In the digital age, NDI’s democratic partners need tools and guides to maximize their effectiveness and take advantage of the potential of the internet while protecting themselves from it’s biggest risks. The redesigned Dem.Tools website, is designed to help address these needs. The site features a searchable library of software, approaches, toolkits, and guides that NDI regards as trusted technology or technology-related resources for the democracy community.
Since the 2001 founding of NDI’s democracy and technology team, NDI has amassed a great deal of experience working with democratic actors to implement or adapt to a wide array of technologies. Through this work, the Institute has developed an ever-growing list of tools and resources that have proven valuable to democratic actors, facilitating their work through distance learning, conferencing, advocacy, programming, data collection, and more.
The launch event for the new and improved website included a demonstration of our reimagined Dem.Tools and a gathering of distinguished NDI alumni to discuss how technology has changed democracy, and how the democracy community can continue to help actors adapt and innovate. The event featured Matt Bailey, Program Director for Digital Freedom at PEN America, Anne Tsai Bennett, Founder of High Ridge Strategies, LLC, Sarah Oh, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, and Ian Schuler, CEO, Development Seed.
“This site that you have built will make it all easy for activists and good government actors to make informed decisions when working with technology,” said Tsai Bennett. “Making it easy for the user is so critical and so to have this resource is massive and really exciting. Thank you to NDI for pulling it together.”
The DemTools library is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, each tool comes recommended by NDI's technology issue-area experts, and has been created, used, tested, or identified as valuable for enabling democratic actors to conduct their work in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective way. Every tool included has already been implemented in wide use – rather than an early-stage prototype.
“People will use the things that help them accomplish their goals; they won't automatically select the tools that are the most secure or built by people whose intentions are good,” said Schuler at the launch event. “I think that's why it's really important to make it so that people are almost tripping over the tools that are going to help them to be successful.”
“I love this resource because I'm hopeful that, in a small way, it can help accelerate the ways that civil society can work with the government to make that differentiation between tools that take you down a really bad path and something that's actually going to help you achieve democratic goals and policy objectives,” Bailey added.
Recognizing that adapting to technological change is about more than just using digital tools, the site also contains guidance on cybersecurity, emerging technology, and other tech-related topics, paying attention to the particularly daunting challenges marginalized communities face online and in civic spaces.
“The problems and the experiences that marginalized communities are having online right now really are a bellwether of larger issues at the intersection of society and tech so it really urgently needs attention from all of us at a systemic level,” said Oh.
While these negative impacts of technology on democracy have dominated recent news coverage, myriad opportunities exist for technology to reinforce democracy as well. A growing and global community of public interest technologists are working to further democratic goals. NDI’s DemTools project – launched nearly a decade ago – played a small but important part of this civic technology movement by harnessing the power of open source technology to apply technology solutions to common problems faced by NDI's partners around the world.
Supporting use of these open-source technologies is an important goal and one that NDI continues through funding partners to do critical work. The full range of technology-related challenges that NDI’s partners face is broader, however. Moreover, this latest evolution of DemTools initiative expands the universe of DemTools beyond the narrow list of tools that NDI directly hosts for partners through its DemCloud hosting service.
A living resource, the constantly updated list of tools and resources that are shared via the new DemTools website will help to empower democratic actors to make more informed and effective choices about the technologies they use and a greater understanding of how technological change is impacting democracy. Through this expanded initiative, the Institute is helping to create a future where technology and democracy are mutually reinforcing.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.