Featured image: A journalist takes a snapshot of the December 3, 2015 Black Lives Matter rally at Minneapolis City Hall.

Today, on Human Rights Day, we focus on the importance of digital safety for human rights defenders around the world. In an increasingly digitally connected world, it is even more crucial for human rights defenders – whether activists, journalists or aid workers, to be safe online as they fight for the rights of marginalized and oppressed groups.

One of the organizations working to keep human rights defenders safe online is Security First. Established in 2013, Security First aims to make it easier for human rights defenders (HRDs) to work safely. We spoke to the co-founder, Holly Kilroy to learn about their work and their latest app, Umbrella.

What led to Security First?

My co-founder, Rory Byrne and I have both worked in the human rights sector for over ten years and, unsurprisingly, faced many challenges, but the primary one was always security.

Both of us have been thinking about the problem of simplifying security for human rights defenders for the past 7 years, since our work in Sub-Saharan Africa establishing and running human rights video organization, Videre, altered us to the gap between need and existing tools when trying to secure our partners.

As well as building the app, Umbrella, we also provide security training to groups ranging from the largest human rights, media and aid NGOs in the world to individual LGBT activists on the ground.

Why the need for an app like Umbrella?

While there are a number of instrumental tools for the security of HRDs, collectively, they face a number of problems.

  • Dispersed: It is difficult for HRDs to keep on top of all the various tools and advice available and to know what to use/do when.
  • Complex: Many are designed for users who are adept at IT.
  • Fail to address digital and physical security holistically: Existing tools and resources focus on either digital or physical security, but fail to link them together in a cohesive strategy.
  • Unavailable on mobile devices: The many tools or content available only on websites or in PDFs mean they often remain inaccessible to the growing numbers of people in the developing world accessing the Internet solely via mobile devices. (e.g. 70% of the internet users in Egypt, 60% in India)

So we wanted to build a simple, easily-accessible tool that brought together digital and physical security, and helped human rights activists implement it in a really user-friendly way. We’re basically building the tool we wish we had ourselves.

Tell us a little more about Umbrella

If you’ve got a security problem, Umbrella will help you find the solution.

Umbrella app

Umbrella’s content has been sourced from best practice security manuals and digital security guides, and provides practical advice for everything — from how to make a secure phone call or protect files, to counter-surveillance or what to do in case of arrest.

Lessons give simple step-by-step actions of what to do in any given security situation, and show the best tools for it.

Levels allow users to choose their level of ability and also get answers that reflect the level of risk or the type of protection needed.

Checklists help mark the user’s progress and share with colleagues what actions have been implemented or have yet to be done.

Tools recommended in the lessons can be tricky, so a tool-guide gives step-by-step help on how to set up and use the tools suggested.

A dashboard provides real-time updates on possible security threats, and alerts the user if there is anything in the vicinity that she/he should be aware of – from physical security risks like protests or kidnappings, to environmental or health security risks like floods or disease outbreaks.

Umbrella is free, open-source, and has cleared a security code-audit – it doesn’t track users’ location or take any personal data on them. Once the app is downloaded it can be used without data – the only feature that needs Internet access is the dashboard.

What has been the response to Umbrella?

This iteration of the app launched into public Beta stage testing in October 2015. After just a few weeks, Umbrella has 800 users and growing, and 96% of reviews on Google Play are five star.

A preview of Umbrella

A preview of Umbrella

The response from the human rights and tech communities has been brilliant. They’ve been so welcoming and supportive.

One Iranian journalist and trainer who must remain anonymous for security reasons said,

“Umbrella is very useful for my work. It really helps me as an individual and a trainer. It keeps me to up to date on the go. It also keeps me updated with the newest tools, which is hard to do with my busy job. Based on my own experience it can help my students effectively learn how to protect themselves – from whatever may threaten them.”

Matt Timblin, who is Director of Security at Human Rights Watch, said,

“Managing the safety of staff and collaborators in insecure environments, across multiple locations and facing an array of threats can be challenging. The prospect of an easily accessible ‘one stop shop’ app, such as Umbrella, that allows quick access to security advice is an exciting and innovative development in helping improve the security of those working as human rights activists, humanitarians and journalists around the world.”

