Africa is quickly becoming an I(C)T hub, with Kenya in particular in the news lately. For this week's roundup, we're focusing on technology in Africa, so check out the articles we've been reading and share your thoughts with us in the comments.
The Kenyan government is seeking investors for the proposed Konza Technology City, a multi-billion dollar city that will host a business park, science park, central business district, university, and residential housing.
National Cyber Security Awareness Month is a good five months away, but now is always the right time to refresh basic security practices, especially for travelers and advocacy workers. We're always thinking about new ways to improve our security at NDI, so join the conversation: check out this week's security articles and resources and comment with your thoughts.
Even initially successful crowdsourcing projects can fall down when the information comes in. There's two main areas to think about: what do you want to do with the reports, and what do you want to do with the reporters? Finally you're dealing with actual humans - what are the security implications of your project?
The Reports Most people's response to your sincere citizen report is "who says?"
Did it happen as the person said? How do we know? "Veracity" is the relative truthiness of the information you have coming in. The good folks at Ushahidi have spent a lot of time thinking about this particular challenge, and their one-pager on the topic is excellent. READ MORE »
The recent Nicaraguan election marked victory for incumbent President Daniel Ortega with 62% of the votes. In this inaugural podcast, the NDI ICT team explores how technology was used in this electoral process to empower citizens. Through the Viva el Voto website, citizens were provided a space where they could denounce voting irregularities and learn about their rights as a voter. The website worked to strengthen civil society, and provide citizens a space where they could voice their concerns. Our podcast showcases the work of our Nicaraguan partner Etica y Transperancia who has worked in Nicaragua for decades to strengthen democratic institutions and increase transparency in Nicaraguan society.
During a speech at the Holocaust Memorial Museum this morning, President Obama issues an executive order that will allow U.S. officials to impose sanctions against countries that are using new technologies to carry out human rights abuses.
It's Emancipation Day in D.C., which, in addition to providing a few extra days to file your taxes, is a great opportunity to celebrate freedom. This week we're highlighting news related to Internet freedom and censorship, with a particular focus on a new House cybersecurity bill called CISPA.
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 »
Our team is making our staff aware (very aware) about digital security this week. Follow the hashtag #NDISecure to see what our staff is learning, and here are some of the other news stories that have caught our eye this week:
International fiber-optic cables have made the Internet more widely available to the African continent, especially in recent years. A report by Peter Lange reviews Internet development statistics in Africa, while The Economist has an informative infographic (and article) showing the state of democracy across Africa.
CIMA releases a new report detailing the role of digital media in the Arab world, one year after the revolutions.
One of the most common tropes in the world of development is the Training of Trainers, or ToT. Training is expensive; if you run the math it can seem terribly costly to give 12 people a grounding in, say, principles of party platform development. However, if instead it's Training of Trainers then hey presto! You're not just training 12 people; you're indirectly training perhaps 120, and they'll train 1200, and before you know it your aunt from Albuquerque will be eagerly calling you to share the basics of party platforms.
Suffice it to say that is easier said than done. Nonetheless, that's what I was attempting last week with a group of citizen journalists on the topic of digital security; here's a few thoughts.
Teaching is hard, as those of you who have done it before know. I've learned from the best and the worst (yes, I'm looking at you, Professor Goldfeather). In my case, last week it was doubly challenging to keep everyone engaged: if your audience has built their career on social media they're not going to enjoy entirely unplugging for you.
Training trainers is a twofold challenge:
They need to truly understand the skills.
They need the ability to pass them on.
To achieve the first we spent half our time focused on the content and hard skills. In this case, the topic was tools and techniques to keep yourself safe online (thanks, Tactical Tech Security-in-a-Box!). READ MORE »
This week I attended a panel discussion hosted by Internews on the role of the Internet in the Russian elections. The first part of the panel discussed the positive impact of the Internet, while the second offered a more sobering perspective and questioned its potential for effecting real change. Panelists included Maria Gaidar, Gregory Asmolov, Maria Snegovaya, and Matt Rojansky. Some of the highlights:
The Internet has been a useful tool for political organizing, crowdsourcing, and engagement, particularly during recent Russian crises. During the 2010 wildfires, Gregory Asmolov co-founded Help Map, an online crowdsourcing platform used to connect people in need of shelter, food, or clothing. Alexei Navalny mobilized Russian activists via Facebook to protest the government and eventually had 30,000 people on the streets. After the protest is over, however, there is a lack of organization and a strong sense of “what's next?” Institutions can maintain the momentum, providing the next steps to effect long-term social and political change. Golos is one of those institutions, having had an active role in election monitoring since 2002, and NDItech has developed more than a few crowdsourcing projects of our own.
Mexico has been called a dangerous country in the world for journalists by many organizations, but a new law could change that: the government has passed a new constitutional law to protect professional and citizen journalists.
