aruberg's blog

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 »

Security Starts With You: Kids Edition

harmless, until she Tweets her famous dad's current exact whereabouts

We're back with our regularly scheduled programming after a productive team retreat last week. We highlight recent security issues around the world in this week's news round-up, from Russia, to China, and on to Alexa Dell's Twitter account.



Our team is on retreat today, so in lieu of a Monday Round-Up we have a few news items to share from the weekend and, of course, the necessary bit of random trivium. Enjoy your Monday and we'll be back with the Round-Up next week. READ MORE »

The Monday Round-Up: #SouthSudan and #opendata

South Sudan celebrates its first independence day. From
July 9, 2012 marks South Sudan's first independence day. We've been keeping an eye on the world's youngest nation since the vote for independence early last year - follow the #SouthSudan hashtag on Twitter for more updates and news on South Sudan's birthday.

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 »

How the Internet *really* works: The Monday Round-Up

How the Internet works. thanks to

In addition to forming the very organization that in turn produced a cool democracy-supporting non-profit (read: us), President Ronald Reagan declared June 25 as National Catfish Day in the United States. After reading this week's news round-up, celebrate with a nice piece of fresh fish.



The Monday Round-Up: "Dumbphones" Are Not the Answer

Gizmodo's not a fan of "dumbphones"
On this day in 1948, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted its International Declaration of Human Rights. Read the old-timey New York Times article here, and check out the modern-day Declaration on the UN website.
  • Violence continues in the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar, prompting the state to resume censoring newspapers.
  • During anti-Putin protests in Moscow last week, the websites of three independent Russian news organizations suffered crippling DDoS attacks.
  • Skype and other VoIP services are now banned in Ethiopia thanks to a new law passed late last month. Tor, which can be used as a workaround, has also been banned.
  • How safe are you when it comes to cyber crime?

Working Thru the Weekend: the Thursday Round-Up

thanks to
This week's news round-up arrives a few days off-schedule: our team spent the weekend in NYC at Personal Democracy Forum 2012. We heard plenty of awesome speakers and great presentations, which we'll be posting about in the coming week.

Everything but the Monday Round-Up: Catch-All Edition

probably not the best choice for democracy. thanks to

May 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, a day created by the UN following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. Check out the list of 10 things you can do to celebrate this day. Also on this day: The first Democratic National Convention was held in 1832 in Baltimore, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881, and most importantly, "The Empire Strikes Back" was released in theatres in 1980.

The Monday Round-Up: ICT in Africa and the Silicon Savanna

The LION2 undersea cable, and others around Africa (

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 Monday Round-Up: Think of Security as a Snuggie, not a Blanket

we suggest stronger security approaches than this

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.

streets > social platforms : the Monday Round-Up

a medieval democracy-seeker

Happy International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day! Today also happens to be Canada Book Day, which is less awesomely named but probably more exciting. After reading our Monday round-up, we strongly encourage you to celebrate with Canada and read a book, then share it with your friends.

A SOPA by any other name? the Monday Round-Up

spoken like a true freedom fighter
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. 

China and the Internet's Turbulent Relationship: the Monday Round-Up

artist's rendition of China's Great Firewall

China has been all over tech news this week - Anonymous China, updates to the Great Firewall, and censorship are among the top stories. Check out our China-related news and others we're reading:

Social Media Works in Mysterious Ways: the Monday Round-Up

The power - and irony - of social media

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.
  • A bill on "information-technology crimes" with broad wording and harsh punishments is due to come before Iraq's parliament in April. The bill could severely restrict basic freedoms and limit Internet use for Iraqi citizens.
  • Yoani Sanchez, a popular Cuban blogger, sees the Pope's upcoming visit as the perfect opportunity for the rest of the world to see the "real situation" in the island nation.

ICT and the Russian Elections: Does the Internet Matter? Highlights from Internews Panel

Navalny - prominent Russian activist

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.


Everyone's on Twitter But You: the Monday Round-Up

"Iranians: We <3 You" Israeli meme

Twitter keeps cropping up in the news we're following this week, but not just as an extended birthday celebration. Check out the stories we're reading:

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