On November 13th, the National Democratic Institute hosted an online ‘Question and Answer’ session with Colin Delany, editor and founder of epolitics.com. Delany was a lead contributor to NDI’s new tech guide, which, among other things, aims to help parties deploy new information communication technology (ICT) tools to organize and reach out to contacts, increase two-way communication with citizens, and conduct more strategic outreach. Using the hashtag #Tech4PP, Hangout attendees submitted questions for Delany. The discussion covered different geographical contexts, including South Asia, East Africa and the United States, as well as topics such as online voting, and women’s participation. Using insight from the guide, Delany’s answers focused on how parties can identify opportunities to better incorporate new technologies into their work, as well as overcome common challenges they face in trying to do so.
At the beginning of the Q&A, Delany and NDI Program Manager Nic Benson discussed common mistakes parties make when implementing new tech-based projects. Delany underlined that it is important for parties to ask, ‘what’s the big picture goal?’ at the start of a new project, and then create a detailed plan that outlines all the steps needed to achieve this goal. Parties should also consider what features or specification they would require in the ideal tech tool. This can help them clearly articulate what need the new tool is meeting and align this understanding with the party resources needed to complete the project. Unclear goals or specifications can unnecessarily complicate this process for parties; it is difficult to build a new tool while still figuring out the features it needs. Doing these few things up-front can save a political party a lot of time and money later on.
The Hangout explored some of the challenges parties face in implementing new tech tools, such as making the tools accessible to those without an internet connection, to women, and to other traditionally marginalized populations. Both the Google Hangout and the new publication underscore that even though parties around the world operate in varying contexts, many challenges they may face in using new tech tools are similar. To help mitigate these challenges, parties must think strategically about their goals. Parties should also identify which tech tools, if any, can help them achieve their goals efficiently and affordably.
See the full Q&A above or join Delany and the NDI political parties team at the launch of DemTools 2.0 on Wednesday, December 9. Register to watch the livestream here.