ground implementation.

For this job we're looking for someone with significant experience (say, five years) in tech for development or politics. If you're a bit newer to the field, you should try for the Program Assistant job discussed below.

To apply, check the Washington-DC based job link in the current openings section of NDI's website. Job description after the jump.

NDItech is Looking for an Intern


NDItech is hiring an 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 70-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 enjoy getting into arguments about how social media has impacted the Arab Spring, or spun up a Drupal 7 system just to see how it works, 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.

To apply, go to NDI's employment openings and click through DC internships. We're the Information and Communications Technologies one.

* Sorry, it's still an internship.

But I've Been Nice!: The Truth Behind Santa's Shocking Lack of Accountability

NORAD tracking image of Santa Claus

We are staunch advocates of accountability over here at NDItech. And in the 25+ years our organization has worked in more than 110 countries around the world, the one thing we've found in common? Children everywhere can be both naughty and nice.

So it's fair to say we've been a little distressed by some recent revelations from our friends at at Sunlight Labs. It seems that kids in some  countries may not be getting visits from Santa (regardless of their likelihood to actually, you know, believe in Santa or celebrate Christmas). 

Can you imagine? Nothing to show for 365 days of good behavior: not poking siblings when parents aren't looking, not pulling the cat's tail, not sneaking a taste from the dinner pot, not skipping school. That's a tall order, even for some of us slightly-older-kids here at NDItech. READ MORE »

Democracy: A Googley Sort of Value?

Googling democracy

Jared Cohen, the new director of Google Ideas, stopped by NDI this week. He's been something of a perpetual motion machine of late, zipping around the country and world, collecting thoughts and inspiration from experts in a variety of issue areas.

Google Ideas, as described by Jared, is a project to match Google's technological expertise with 'subject matter experts' to address major global challenges. In jargon terms, silo-busting.

Now, regular readers of this blog should know how we feel about technology as a solution. Google Ideas doesn't seem to believe in it either - but it is determined to reconsider these seemingly-intractable problems by recognizing technology as an aspect of every situation, and leveraging its formidable resources towards any emergent solutions.

But wait, what does Google have to do with democracy? READ MORE »

"Seize the Day, Seize the Data" - NDItech's Chris Spence on Liberation Technology

Chris Spence, our Dear Leader and NDI's Chief Technology Officer, is giving a presentation today at the Stanford Program on Liberation Technologies.

The talk, entitled Seize the Day, Seize the Data, dives into NDItech's practical work on the ground implementing tech-enabled programs.

International democracy promotion, like all development work, can be a frustrating, difficult slog, full of setbacks or years without visible change. And yet, at the right moment, it seems like a regime can prove as brittle as glass.

In the long periods of toiling in the shadows, tech development professionals can work with partners on the ground to build the relationships, the tools, and the organizations to be ready when the moment strikes. When the eyes of the world are watching, well-prepared organizations can make change happen - and tech can assist.

Silicon valley peeps, drop by Stanford and say hi!

Job Post: We're Recruiting a Drupal Developer

Drupal Logo

We're looking for a Drupal developer to join our team here in Washington, DC.

The job would require you to build and manage NDI's public websites (including this blog!) as well as new tools for our international development projects. We provide tools for democracy programs around the world in areas like human rights or election monitoring, helping connect citizens to their legislatures, political organizing for civic groups or membership management for political parties. If you've got multilingual Drupal experience that would be a big plus - and an interest in politics or international affairs would be useful too!

We need an energetic, innovative engineer to build interesting Drupal web applications incorporating advanced visualization tools such as maps, capturing and managing data from mobile phones (SMS) and dealing with large data sets.

At NDI we've got a small engineering team so you'd be the lead Drupal developer, and work closely with NDI staff and partners around the world – sometimes in high stress situations.

Here are examples of NDI Drupal projects you'd build and manage as part of our team: READ MORE »

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