What are you hoping to see Umbrella achieve in the next year?

Security First is now looking to improve and build upon Umbrella in a number of ways. We want to:

1. Increase Umbrella’s functionality
We want to add several functions to Umbrella: We want to help users streamline the process of preventative planning through sharable planning forms; We want to improve users’ awareness of the specific risks they face by improving the dashboard functionality; We want to integrate existing tools where practical and safe to do so; and we want to allow for greater tailoring and customisation throughout the app.

2. Broaden Umbrella’s access
Clearly, at-risk human rights defenders reside in more than English-speaking countries – we want to broaden access to as many languages as possible. We have already had requests for translation into many languages, but for practicality’s sake, we will begin with Arabic and Spanish before considering other languages. We also want to make sure that those with using desktops can also use Umbrella. We plan to create an iPhone version of the app once Umbrella 2.0 is complete.

3. Improve content and usability of Umbrella
We want to ensure that each how-to guide is as clear, concise, intuitive and tailored to users in the field as possible. While the existing app is highly functional, we want to make sure it is a pleasure to use, so as to encourage retention. We obviously need to ensure that content remains up-to-date and relevant. We also want to improve the system for users contributing to and collaborating on content.

Have you tried out Umbrella yet, what did you think? You can let Security First know by tweeting @_SecurityFirst. If not, you can test out Umbrella on Google Play. If you know of other tech tools for the digital safety of human rights defenders, comment below or tweet at us @TechChange.

Holly Kilroy

Holly headshot
Holly Kilroy is the co-founder & Head of Org Development at Security First. She has spent the past eight years building projects that leverage technology and civil society coordination to address issues of human rights and conflict. Holly previously worked as the Emerging Powers Coordinator at Crisis Action where she launched and led the emerging powers program, providing direction for both organizational growth and campaign traction across the BRICS. Prior to this she helped set up Videre, where she spent four years as Head of Development, framing the need for safer, more effective video documentation and helping to launch projects around the world. Holly has also served as the International Officer for Irish Labour Youth and worked in communications for CSOs in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the UK.

Featured image credit: Tony Webster Flickr Creative Commons License 

In international development, we all love to talk about our successes, but we need to celebrate our failures too. And failures are exactly what we will be celebrating at Fail Fest on Thursday!

As a celebration of failures, the Fail Festival looks at failures as a mark of leadership and innovation, risk-taking and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in scaling ideas from pilots to global programs.

Last year at the Fail Fest, we presented our failures with the TechChange band. We had members across our team perform with vocals, guitar, drums, oboe, and – of course, PowerPoint. We celebrated our failures, from connectivity issues when doing online training sessions on Ebola to unanticipated challenges of moving into a new office.

Fail Fest 2014

TechChange at Fail Fest 2014

We are excited to share our experiences in providing interactive training for social change with all the hurdles that come with it. We had a blast celebrating our failures last year, and we hope to see you at the Fail Fest on Thursday!




TechChange courses are designed for busy young professionals. In any of our courses, you will find yourself taking the course alongside international development field and headquarter staff, university professors and students, freelancers, and so many other kinds of eager learners. Today, we are excited to chat with Eva Erlach, who is a full-time law student in Vienna, Austria and also works part-time for Ground Truth Solutions. Eva recently took our Technology for Data Visualization course. We caught up with her to see how she was able to apply what she learned in the course.

How did you come across the TechChange course?
At Ground Truth Solutions, I am regularly tasked with producing reports on the perceptions of crisis-affected people during humanitarian actions. In order to visualize the data, I was looking around for the best resources to learn more about data visualization. I came across TechChange’s Tech for Data Visualization course on Twitter and my employer helped me pay for the course.

Have you taken online courses before? What did you think of the TechChange course?
This was actually my first online course and I was very impressed. The ability to interact with other participants in the course was great! Also, since the live events with guest experts were always recorded, and I could revisit the course materials for four more months, it really gave me flexibility to manage my time to make the most out of the course. There were a lot of resources — which is always better than having less — and that gave me freedom to either just get an overview of the topic or dig deeper on the topics most useful to me.

