Seize the Day, Seize the Data: Tech-Enabled Moments of Opportunity in Closed Societies

The abrupt fall of an authoritarian regime often surprises the world with apparent suddenness.  Given the right moment of opportunity, skillfully applied pressure can prove a thuggish regime surprisingly brittle. However, these moments are prepared through a long struggle for democratic rights within a closed society. Technology can help create these openings, organize activists, document abuses and share information in the moment that the eyes of the world are watching.

Being prepared to seize the day requires more than tech, though: activists and citizens are most effective in political groups, using good organizing approaches. International development organizations, funders, academics, tech companies and others can help, but must consider the entire terrain - political, human, social and technical - in their efforts because liberation technology can land people in jail - or worse. Savvy authoritarians have inherent advantages in this "cat-and-mouse" game. 

This talk addresses the role of technology in fragile democracies and closed societies from NDI's perspective as implementers of democracy strengthening programs.