IIn Ghana's recent election NDItech partnered with the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), an independent Ghanaian NGO focused on election accountability. Our goal was to increase information to citizens about the election. CODEO ran a large monitoring program where 3999 citizen observers transmitted incidence and election results data via SMS to a central data center - a standard systematic election observation.
CODEO also used social media as part of a citizen communication campaign to voters via a Facebook page where political issues facung the country were actively debated, and a call-in service for radio stations to broadast voter information (listen to the audio below this post).
We spoke with NDItech's Program Officer Chris Doten about this innovative mobile audio-to-radio project.
Ghana has a robust technology infrastructure and a great NDI partner that was willing to try some new campaigns for this election and invited us to work with them. There also was a little bit of funding in place to do new media voter outreach, and we were able to run with it on a short time frame. Additionally, CODEO has a very good reputation in the country and we worked with them before in several previous election. The staff there is exceptional and was a pleasure to work with. READ MORE »
Two recent reports emphasize the importance of the ICT gender gap in developing countries. These in-depth analyses provide statistics, case studies, and conclusions that clearly demonstrate why closing that gap is so essential to development and to increasing women's political participation.
Last year, the GSMA (the association of GSM mobile operators) and the Cherie Blaire Foundation produced a report on women and mobile technology. Intel, in coordination with Dalberg and GlobeScan, released a report yesterday that focuses on Internet access in developing countries. Key takeaways from each publication:
Closing the mobile gap for women represents a $13 billion dollar opportunity: With the gender gap representing over 300 million women, providing service represents not only an important step for human rights, but a monetary incentive to the private sector as well.
The top three benefits of cell phone ownership for women: feeling safer (93%), feeling more connected with friends and family (93%) and feeling more independent (85%)
The top five factors predicting ownership of mobile phone: Household income, urban/rural location, age, occupation, and education level.
Barriers preventing ownership of mobile phones: cost of handsets, no need to have one as everyone is local, and use of landline instead of mobile.
The report also includes: case studies of projects in Pakistan promoting female literacy, culturally appropriate advertising for women in Afghanistan, distance learning in Mexico, and providing input for women in Kosovo's constitution
Closing the Internet gap for women represents 50 to 70 billion dollars: Similar to mobiles, increasing the number of women online also represents a potential increase in GDP of $13 to 18 billion across 144 developing countries.
Internet penetration varies greatly among continents: while North America experiences 79%, the Middle East has 40%, Asia has 28%, and Africa lags behind at 16% internet penetration.
Access to the Internet provides both positive individual and ecosystem outcomes: including increased confidence and self worth, more opporutnities for education or employment, and access to networks, as well as economic development through GDP growth, gender equality through the leveling of opportunity, and diversification of markets.
Major individual inhibitors to Internet access: awareness of the content and use of information on the Internet, ability to navigate and consume web content, and an environment lacking in encouragement of use.
The largest ecosystem inhibitors to Internet access: network infrastructure, economic viability of Internet connection options, policies encouraging women to use the Internet,
New Year, new beginnings. The beginning of 2013 is a great time to try new ideas and improve upon existing projects. In this week's Monday Round-Up, we've collected a set of guides and resources that can help meet your resolutions to build your tech expertise:
While creating a Facebook page or group may be easy, maintaining and gaining meaningful impact can be difficult. The folks at Social Media Exchange (SMEX) recently published "Creating Facebook Pages with Impact: A Guide for Arab Civil Society Organizations", which breaks down several important components of a successful Facebook-based campaign or initiative. The main audience for this guide is MENA region-based organizations (Arabic language guide is here), but there are several lessons that can be applied to other regions where Facebook is the most popular social media platform.