Are you new to data visualization?
I have actually been doing data visualization for a while, and mainly on Excel. I also knew of the other data visualization tools but wasn’t sure which ones were good ones and how to really work with them. This course gave me the insights I needed on different data visualization tools. It also helped me see that you can do much more data visualization just with Excel. Most of the other data visualization software tend to be expensive, so learning more about data visualization on Excel was great.

How did you use what you learned in the course at Ground Truth Solutions?
I worked on Ground Truth Solutions’ three reports on community perceptions in the Nepal crisis. As part of the Inter-Agency Community Feedback Project, Ground Truth’s role is to provide the government of Nepal and aid agencies with real-time feedback from affected people and recommendations based on that feedback.

Our audience for this report were agencies involved in the humanitarian response in Nepal. Since the agencies wanted to be able to print and disseminate the reports to field staff as well as email to their branch offices, we decided to do a pdf report instead of an interactive dashboard. I used R for the analysis and created the graphs on Excel. I then created the maps on Inkscape, and used a python script for the labels and colors.

A snapshot of Ground Truth Solutions' Community Survey Report 3

A snapshot of Ground Truth Solutions’ Community Survey Report 3

I was able to visualize the data in a better way because of the course. The reports are available on our website to download and we have been promoting it all over social media.

How has the course been useful to you?
The course really allowed me to understand data visualization on a deeper level, and to realize that we really need to think about the audience for any visualizations you work on and the kind of message you are trying to communicate through the visualization.

Would you recommend this course to a friend or colleague?

Interested in learning more about how to use technology for your organization’s data visualization needs? We start our next Technology for Data Visualization online course on Monday, November 23! Join participants like Eva in this four-week online course!

About Eva
Eva Erlach is a program analyst at Ground Truth Solutions. The aim of Ground Truth is to support humanitarian actors to systematically listen and respond to the voices of affected people. Eva holds an undergraduate degree in Development Studies and is currently finishing her law degree at University of Vienna, specializing in human rights. She has volunteered on social projects in India and Uganda and has experience in the field of asylum law and domestic violence.

Social media has become a very important diplomacy tool to engage with the public. Realizing the evolving nature of diplomacy in the 21st century, the Italian embassy in Washington, DC regularly hosts their #digitaldiplomacy series to discuss the role of technology in diplomacy and to engage with all stakeholders and partners.

Today, there are tech tools, beyond social media, that have the potential to promote diplomacy and engagement, so we collaborated with the Italian embassy to discuss the other players in the digital diplomacy field. Moderated by our founder, Nick Martin, our panel included Sarah Frostenson (Vox Media), Heba Ghannam (State Department Professional Fellow), Sarah Heck (White House), Suzanne Philion (Yahoo!), and Jennifer Walsh (U.S. Department of State). Our panelists shared their experience about the impact that data visualizations, digital mapping, and e-learning can have on diplomacy today.

Here are a few takeaways of an evening of great insights and engaging conversations:

Digital maps can tell powerful stories

While important pdf reports may be buried online, maps can tell a compelling story understood by all.

The ongoing refugee crisis has affected many families, but for someone living far away from the region, it can be difficult to see its global impact. Sarah Frostenson from Vox Media presented how putting the refugee story on a map, like The Refugee Project can have a much bigger impact and urge respective governments to work towards a solution.

Mapping has been a great asset in disaster response. Digital maps have allowed international humanitarian organizations to collaborate and better coordinate relief efforts during disasters like the recent earthquake Nepal.

Online education can help bring equal opportunities to people across borders

In 2011, social media brought together thousands of social activists together in Tahrir Square in Egypt to demand change from their leaders. The power of the Internet to create a movement led the founders of Tahrir Academy to leverage the same tool to bring equal educational opportunities to the people of Egypt. Heba Ghannam explained that as the only online learning platform in Arabic, Tahrir Academy was able to influence other learners beyond Egypt, and in the Arab world.

Many refugee communities may not have access to these tech tools in the refugee camps, but the potential for e-learning to help refugees continue their education in refugee camps is undeniable. Heba Ghannam recalled Syrians using Tahrir Academy’s online content for their education initiatives in the refugee camps in Egypt in 2012.


