Beck gets real.

mic drop

After nearly 3 years of tech4dem-ness with the NDItech crew, I'm heading off to join the Open Technology Fund! It's been a fun ride here, where I've been able to nerd out on digital security, internet freedom, and privacy. And where my colleagues have endured way too many Arrested Development, Wu-Tang, and other pop culture references. 

But before I go, I'll be dropping the mic: spilling all the secrets of the NDItech team. 


Here we go. 

1. Our documentation and exploration on effective methods to impart technical knowledge and capacity to partners is just a clever ruse to hide that we are all ICT4D Jedis

2. Tech4Dem is the cornerstone of any brooch diplomacy initiative. 

3. NDI's pioneering of use of SMS for election monitoring was designed to keep T9 texting/160 character limit lingo hipster-chic

4. Rapper Akon came to NDI not to discuss youth engagement in West Africa, but to try to get my vocals on his upcoming mix tape. I of course had to show him my non-compete clause in my contract with Roc-A-Fella records. 

5. The NDItech blog is actually the Captain's Log for a crew's 15-year mission "to boldly go where no democracy and governance NGO has gone before." 

**This is not an NDItech-sponsored satirical blog post.**


New on iTunes: NDI's Survey of Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations

Cover art from our newest ePublication

Check out the new publication NDI has on iTunes. "Strengthening Parliamentary Accountability, Citizen Engagement and Access to Information," the guide is now available to anyone with a iPad/iPhone/iTouch, a Nook, and available for download from the Lulu store

Strengthening Parliamentary Accountability surveys the amazing work of parliamentary monitoring organizations around the world that are working with parliaments to hold them more accountable, make them more responsive, and ultimately better serve citizen needs. The guide is part of the work of NDI's Opening Parliaments initiative.  

What is Lulu? Glad you asked. It is the service we used to publish and distribute the books. Following a formatting guide for how to upload, we were able to create a template through Google Drive, making it easy to upload the content into proper formatting and then used Lulu to convert into an epub. After some tinkering, guide was submitted and approved. After a bit more waiting, the ePub was placed on the iBookstore and Nook bookstore for free distribution, and free downloading.

Keep an eye out for more NDI publications on iTunes, and look for us to pop up in the Kindle bookstore soon.




Come see Tech4Dem Innovations (and #fails)

Social Media Week DC

NDI is excited to host a series of events during Social Media Week DC

  • Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 4 pm - 5:30 pm: Women, Tech and Democracy - The Next Frontier

Tech plays a crucial role in this work but women are lag behind in access, use, and ability to afford to communicate online and via mobile devices. A panel of high-powered women will explore what we know about how women participate online, what we know about the effective use of tech in women’s political participation, and where we are still falling short.

While this event is full, we will be streaming the event online (stay tuned for updates) and you can follow the hashtag #smwwomentech4dem READ MORE »

Now Hiring: Program Officer


NDItech is hiring an Information and Communication Technologies Program Officer. Are you an experienced veteran of technology in politics or development? Join us!

This is a senior position on our team tasked with juggling the strategy and implementation of appropriate technology on multiple NDI democracy programs. In one day you may be advising DC's regional experts on how to add language for IVR systems in a grant proposal, joining a Skype call with developers in Lagos building an elections app, and playing with the newest release of FrontlineSMS to see how it can help partners achieve their communications goals.

We also get time to think, write and discuss this exciting and evolving field with colleagues in DC and around the world. For the right candidate, the position also includes travel to the field for assessments on appropriate tech strategy or helping with boots-on-the-ground implementation. READ MORE »

In PVT vs ECZ the winner is... Everyone!

Gram points at the CSEC vs. actual ECZ results.

(PVT=parallel vote tabulation, or a statistical projection of results. ECZ=Election Commission of Zambia)

Zambia's a wrap. You've seen a lot of posts from me on this one already, but I'll test your patience with one more sharing the happy ending.

Things were getting tense late last week as the results began to come in. The whole country was clamoring for news in what was an info black hole to the point that riots began breaking out and a handful of people were tragically killed. No one, including the major parties, knew what had transpired, and pressure was building on the elections commission to speed the release of resuts as suspicions mounted that they were dragging out the  counting process. While Zambians are renouned for being chill, peaceful people the grim shadows of Cote D'Ivoire or Libya definitely loomed over us all. In the end, the Election Commission of Zambia did the right thing and recognized the will of the voters in the election of Michael Sata with a surprising (to me) margin of 44%-36% over the incumbant. It's the first time there's been a transfer of power between parties in the country for 20 years, and is a real accomplishment. READ MORE »

Free and Easy Election Data Entry the Google Way

Teaching about Election Monitoring Forms

On Tuesday, August 23, 2011 Liberians headed to the polls for the first national referendum in 25 years.