The topics include:
Get to Know Facebook & Get Inspired
Lay Your Foundation
Assemble Your Team
Pinpoint Your Destination & Identify Who Can Help You Get There
Plan and Produce Your Content
Develop Interaction Guidelines
Publish & Promote Your Page
Monitor Your Page Performance with Insights
Survey Your Success, Tweak, and Do It All Over Again
The ever-prolific Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, not surprisingly, found in its latest research that social media is ubiquitous - at least among the young and the wealthier in the 21 countries studied. Social networking online is spreading fast round the world, and not just in richer, Western countries.
It's not just about Gangnam style. Very usefully, Pew Global asks respondents about the content they share online and while music and movies are commonly shared, there is also significant content sharing and discussion about political issues. The survey notes: "Expressing opinions about politics, community issues and religion is particularly common in the Arab world. For instance, in Egypt and Tunisia, two nations at the heart of the Arab Spring, more than six-in-ten social networkers share their views about politics online. In contrast, across 20 of the nations surveyed, a median of only 34% post their political opinions."
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.
Tech Tools for Activism (TTFA) has just released the latest version of it's handbook, with information and instructions for tools any activist can use. The handbook is not filled with flashy, sexy programs, nor does it give you THE one comprehensive answer that takes care of all your security needs. What the handbook does well, however, is to give you a simple explanation about why your security is at risk, and give you free programs that will help keep you safe. Both the easy to read layout and educational explanations make this handbook a good primer for activists, their partners, and for anyone who has a general interest in security while using communications technology.
After much preparation and planning, Tech@state came together last Friday and Saturday, bringing together some of the top thinkers and doers on the subject of election technology. The collaboration between the State Department and NDI featured not only the latest and greatest use cases but in depth discussion on how to ensure that technology supports organizations and processes in place. You can still see much of the conversations that occurred on Twitter via #techatstate. For those of you that missed the event, a number of the videos are available below for today's Monday Round Up:
This Friday features the Tech@State conference at the George Washington University, followed by the unconference hosted here at NDI. This year's topic is ElecTech, and looking at the agenda for the event, it will not be one you want to miss (you can register here). There is even a visualization to capture the excitement. So for this week's Round Up, we've included information about and pieces by a few of the amazing people who will be speaking this Friday for the event:
NDI works with the best citizen election monitoring teams in the world. As we've described in the past our partners are really good at getting the information in quickly. The question then becomes what you do with it - and traditional methods need to change here, too. I'm currently working in Ghana with CODEO, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers on just such a project.
These days, standard press conferences are not enough. Getting excellent data quickly is useless if you can't also turn it around and share it with the people equally rapidly. It's the tree-falling-in-the-forest problem: if your organization has the best information in the world but no one knows has heard it, what's it all for?
NDI's election observation partners often know better what's taking place on the big day than the electoral authorities themselves. There's an irony there: at the very moment when the eyes of a country and the world are focused on a particular election these partner organizations know exactly what's going on - and have traditionally had no ability to share it.
Well, that's now changing.
The most important information and analysis requires the complete picture to draw the most wide-ranging and significant conclusions possible, and that ain't happening until all the data is in. But the individual snippets of information still have value. READ MORE »
As technology closes the time between when events happen and when they are shared with the world, understanding what approaches and tools are the best solutions to implement in crisis response and good governance programs is increasingly important. During the “Technology for Crisis Response and Good Governance” course, which I took earlier this month offered by TechChange at GW, our class was able to simulate different scenarios of how such tools can be used effectively.