From left to right: Nick Martin, Sarah Frostenson, Heba Ghannam, Sarah Heck, Suzanne Philion, and Jennifer Walsh

Online learning and engagement platforms allow the public to engage with decision makers and experts

E-learning initiatives like Tahrir Academy have created bridges between the Arab expat communities working at renowned universities around the world and the eager learners from the Arab world.

The U.S. State Department’s Virtual Student Foreign Service platform engages U.S. citizen students’ by harnessing their expertise and digital excellence in the work of the government. We are excited to collaborate with the State Department on GovUp, an online platform where U.S. diplomats from around the world can engage virtually with other diplomats and get trained.

However, whether it is in Egypt or the U.S., it is always very crucial to localize the content so that it is relevant and applicable for the local population.

An increased need for engagement between the tech and foreign relations experts 

There are tech experts and foreign relations experts, but it is rare that someone can influence both the sectors. After eleven years at the State Department, Suzanne Philion, is now at Yahoo!, where she is able to look at tech initiatives with a different lens. Suzanne and Sarah Heck from the White House, both stressed the importance of breaking out of organizational bubbles, and engaging with parties from other sectors. Tech companies and international organizations need to collaborate more to best use the available technology to meet citizen’s demands, while respecting their data privacy.


It was clear that tech tools beyond social media can significantly impact diplomacy today, but there are clearly some important issues to think about when talking about data-driven diplomacy. Diplomacy and decision-making are increasingly becoming more data-driven, and citizens are demanding more transparency from their governments. However, as more data is becoming available online, data privacy becomes an important concern for all. How do you navigate data transparency and data privacy? Also, online content available for all can help raise funds and help populations in need, but are also being used by terrorist organizations for recruitment purposes. Where do you draw the line?

These important questions are being discussed in the tech industry as well as the international relations and development industry today. You can continue the conversation on digital diplomacy by following the Italian Embassy’s #digitaldiplomacy series. We will also be discussing these topics in relation to data visualization in our course on Technology for Data Visualization this month.

Missed the panel? You can watch the recording here.

Over the years, TechChange has provided several professionals in the international development community with the crucial tech skills needed to make an impact in their work. Oftentimes, learning tech skills means first learning a software as basic as Microsoft Excel. We have all worked with Excel, but few of us really know its power to meet a wide range of data analysis and visualization needs. To fill this gap, we’ve created an interactive TechChange course for those who want to harness the power of Excel for Data Visualization.

Why Excel?
Today, Excel is still a critical digital skill sought for office and administrative positions, among others. Many companies still use Excel to manage their finances and human resources. According to a new report by Burning Glass Technologies and Capital One, knowing Excel can lead to a better paying job: 67% of middle-skill jobs demand these digital skills, and positions requiring these skills tend to pay 13% more than jobs that don’t.

In our Tech for Data Visualization course, participants were introduced to new software and tools to better visualize data, but many were also curious about how to use Microsoft Excel to do even more. Because of this, we decided to make a self-paced course that could be completed at any time and could you get these crucial skills in under two hours.

Intro to Excel for Data Visualization

In this course, you will learn the nuts and bolts of how to use Excel functions and features like INDEX MATCH, PivotTables, Slicers, and more.You will also learn key data visualization principles that will help you optimize your data visualizations to best communicate your data.

We spent six weeks creating this interactive course and we’re excited to make it available for you! You can take the course in your own time, and if you have around an hour and a half, you can complete the course in one go.

Along with going over some important Excel functions like VLookup, basic macros, pivot tables, slicers, to create both static and interactive visualizations, the course includes case studies of how two different organizations used Excel for their data visualization needs. You will see how D3 systems used Excel to visualize public opinion data in Iraq, and how JSI used Excel to create a dashboard for global contraceptive security indicators. By interacting with real-world examples, you will be able to see the potential Excel has in your own work.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the course details here and join the growing learning community at TechChange!

One of the things that sets the TechChange platform apart from other online courses is the network you are immersed in. Today, we are excited to highlight one of our alumna who took the network she built within one of our courses, into the incredible work she’s doing. Devjani joined us in our Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation course a few months ago, and her curiosity for the role of technology in M&E led her to take a deep dive in one of the tools she was introduced to in the course. We got to catch up with her on how the course has influenced her work.