The referendum asked citizens to cast their votes on four constitutional amendments.  As Liberians voted on these propositions under the watchful eye of the ECC, NDI’s partner observer group, the NDItech team rolled out a free, easy new way of gathering monitor reports: Google Forms.

One of our goals is always to find technology that’s sustainable. While that word is an overused bit of development jargon, the concept is key - the people with whom you’re working should be able to manage the systems you create in case your whole organization gets eaten by sharktopi or, more likely, your program comes to an end. The big components of this are cost (can the users afford to keep it running?) and capability (do they understand how to fix, tweak, and administer it?) Google is great on both counts. READ MORE »

SwiftCount Your Blessings

SwiftCount Data Clerks

I've joined my NDItech colleague Jared Ford on the ground in Abuja, Nigeria for the #biggestPVTever. We're working with Project Swift Count (@swiftcount), a coalition representing women, religious lawyers, and other civil society groups. It's pretty exciting - this series of elections (not one! not two! but three in a row!) are a major milestone in this massive, chaotic, confusing, colorful, diverse country of 150,000,000. It's the biggest population in Africa in a nation about twice the size of California with a historically tense relationship between a largely Muslim North and Christian South.

There are some logistical challenges to running an election in these circumstances.

INEC, the Independent National Election Commission, delayed the first round of elections by a week at the last minute. Actually, considerably past the last minute - our observers were already at their stations with increasingly fretful reports rolling in as time rolled by and the polling places remained shuttered. INEC is clearly trying to get it right, and it paid off today. READ MORE »

Tech Thankfulosity

Turkey Fail Whale

It's been a great year for technology in foreign policy and development, and we've got a lot to be grateful for. So before we sign off to gorge ourselves on delicious holiday fare, we wanted to share a few of the things that we on the NDItech team are thankful for.

  • The digital divide isn't as yawning a chasm as it looked in 2000.
  • Being paid to play with cool tools like FrontlineSMS, TOR, and Linux on a Stick.
  • Twitter. Fantastic way to get to know colleagues and stay on top of what's going on. Plus, the fail whale teaches one a certain zenlike patience.
  • The citizens around the world with whom we work - these are people who are risking a lot to work for freedom and competent government.
  • Open source communities of volunteers that somehow magically create and build amazing platforms like Drupal, Ushahidi and CiviCRM.
  • The momentum behind Open Data and Open Government - creating a whole new set of opportunities for NDITech and our partners to help democratic governments be more transparent and accountable.
  • Our coworkers on the NDItech team, who are a lot of fun as well as pretty damn smart.
  • And since it's the season... that Turkey has unblocked YouTube.
  • And of course, for you, our faithful readers. (Hi mom!)

We're going to be off for the long weekend, so regular posting will resume Monday. Eat way too much in the interim.

Welcome to NDItech: Blogging on ICT in Development and Democracy


The "demos" of the word democracy is the people - the masses, the rabble, the hoi polloi, the plebes, the great unwashed. One of the most powerful transformations of the past 10 years has been spread of tech to the demos.

In 2000 we were very concerned about the "Digital Divide;" today in one form or another technology has penetrated many of the most distant corners of the world, making some of the world's poorest people into tech experts. This is an astonishing change from the days when Thomas Watson, head of IBM, saw a worldwide market for, oh, a couple dozen computers or so.

The tech explosion is a sea change for international development in general, but it’s radically disruptive for those of us in democracy development. This revolution is the focus of this blog.

NDI has been working in this field for 25 years; we don’t have all the answers, but we do have a lot of ideas and experience.

Those of us in international development are here because of that idealistic dream of saving the world. We hope that by sharing some of our ideas and experiences we can help everyone get a bit closer to that goal.

If you’re here, you’ve probably got great ideas and innovative experiences, too. We at NDI hope to open a conversation among all the people working on this intersection of technology and democracy - development pros in DC, techies from IT firms, academics pondering in their ivory towers, implementers on the ground, app developers in Nairobi. READ MORE »

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