Blockchain and the Public Trust

Attendees at the 2017 Blockchain Summit. From left to right as Heidi Pease from UCLA Blockchain Lab; Saadia Madsbjerg from Rockefeller (in front); Roya Mahboob (mic); Stela Mocan of World Bank.

In late July, a broad range of technology, business, philanthropy and policy leaders from around the world gathered at the third annual Blockchain Summit. This was no ordinary technology conference. First, nearly half the attendees were women; and second, the discussion centered less on technology and more on practical ways these new blockchain-based technology tools can be used for the public good.

Simply put, “blockchain” is a type of database used to store and keep public records. Changes to any records are automatically and permanently tracked and identical copies are stored in multiple locations. It is often described as a decentralized and distributed bookkeeping or ledger system designed to be a more secure and efficient way to transfer digital information.

Today, blockchain is best known as the technology underlying Bitcoin and other digital currencies. But the July gathering was devoted to exploring other non-financial industry uses where blockchain’s secure and verified digital record keeping also might prove valuable.

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How Smart Automation Can Be Used In International Development

Yes, that’s a cat in giant cat-foot slippers. Read the story to learn why it’s (vaguely) relevant to AI.

Artificial Intelligence is one of those buzzwords in tech that everyone’s heard, but few people actually understand how it can be used in practice. If you’re to believe Hollywood or Stephen Hawking, AI either means androids that are indistinguishable from humans (except for the inability to use conjunctions) or super-intelligent computers that could spell the end of the human race. After attending a Tech Salon on how AI can be used in international development, I can say with absolute certainty that it is neither of those things… yet. But the “commodification” of AI is making “smart automation” -- a term I quite liked as a useful synonym for AI -- much more accessible outside Silicon Valley. In fact, you probably already used some form of AI today without even knowing it.

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New Challenges and Opportunities for Democracy in the Western Hemisphere

Election workers count votes during Chile’s 1988 plebiscite, which ended Pinochet’s dictatorship. Source: Flickr

When I started out as a junior State Department diplomat at the close of the Carter Administration in the dark days of the Cold War, the state of democracy in Latin America was abysmal. Military dictatorship was the norm throughout the region. During my early State Department years I worked to support, sustain, and contribute to the so-called third wave of democracy in the Americas that helped make the Latin America region, as the Economist recently said, “the most democratic region of the developing world,” behind only North America and Western Europe.

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The distributed denial of democracy

Social media and the Internet have had a drastic effect on the surprise results of yesterday’s election in the United States, driving the spread of information—and misinformation—at times bringing voters together and, perhaps more often, pushing them apart. As the spotlight shifts off of the U.S. in the aftermath of November 8, it’s important to recognize that this is not a uniquely American trend. More than half of Internet users now report using social media as a primary source of news, according to a study across 26 countries, and more than one quarter call it their main news source. In developing countries where reliable news sources are more limited, those numbers may be even higher. As reliance on social media and the Internet for news and information rises exponentially, political discourse is also rapidly moving online. A free and open Internet, where citizens can engage in fair dialogue and access accurate information, is thus critical to modern democracy and human rights.

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What the blockchain could mean for democracy in the digital age

On Monday, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) joined the Bitfury Group and New America to launch the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, which will work to connect governments with the technologists and resources needed to pilot blockchain applications aimed at enhancing good governance. The blockchain -- which is, briefly put, an incorruptible and public ledger made up of data that is stored decentrally, entirely distributed and interconnected -- is most well known for being the underlying software that was invented to enable the Bitcoin digital currency. While the future of the blockchain is still being written, it’s possible the primary uses will not even be for currency or financial technology.

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Innovating in World Megacities: A Search for Stories

Living Cities and NDI have entered a partnership to find and share the stories of innovators in world megacities.

Every 20 years, the United Nations gathers to discuss the work of cities and renew political commitment to sustainable urbanization. In this year of the third Habitat conference, there is a vibrant global conversation happening around poverty reduction and a “new urban agenda.” Innovation will be a critical part of that conversation, as leaders and policymakers look for the new regulation, new office or new technology that could pick the lock on an intractable problem.

The ability to innovate is absolutely critical if cities are going to meet the ever-evolving challenges of the 21st century.

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This Open Data Day, Sign Up to Design Icons at Our Election Iconathon!

First off, happy Open Data Day. To celebrate this day of data liberation, we at NDI’s Open Election Data Initiative invite you to to participate in our Election Iconathon event on Saturday, March 19th where we will create icons that bring election data to life. Slots are filling up fast, so we encourage you to sign-up before they’re all gone. Throughout our work we've found that images, often through infographics, can tell memorable stories about elections. So we'd like to invite you to help us create icons that will do justice to the data our election monitoring partners collect and publish.

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An Inclusive Process to Redesign NDI.org

This Wayback Machine screenshot shows NDI’s original website from February 22, 1997. We’ve come a long way! Click here to explore the evolution of NDI’s website.

NDI launched a project to redesign its website this week. The redesign presents an exciting opportunity to put a fresh face on NDI's work, while preserving the depth of content that makes NDI.org such a valuable resource. In keeping with NDI's values and in the interest of meeting your needs, we hope to make this process as open and inclusive as possible...but we need your help!

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Colin Delany Discusses Political Parties and Tech

NDI's Politicial Parties team released a new guide to help parties taking advantage of the opportunities provided by Information Communication Technologies (ICTs).

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.

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What’s New in DemTools 2.0?

NDI is launching a new and improved version of DemTools, a technology toolkit for civil society and government, on December 9 in Washington, D.C. We’ve put a lot of sweat, tears, and code (no blood so far) into this adventure and are ready to share it with the world. DemTools 2.0 upgrades and expands our existing set of tools, which was deployed by 82 organizations around the world in the last year.

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