How did you come across our Tech for M&E course?

I was on a year-long sabbatical in London from the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) in India. During my sabbatical, I wanted to learn more about the role of technology in monitoring and evaluation. I was looking for a course that would not only provide me a sound knowledge of the system but would also be cost-effective for me. So, after a few google searches, I came across TechChange’s course on Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation and immediately signed up!

Why were you curious about the role of tech in M&E?

NHPC’s power projects are located in far-flung villages, from Jammu and Kashmir in the North to Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in the North-East. The project locations are very remote without any infrastructure, roads, or communication, making survey, investigation and project completion very challenging. Due to the remoteness of these projects, we have often noticed that the socio-economic surveys were not being conducted very diligently. We have often found that there are lot of discrepancies and inaccurate data collected on project-affected families during Social Impact Assessment Studies. Manual data collection in these remote villages has been cumbersome, and the staff have to carry GPS, cameras and papers into the field. Sometimes, the affected villages are so far out that it takes more than a day to reach it by foot, and in that case, the data collected in paper surveys are re-entered manually into Excel sheets, leading to a high margin of error.

After the manual collection of data, the monitoring is done through site visits (once or twice a year) and the data collected by external consultants doesn’t always reach the NHPC, making it difficult to have baseline information on the families affected by the project.

I knew there had to be a better way to collect data and do M&E!

How did TechChange provide you with the information you needed to make an impact?

In the TechChange course, I was introduced to so many possibilities of ICT in M&E, but I was hungry for more and wanted to take an even deeper dive. From the various M&E tools I got to know through the TechChange course, I was interested in learning more about a data collection tool, Akvo FLOW. I had attended a guest expert session with Marten Schoonman of Akvo, so I reached out to the course facilitator to help me get in touch with him. Marten put me in touch with the Akvo India group and I was able to attend a five-day training session in India with the Akvo team to learn all about the tool and how well I can use it in my organization.


Picture from the Akvo FLOW training in India

I attended a 5-day training, organised by the India chapter of the Akvo group with 40 other attendees. Everyone came from diverse backgrounds; some were tech savvy and highly educated while others were handling smartphones for the first time. It was a great opportunity for me to really dive into one specific tool that I was curious about.

Tell us more about Akvo FLOW

Akvo FLOW is a data collection platform that is used on inexpensive mobile phones with an Android platform. It has helped me with all of the following:

  • Getting the GPS coordinates
  • Obtaining authentic data from inaccessible respondents
  • Surveying a greater geographical area at lower costs
  • Ease of obtaining data on the dashboard
  • Using it in areas where there is no mobile network
  • Managing a database of respondents who can provide loads of data that can be used for baseline studies and longitudinal impact assessments
  • Geo-mapping of sampled areas and use of media such as pictures, audio and video,
  • Creation of identity cards
  • Data analysis and evaluation

Since NHPC’s projects are located in remote areas all over India, we can use Akvo FLOW to collect data from all projects in a standardised format and have it all in the same platform.

Any advice for someone considering a TechChange course to break into the ICT4D field?

Today, ICT has become an indispensable tool to bridge distances and spread the seeds of development in the remotest corners of this world. For funders and development workers, monitoring in remote areas is a daunting task, but the expansion of ICT has now paved the path towards limitless possibilities, providing easy access to information to make informed decisions. ICT4D is not just about computers, mobile phones and the internet, but it is also about help, support and capacity building of people who are using them and linking them with the right communities.

Here are five reasons I would always recommend TechChange courses:

  1. Extremely helpful and cooperative course coordinators. I was totally new to ICT when I enrolled for this programme, so I was prepared to feel lost. But with the help of facilitators and guest experts, I could get hands-on experience with the Akvo FLOW tool. This has opened a new door of opportunity for me and I am excited to implement what I learned to my work.
  2. Course material is beyond just PowerPoints. It’s very interactive with plenty of networking opportunities, group discussions and presentations, live question and answer sessions, feedback from other participants, video chats, etc. making the whole learning process very engaging and enjoyable. There is plenty of learning opportunities from course participants as well, who are very experienced and coming from different parts of the world with different sets of skills and approaches.
  3. Courses are very well crafted and exhaustive yet comprehensive. Excellent study materials that are up to date.
  4. Connecting with guest experts who are leaders in the ICT4D industry. It’s very difficult to get access to such a range of good study materials and get to hear from the experts themselves.
  5. Courses are easily accessible. All the course material, even live events are recorded and archived for those who could not attend the live sessions. Then, the course materials are available even 4 months after a course ends, which gave me ample time to catch up and get a grasp of the whole syllabus.

