Last weekend I participated in Hack the Change, a social impact hackathon that provided a space for developers, engineers, social entrepreneurs and NGOs to hack “the change you wish to see in the world.”
I am a longtime voting rights activist so I was particularly interested in problems related to democracy enhancement.
Ben Brockman, a former intern with the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State, shared the problem of protecting government actors in areas marred by election-related violence. There is also concern about the security of election observers organized by NGOs such as the Carter Center, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
In addition to keeping track of American citizens, there is the challenge of collecting data on what’s happening in the field before the election, on Election Day and post-election.
I have firsthand experience with the problem. During an election observation mission to Ethiopia, I was teamed with observers from Switzerland. We were two hours outside of Addis Ababa when the Swiss embassy ordered them to stay where they were because of banditry along the main road to Addis. I had a flight to catch so I commandeered their car and prayed nothing happened.
As the driver pulled into the driveway of the Hilton Hotel, I noticed some Americans had already boarded the bus to the airport. The head of the delegation apologized and said they had no way to contact me.
While we were hacking away, police in Missouri were showing some GOP caucus-goers the door.
I was reminded of Winston Churchill’s observation that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”
My team presented Monitor Squared.