The first simulation we did was on how to use FrontlineSMS and Crowdmap to track and respond to incidents in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Each team was responsible for managing FrontlineSMS, mapping incidents and other information on Crowdmap, and going into the field to get more information and verify reports. Management of the incoming data at this point becomes the highest priority. Designating specific responsibilities to different individuals, and determining how to categorize data (reports to be mapped, questions to be answered by other officials, overly panicked individuals, etc.) helps to more efficiently handle processing a large amount of information during a short timeframe. READ MORE »
As you probably already know, tomorrow is the last day to vote in the Presidential elections in the US. As a organization that encourages citizens around the world, we would be amiss not to encourage you to go out and vote! As you've probably been overwhelmed with election stories, for today's Monday Round Up, we feature a mix of exciting news from around the world:
People experience political change and electoral competition not as a series of numbers and results but as an experiences and narrative in building a democracy. When collecting massive amounts of data as part of a systematic observation process, it’s important for election monitoring organizations to be able to tell a good story, often simplifying the conclusions to a few takeaways. These conclusions still need to be evidence-based and representative requiring an honest accounting and analysis. But in our experience, a systematic analysis told in a compelling way is something few election monitoring organizations are able to do effectively. Often, the story of an election is outsourced to journalists or political actors. Simple data-visualization can help - together with a smart and sound strategy on how to deply them. READ MORE »
Liberia has one of the least-developed communication infrastructures in the world. Literacy is at roughly 60%. The nation is still recovering from one of the most brutal civil wars in recent history. All in all, not perhaps where one would expect to find a burgeoning group of tech innovators and wanna-be geeks. However, walk in the door of iLab Liberia and you'll find just that.
Kate Cummings, iLab's executive director, came to NDI last week to share some of her experiences working in Liberia. iLab is one of the tech hubs that have sprung up across Africa following on the model from granddaddy iHub Nairobi, epicenter of Kenya's digital development. One of the most exciting concepts I've seen in the world of development in recent years, these tech hubs provide a supportive environment for the experienced to teach the novice, for ideas to percolate, for business ideas to bloom, and for new tools to be shared. iHub, however, has an unfair advantage - they have an in-space coffee shop with amazing Kenyan coffee. READ MORE »
In case you have not already heard the news, there is a new blog in town! OpeningParliament.org, the site for the network of parliamentary monitoring organizations, will feature conversations and news from the very active PMO Network Google Group and original content and analysis on parliamentary monitoring organizations (PMOs)." In order to celebrate this wonderful new resource, the week's Round Up features news items on increasing transparency.
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?" READ MORE »
If nothing else, technology provides us with a great platform for discussion. Ever since the first phone call, technology has connected us with one another, though the quality of discussion varies (and sometimes suffers) greatly. According to a new report by the Knight Foundation, technology can also help communities "shape their own futures" by improving the ways we engage with each other and with leaders in government. Today's Monday Round Up features other examples of technology and engagement:
Want to know what Americans think about the status of the US economy? There's a poll for that. What about if people in the UK would rather be brainy or beautiful? There's a poll for that, too. Pollsters in the United States gather information through all sorts of channels, be it mobile phones, websites, Facebook, and utilize lots of demographic proprietary databases to reach respondents.
But polling is not just for rich countries. Asking citizens for their opinions can result in powerful insights into new topics in lower-resource environments as well.
Voice of America, in partnership with Google Ideas, surveyed 3000 Somali citizens earlier this year. Asking questions about the constitutional review process in the country, Voice of America gathered information from Somalis using an open source platform. As Google Ideas notes on its blog,
"As the draft constitution has undergone revisions in recent months, Google Ideas developed a pilot project with the Somali service, Africa Division of Voice of America (VOA) to help Somalis register their opinions. Starting in April, with just a few clicks, VOA pollsters could call and survey Somalis for their thoughts on a new constitution, asking questions such as: Should there be a strong central government? Should Sharia law be the basis of the constitution? And should there be a requirement that women be included as elected officials? Over three rounds of polling, VOA used the internal site to collect the survey results."
Have you ever watched local access channels and saw a glimpse of a budget participatory meeting? Let's be honest: you probably didn't watch too long (unless you're watching Parks and Rec). Yet meetings like those determine where millions of dollars are spent and where taxpayer money goes. The 21st century has presented us with interesting alternatives to the old gavels and chairs formats. For today's Monday Round-Up, we'll be looking at other examples of citizen participation using ICT:
It's election day in a Georgia where a critical parliamentary election is under way. Dubbed as "a litmus test of the way democracy works in Georgia" by NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, it is a also a test for election-related real-time data of incidents and results. NDI has worked with three civil society partners in Georgia on an impressive election portal that records incidents at the polls, showcases historical data from prior elections dating back to 2008, and will be streaming live election data released by the Georgia election commission as soon as it is released.