What’s next?

It is going to be a daunting task to introduce ICTs in our public sector, but I am going to take up brainstorming sessions with senior officers from various organisations and try to understand how to effectively use these tools in our crucial surveys and monitoring of community development and CSR programmes and also use the same for conducting Social Impact Assessment studies.

“Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way they worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow. To succeed, not only do your people have to change the way they act, they have got to change the way they think about the past.” – Former Chairman of KPMG International, Jon Madonna.

So my journey begins here. I know it’s an uphill task to convince the system to accept this Akvo FLOW tool, which opens a whole new world of data transparency and authenticity, and successfully integrating the tool in our various development programmes.

I would really like to thank the whole TechChange Team for giving me this opportunity to share my views and experience with you all. I am going to come back to them over and over for many more courses that would not only ensure progress in my professional development but also give me inspiration and satisfaction to work successfully in the field of social development.

Interested in learning more about data collection, you can still join our Tech for Data Collection and Survey Design course that started on Monday! Want a more immersive experience? Check out our Tech for M&E Diploma program!

About Devjani
Devjani has been working for over 18 years in India with a successful track record in the area of Environment, Social Development, CSR and Sustainability. Her experience extends across large hydro and mining projects within the government & NGO sectors and international funding agencies. She has travelled extensively in India to conduct a range of investigative studies. Devjani is a Registered PRINCE2 Practitioner and has a postgraduate degree in Public Systems Management with specialisation in Environment. She has also done a Post Graduate Certificate course in Environmental Impact & Assessment with specialisation in Strategic Environment Assessment.

Featured image: Isha Parihar from Akvo India trying to calibrate the GPS in the field

We are excited to welcome Heba Ghannam, a PFP Fellow (Professional Fellows Program) from Egypt! The Professional Fellows Program is a US state department fellowship organised by Legacy International, that brings emerging leaders from the public and private sector from around the world to the United States for an intensive five-week fellowship, designed to broaden their professional expertise. This year, TechChange is excited to host Heba!

Heba is an Egyptian social activist with a strong passion for democracy, human rights, development and social change. After earning her Bachelors degree in political science from Cairo University, Heba worked for Procter & Gamble for four years, travelling between Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria while doing lots of development work with local NGOs as a volunteer. After the January 25 Revolution, Heba quit her job to join the first Middle-Eastern incubator for social enterprises. She then joined “Tahrir Academy”, a non-profit online collaborative learning platform replicating the Khan Academy model for Arabic speaking countries. She currently works for UNICEF Egypt where her work focuses on adolescent development and gender. In her spare time, Heba loves reading, especially about anthropology, Sufism, and history.

Heba will be at TechChange as for her PFP fellowship for 5 weeks. Welcome Heba!

Last month, for the first time we launched a whole diploma program in technology for monitoring and evaluation. We started this program to give our community a learning experience that lasts more than a 4-week course, and to offer a quality learning experience without breaking the bank. We were excited to launch this new program and were excited to see our community’s response.

Today, we are happy to announce that we have over 90 participants enrolled in our pilot program! And they are joining us from 30 different countries, like the U.S., Bolivia, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Netherlands, Canada and more. This week, we are wrapping up the first course in the diploma program, Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation that ends with a workshop.

The next course in our diploma program is Technology for Data Collection and Survey Design that begins on October 19, where we will explore new tech tools, and learn how to design and deploy digital surveys, and how to combine active and passive data collection.

If you are interested in joining the diploma program for the second intake, you can sign up today!

