Innovations in technology and social media have had a significant impact on democracy globally. Technology has empowered citizens to amplify their voices and hold governments accountable. But while citizens have begun to harness tech innovation, many democratic institutions — governments, parliaments and political parties — have been slower to react, often using outmoded processes to respond to increased citizen demands. Read more about NDI's approach to technology and democracy»
NDI has a history of helping create and refine technologies that enable institutions to be more engaged with citizens. When South Africa's constitution was approved in 1996, it required that national policy be sensitive to local concerns and that the national legislature in Cape Town receive input from the country's nine provincial legislatures. That process was crippled by poor communication. So NDI and the South African Parliament collaborated with Microsoft and the U.S. Agency for International Development to create NCOP Online!, a website that provided national and provincial legislators and staff — and the public — with instant access to legislative information. The result, dubbed "democracy at the click of a mouse" by a Johannesburg newspaper, created linkages between South Africa's first democratically-elected provincial legislators and their national counterparts, and established a tradition of using the Internet to make the parliament more open.
More recently, NDI worked with the Center for Research Transparency and Accountability in Serbia to create an online "Truth-O-Meter" to help the public hold politicians accountable. The website rates officeholders' public statements on truthfulness, consistency and whether they fulfill campaign promises. The site had more than 900,000 unique visits by the end of 2013. Read more about NDI's programs in Serbia»
Reflecting its leadership in technology to advance transparency and citizen engagement, NDI serves, with the Congress of Chile, as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership's working group on legislative openness, which seeks to improve citizen engagement in policy making. Governments, parliaments and civil society organizations from more than 20 countries are participating.
As part of its effort to harness technology for democratic development, NDI co-hosted a conference in Silicon Valley in 2013, "Governing Democratically in a Tech-Empowered World." It brought together senior U.S. and international political figures, tech company executives and democratization experts. Participants discussed how governments and citizens can use technology to collaborate on solving everyday problems. For example, they reviewed platforms such as India's iPaidaBribe.com, which crowdsources data on the incidence and nature of government corruption. And they explored how "open data" initiatives can improve democratic governance.
NDI's 30th Anniversary Democracy Awards Dinner honored "civic innovators" — 21 government officials, political leaders, entrepreneurs and civic activists from 13 countries who are at the forefront of efforts to use technology to expand citizen participation and make governments more transparent and accountable. Featured speakers included Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, and Toomas Ilves, president of Estonia.
To ensure that its programs incorporate best practices, NDI opened a Silicon Valley office in 2013 to deepen and expand its partnerships with tech innovators. Partners include large companies such as Google and Facebook; foundations and social impact investors such as Google.org and Omidyar Network; start-ups such as Telerivet and Crimson Hexagon; and academic partners such as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.