This is a special Nowruz to anyone working on tech-focused programs for Iran: the Office of Foreign Assets Control under the U.S. Treasury Department has just released new guidelines on communication and other web-based technologies that can be used in Iran. Earlier this week, the White House illustrated that these services are of critical importance to Iranians, in order to keep them connected with their peers outside Iran, specifically stating, "We encourage American companies to make their software and communications tools available to the people of Iran to help bring greater access to the world’s knowledge and information, and to empower Iranians with the tools to make their voices heard".
Technologies that can now be used without requiring prior approval or a waiver include:
Personal Communications (e.g., Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Microsoft Live, Skype (non-fee based))
Updates to Personal Communications Software Personal Data Storage (e.g., Dropbox)
Browsers/Updates (e.g., Google Chrome, Firefox, Intemet Explorer)
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 »
Capacity Building - this term often appears in development project proposals and reports. It encompasses how partners learn and develop abilities and how their capacities grow throughout the life of the projects. This aspect of development projects is important because we want to ensure that the partners we work with are able to continue their efforts even after the project comes to an end on our side -- making this component of the project key.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to participate in a website management training for one of our partners. Our team had built this website last year and our partner was now ready to take over its management. This process encompasses a series of conversations to ensure the website was sustainable and built in a manner such that this hand off was possible. This included ensuring that the web management platform used was easy for others to learn in the future, among other topics. It also included in-country trainings to ensure that our partners had the necessary skills to manage the website. READ MORE »
Today is the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. In our round-up, we've got lots of articles exploring the various forms of online censorship that can take place in different countries worldwide, as well as some other compelling news stories:
Of our full-time team members, I’m the only female. But for those keeping score, we're 6 for 6 in hiring women to work on our team. Like my predecessor Katherine Maher, my gender isn’t in the forefront of my brain. And while it’s still true that there are proportionally less women with technical degrees and represented in the technology workforce, the number of women in the ICT4D, net freedom, and democracy and technology space is vastly growing. There’s no shortage of “Top 10 Awesome Women in Tech for Development” or “The 30 Women in Digital Activism You Should Follow on Twitter Right Now”-type lists, which leaves some big shoes to fill, whether they be flats or heels.
Last time we considered how incentives matter in crowdsourcing. This time we'll think about the barriers to participation.
So you've got people who have the incentive to assist in your big crowdsourcing project - great!
Unfortunately, there's a bunch of reasons why they might not do so, and if you don't think about things that stop your potential contributors, all the good will in the world won't get you the assistance you're looking for.
The most fundamental problem is simple knowledge. As the philosophers have put it, knowing is half the battle. If an individual doesn't have a clue that your system exists, they have absolutely no way to take part. This is one of the great challenges in places where vast swaths of the country are far from most advertising, much less a hashtag campaign on Twitter. A good example of effectively getting the word out was around Putin's romp to electoral victory. READ MORE »
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 »
Following a busy week of exploring Open Data standards for legislatures and a roundtable for a NED-sponsored program to strengthen technology for participation, here are some of the news-worthy events that we have been watching:
This week I spent a couple of hours working with our Latin America team on a project that allows citizens to pose questions to politicians and share information about candidates' positions on pressing issues through a web platform. These types of projects have been popular throughout the region. Peru, for example, has launched the Promesómetro website, which allows citizens to measure their representatives' promises and engage in online conversations on their progress. Chile’s Ciudadano Inteligente portal provides citizens with a wealth of information, from tools that allow them to follow their Parliament's debates to report cards on how politicians are progressing on their promises. In Nicaragua, the website Viva el Voto allows citizens to report on election irregularities and allows them to get historical data on election processes. These are just a couple of projects - many more can be found throughout the region. READ MORE »
The idea that everyone anywhere will contribute to your world-improving project is a powerful concept. The tantalizing vision of an army of unpaid enthusiasts doing all the work for you makes it sound like crowdsourcing will make your job easy, but successful execution of such a project has proven to be very hard.
I told you a bit about the long-term election observation work we are doing with ISFED, GYLA and TI in Georgia, and the fact that even their extensive networks won't have eyes and ears everywhere. Enter crowdsourcing. We're going to try to take the strengths of trained observer election monitoring and meld with crowdsourced citizen reporting to combine the best of both worlds.
The focus of my trip was to get this project rolling. We assembled the leadership of all three organizations together at a gorgeous hotel at the foot of the Caucuses, about two miles from the border with Chechnya. There's plenty of posts to be written about the excercise in cat-herding that is pulling together a partner coalition, but today I'm going to focus just on our discussion of how to integrate crowdsourcing. It made for an intense couple hours.
Crowdsourcing is the inverse Field of Dreams problem: if you build it, they may not come. There's a host of elements that need to be in alignment to pull off a successful crowdsourcing project, and technology is the least of your problems. Thanks to the clever folks at Ushahidi's CrowdMap project anyone can set up their own basic dots-on-a-map site in about 5 minutes. READ MORE »