Digital Development: Connecting People and Technology in Foreign Assistance

July 19, 2012 to July 19, 2012 - IFES

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Experts share their experience with technology projects.

The spread of information and communication technologies (ICT) around the world continues to impact international development. Leadership, in the donor community and recipient community, look to new technology to improve efficiency, streamline service delivery, save time and cost, and build trust in political processes. To achieve these goals, stakeholders must make informed decisions about which type of technology to use, how it will be used and the best means for implementation.

IFES hosted a panel discussion titled "Digital Development: Connecting People and Technology in Foreign Assistance," which covered incorporating technology in development settings and how ICT can enhance current support in democracy and governance.

Speakers included Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Darko Brkan, President and Co-Founder of Development Seed Eric Gundersen and IFES Chief of Party in Kenya Michael Yard. IFES Director of Applied Research Rakesh Sharma moderated the event.

Yard joined the conversation via webcam from Kenya to discuss ICT as a sustainable solution to development challenges. He highlighted texting as a widespread communication method used in many developing nations before it was a norm in the U.S.

With more than 75 percent of the world's mobile subscriptions coming from the developing world, this technology has proven useful in keeping voters up to date with their registration information prior to Election Day. In Uganda, IFES developed an SMS-based campaign to direct voters to the proper polling stations. This system reached 1 in 8 voters by Election Day.

Yard stressed that technology should serve the goals of elections, not alter goals in order to implement new innovation.

Next, Brkan discussed the role of ICT in social movements. His presentation included examples from his experience developing public interest in social causes in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He said innovation and building credibility were key to creating a social movement. Researching the technological context before integrating online strategies into a campaign has been a valuable takeaway from the campaigns he has been a part of. "It’s not about technology, it's about making a change," he said.

Last, Gundersen discussed the value of open source technology, as it relates to exchanging information and visualizing data. Through innovative mapping tools, Development Seed has been able to better explain complex issues in the regions they work. This has included examining census data between regions to better gauge ballot distribution and gathering real time data from food security organizations to prevent famine.

Learn more about IFES' work in election technology.

Watch the webcast  


The rapid spread of information and communications technologies around the world has transformed international development. New technologies are increasingly sought to improve efficiency, streamline service delivery, save time and costs, and build trust in official processes. But to achieve these goals, donors and local stakeholders alike must make informed decisions about how technology is used and implemented.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) will host a panel discussion on incorporating technology in development settings and how technology can further support areas such as democracy and governance. Experts will share past experiences with technology projects as well as perspectives on using technology to create sustainable solutions to development challenges.

Featured Speakers:

Darko Brkan, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy
Eric Gundersen, President and Co-Founder, Development Seed
Mike Yard, IFES Country Director in Kenya (via videoconference)

Moderated by Rakesh Sharma, IFES Director of Applied Research.

Lunch will be provided. Please RSVP by registering online.

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