The Elections Portal is a joint initiative of non-governmental organizations and NDI, namely the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA) and Transparency International - Georgia (TI-Georgia). Citizens can submit electronic reports about any electoral incident they experience via text messages or on the web, while ISFED is also deploying 1271 accredited and trained observers at precinct, district and central election commission levels who are reporting back to a data headquarters sample-based systematic observations. READ MORE »
Collecting election-related data provides information about the conduct and integrity of elections - critical events in emerging democracies. This data is collected from both trained observers deployed in a systematic manner and from empowered citizens contributing their witness reports to provide a lense on the election. Collecting such data in an election allows civil society groups and citizens assess and evaluate the process, mitigate the potential for violence, reform the legal frameworks for elections, and engage citizens in menaginful ways.
As I noted before, decisions on what tools and techniques to deploy for data collections in an election need to be driven by the intended goals.
NDI and our partners in many countries have pioneered and over the years greatly improved election-related data collection through trained and organized observers. Still still involves moving paper but also call-in centers, and, of course, highly efficient and systematic SMS-based reporting. Citizen reporting efforts with the goal of engaging them meaningfully have, of course, proliferated. Unfortunately, they also have often been plagued with the “Garbage In, Garbage Out” problem that has made it difficult to tell a cogent story about an election or come to any definitive conclusions. That said, we believe that citizen reporting can be useful especially in the period before election day to flag and highlight potential issues with voter registration and other preparations for election day.
We are exploring a number of tools and methods in our work to intelligenty combine both systematic election observation and citizen reports both prior to- and during an election. Some of these tools underused right now are:
1) Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
IVR systems (ex. Freedom Fone) enable automated, interactive, audio-based data collection and communication through mobile phone networks. They can be set to respond with prerecorded or dynamically generated audio to further direct reporters through a series of simple interactions. Their importance has been highlighted for reaching offline or illiterate constituencies, bridging language barriers, and allowing users to move past the 160 character limitation of an SMS. READ MORE »
So you wanna reach hundreds of thousands of people in the favelas of Brazil to join in a public process. to determine budget priorities. How to do it?
We’re talking about folks who may not have touched a data-connected mobile device nor a computer. You’d probably say that an internet-only strategy of capturing input would be doomed to failure and would disenfranchise the poor. Well, at least I would have.
The town of Belo Horizonte and the state of Rio Grande do Sul, both in Brazil, proved me wrong.
In NDI’s second Tech4Democracy brown-bag discussion, Tiago Peixoto of the ICT4Gov Program of the World Bank shared the tale of these communities and other participatory budgeting case studies. (For more information on the concept, check out an introductory blog post from Tiago.) During an engaging hour-long presentation, Tiago spun the story. READ MORE »
This is a guest post from David Caragliano, NDI's Senior Program Officer on the Asia team in D.C. You can follow up with David on Twitter.
Citizen participation in Hong Kong is on the rise, but the results of the September 9 legislative council (LegCo) election and the March 25 chief executive election do not fully capture the nature of citizen participation. Voter turnout on September 9 stood at 53 percent – just two percentage points under the historical record in 2004. Public outrage at the candidacy of Chief Executive C.Y. Leung and his push to require Moral and National Education (MNE) courses in Hong Kong schools has been difficult to ignore. However, under Hong Kong’s complex electoral system, political parties have tended to be unresponsive. Civil society has driven political messaging and mobilization, increasingly through online tools.
The candidacy of C.Y. Leung in chief executive election generated frustration among Hong Kong’s voters. His victory only reaffirmed the reality that fifteen years after the Handover a small circle of elites continue to monopolize the chief executive selection process. What if the Hong Kong people could directly elect their chief executive? READ MORE »