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The Challenge

As election observation has evolved into a normative practice, familiar technology – mobile phones, databases, etc. – has been adapted and applied to facilitate the collection, management, and analysis of observation data.  As new technologies emerge there exists ongoing opportunities for observation groups to use new tools simplify data collection, improve the verification of findings, and more rapidly visualize and analyze data.  Most observation groups are keen to apply new technologies, but lack the time or capacity to keep up with the latest technologies.

Technology experts can play a key role in strengthening observation efforts through the development or adaptation of new tools.  While many technologists may be willing and able to play such a role, few understand election observation or how to support observation efforts.  There is a need to bridge the gap between observation groups and technologists who may be interested in supporting their efforts.  Collaboration between observation groups and technologists could be of mutual benefit while serving a greater common good of strengthening the electoral process.

The Opportunity

On March 4, 2013, Democracy International (DI) will be sponsoring the first event of the FW {Forward}: Network: FW: Tunisia ElecTech Un/Conference at the Golden Tulip Mechtel.  With elections due to take place in Lebanon and Tunisia in 2013, the event would bring together election observation groups and technologists from both countries to:

  • Learn from international and regional experts about different observation approaches and new tools that could be adapted and applied by Lebanese and Tunisian election observation groups during the upcoming elections; and
  • Identify possible areas for collaboration on innovative pilot projects during the upcoming elections that apply new approaches or technology tools.

International and regional technology experts will remain in Tunisia on March 5 and be made available upon request for follow-up consultations throughout the day.

At the FW: Tunisia ElecTech Un/Conference, DI will issue a call for proposals from participants who wish to partner on a project for the 2013 elections.  Proposals that would be eligible for consideration would need to include a specific plan to:

  • Develop, adapt, and/or apply a new or existing technological tool to address a problem faced by an election observation group

OR

  • Develop, adapt, and/or apply a new or innovative approach using technology to promote greater electoral oversight and accountability

Participants will be requested to submit proposals within two weeks of the event and awards of up to 15,000 USD each may be issued for selected proposals.

The Event

The FW: Tunisia ElecTech Un/Conference will feature:

  • Panel discussion with observation group leaders about their work challenges, use of technology, and how they would like to use technology;
  • ElecTech Talks by international and regional technology experts on approaches and tools that could be applied to observation efforts;
  • Presentations by international and regional practitioners that highlight the practical application of different approaches and tools; and
  • Unconferencing discussions to enable election observation groups and technologists to identify areas for possible collaboration.

Confirmed international and regional technology experts include:

  • Eric Gundersen, President, Development Seed (USA), globally recognized expert on open data and data visualization and creator of Mapbox, an opensource mapping tool for creating free, professional quality maps.
  • Ahmed Kassem, CEO, Advanced Computer Systems (Egypt), expert in developing mobile data collection systems for use in election observation and creator of successful SMS Reporting systems throughout the Arab World.
  • Mark Malkoun, CEO, Completure (Lebanon), expert in smartphone and tablet app development and creator of Completure, a free application for citizen reporting for creating and publishing stories and photos in real-time.
  • Oscar Salazar, CEO, Citivox (Mexico), globally recognized expert in crowdsourcing and creator of Citivox, an opensource platform for collecting, analyzing and sharing data in real time via internet and smartphone.

A keynote speech on the future of technology in elections will be given by:

  • Ian Schuler, Executive Director, New Rights Group (USA), globally recognized expert in applying technology in election observation efforts and a pioneer in the field of SMS reporting systems.

Additional technology experts will be confirmed prior to the event.