NDI believes all people have the right to live in a world that respects their dignity, security, and political rights—and the digital world is no exception.
Through its DemTech division, NDI seeks to foster an inclusive and global digital ecosystem in which:
- Democratic values are protected, promoted, and can thrive;
- Governments are more transparent and inclusive; and
- All citizens are empowered to hold their government accountable.
The Landscape We Face
As new technologies emerge, they can bring extraordinary benefits that can improve lives and strengthen democracy around the world.
Recent innovation is more than just connecting with friends on social media and making day-to-day life more convenient. Technology is fundamentally having an impact on democracy itself. New digital technologies and platforms can enhance freedom of speech, free flow of information and ideas, individual empowerment, and collective action. New technologies may also help empower individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized to make their voices heard, and advocate for more inclusion in civic and political life.
At the same time, illiberal actors are trying to use these new technologies to undermine democracy. Technologies will only continue to evolve and increasingly shape our day-to-day lives. More and more things will be connected to the internet (“Internet of Things”), and surveillance, virtual reality, and AI systems will become more advanced. Therefore, the challenges to democracy will only grow more complex. Ultimately, as we become a more digital world, we are entering an increasingly dangerous period for democracy.
Democracies are working together to ensure these new technologies are used and designed to support democracy and human rights.
NDI has been a pioneer and global leader supporting the development of democratic institutions and practices around the world for nearly four decades. As part of that, NDI has been integrating technology into its programs since 2005 and the flip phone, and has helped its partners navigate digital transformation. NDI has continuously adapted its approach as the needs of partners have shifted, and DemTech represents the latest iteration of that.
Today, technology is being integrated into everything NDI does—in every region and in every program. Through its long-standing network of partners around the world, NDI is able to iterate with partners to address evolving needs and challenges, and ensure best practices in digital tools, resources, and knowledge are spread worldwide.
How DemTech Works
NDI’s DemTech team is focused on proactively building a democratic digital ecosystem. Like the rest of NDI, DemTech’s work is partner-based. It does its work in collaboration with digitally-engaged partners and democratic actors.
More specifically, DemTech focuses on the following areas:
NDI helps its partners build, adopt and adapt tools and resources for partners to use that help make their work more effective and safe and that contribute to a democratic digital landscape. In authoritarian spaces, oftentimes partners are unable to use traditional tools, software, or platforms due to official surveillance and manipulation. NDI develops alternative methods for them to do their work securely. These tools enable partners to engage citizens securely, monitor the information landscape, streamline operations, and make their work more cost-effective.
NDI empowers individuals and organizations to advocate for a democratic digital landscape. As the rules of the road are being written for new technologies such as 5G and Artificial Intelligence, NDI enables partners to fight for norms and standards on a local, national, and international level that are democratic, equitable, and ensure all voices are included. NDI also convenes organizations that share these advocacy goals.
Throughout its digital work, NDI promotes an inclusive digital environment for women and other marginalized groups that have historically been excluded from political participation and processes. NDI helps to ensure that when decisions on digital rights and use of technology are being discussed, women and other marginalized groups are fully included. DemTech also makes sure NDI technology tools are designed for inclusivity and accessibility.
NDI leads a coalition of partners in dialogue with technology and social media companies to ensure the policies and standards adopted for their platforms are inclusive and protect democratic and human rights. The Design 4 Democracy (D4D) Coalition amplifies voices of national and regional civil society organizations around the world among tech industry stakeholders. NDI’s office in Silicon Valley facilitates this sustained dialogue.
NDI helps governments use technology to better deliver services to citizens and make government more user-friendly. For example, NDI helps place tech-savvy fellows in governments in order to innovate and improve government services, whether that’s streamlining provision of relief to disaster victims or crowdsourcing air quality data.