DemTools: Tech tools and Approaches

By Jesper Frant | November 16, 2021

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Democratic processes have struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced democratic actors to accelerate their adoption of technology as traditionally in-person activities moved to online platforms. However, as groups conduct more work online, they become increasingly vulnerable to surveillance, advertising, and authoritarian influence. NDI is working to empower democratic actors with trusted tools and resources to protect from digital threats and make their work more effective in today’s digital reality. 

While these negative impacts of technology on democracy have dominated recent news coverage, myriad opportunities exist for technology to reinforce democracy as well. NDI has seen increased demand for digital products and resources for distance learning, conferencing, advocacy, programming, data collection, and more. Improved communication, data, and capabilities for organizing and advocacy have empowered marginalized communities and strengthened democracy around the world. A growing and global community of public interest technologists and technologies (also known as civic tech) are working to further democratic goals, often in stark contrast to some tech giants' seeming prioritization of growth, market share and profit over democracy. The current challenge facing democratic actors is how to utilize technology without having it used against them.

Over the past decade, NDI’s DemTools project has harnessed the power of open source technology – you may have heard DemTech talk about Apollo, Civi, Fix My Community and DemGames. Now, we’re kicking it up a notch by expanding the universe of DemTools beyond the tools that NDI directly hosts for partners through its DemCloud hosting service. The redesigned Dem.Tools website, launched today, is a searchable library of software, approaches, toolkits, and guides that DemTech regards as trusted resources for the democracy community. The trusted tools and resources contained in this library come recommended by NDI's technology issue-area experts, and have all been either created, used, tested, or identified as valuable by our team 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.

The materials shared via Dem.Tools will enable the Institute’s partners to be more effective at managing democratic processes at a distance and to better understand how technological change is impacting democracy. We hope this library will empower democratic actors to make more informed and effective choices about the technologies they use. NDI will continue to support and improve its suite of hosted open-source digital tools, but through this expanded initiative the Institute is helping to create a future where technology and democracy are mutually reinforcing.