Do you use digital currency? If you use a credit card, PayPal, or use a mobile money app to sell or buy things, then the answer is yes! There is a lot of innovation happening in the digital currency field right now and it is especially important for the global development sector. While it will be easier for more advanced financial institutions to adopt digital currency, the benefits of its adopting extend far beyond that sector.

Here is why the digital currency innovation matters to global development:

Puts power back in the hands of the people

Today, many people in developing countries rely on remittances from family members abroad. But wire transfers charge a lot in transaction fees (up to 6 – 10% for $200). Digital currency can facilitate a faster and cheaper bank transfer, removing the middlemen. You can see a difference even in domestic money transfers; In 2012, when the Afghanistan national police switched to a mobile payment service, M-Paisa, the employees thought that they had received a 30% raise. When they received their salaries in cash, 30% used to be “taken off the top” so, mobile money left no room for corruption and delivered their complete salaries.
For small businesses competing in the global market, digital currencies even the playing field between currency conversion rates, commission fees, and transfer limitations that come into play with traditional monetary systems.

Makes money safer

In the developing world, monetary transactions are usually in cash, which means money is also stored in cash. Holding your savings or spending money in cash can put you at risk for robbery risking the welfare of you and your family. Digital currency can take that worry away since you are not holding the cash physically. And with a digital currency like bitcoin, a unique digital signature protects every exchange so that there is no risk of fraud, chargebacks, or identity theft.

We have already seen the benefits of using digital currencies

Digital currencies are not necessarily new. M-Pesa, a mobile money service is a huge success in Kenya, with 83% of the population currently using the service. Bitcoins made their entry in the field recently, however, some organizations are already exploring its potential for social good. Organizations like BitGive are already launching initiatives to leverage bitcoin’s technology to benefit charitable organizations around the world. MIT’s Media lab launched the Digital Currency Initiative to bring together global experts in areas ranging from cryptography, to economics, to privacy, to distributed systems, to address key issues that digital currencies like bitcoin are poised to make on people’s lives in the next decade.

There are many more examples of how digital currencies are impacting global development, so we will be discussing them with some of the organizations leading this effort in our TechTalk tomorrow. Register now and join the conversation here.

We are excited to start our fourth iteration of our most popular online course, Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation! We wanted to ask some of our alumni who have taken the course with us what they got from the course. Here is what they had to say:

Ladislas Headshot
Ladislas Hibusu
Consultant at Zhpiego (Zambia)

This is the course that landed me a Monitoring and Evaluation consultancy job with Jhpiego as I approached the interview room with much tech knowledge and courage beyond my previous experiences.

Sahibzada Arshadullah
Sahibzada Arshadullah
Senior Manager M&E at Cowater International Inc (Pakistan)

This is a must course for the M&E practitioners, where they can get hand on experience using various latest tools and softwares necessary for data management, real time monitoring, and evaluation. Due to the ever increasing role of information technology in the development sector as well the beginning of the big data era, it has become important for M&E related professionals to exploit the latest technological advancement and equip themselves with the right tools and software to compete in the global market.

ARumsey CABI cropped
Abigail Rumsey
Content Developer (Technical Solutions) at Plantwise Knowledge Bank (UK)

The community created around this course is the most valuable aspect. There are people from all around the world sharing their experiences and knowledge, and learning together.

Niamh Barry
Niamh Barry
Global Lead on Monitoring and Evaluation at Grameen Foundation (Uganda)

This course was fantastic. The platform of engagement was the best i have experienced, you feel part of a community and it is so engaging (this is coming from someone who has lost interest in a few online courses before!). The facilitators, demos and guest speakers were well chosen. Do this course if you are just starting in Tech and M&E and if you have already started it, it will show you how much more there is to learn and inspire you to try new innovations in your work.

Robert Kolbilla
Robert Kolbila
M&E Manager, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (Ghana)

Enrolling in this course has just opened a new career path for me as development practitioner. I have been exposed to modern tools and techniques that is fast changing the face of M&E in development practice globally. I was a Nutrition Coordinator at my organization when I joined the course, and now have transitioned to M&E Manger of a $20 million project. This course has been life changing for me.

Want to be our next success story? Our next Tech for M&E online course begins next week! Save your spot now!

We have equipped around 6000 alumni with similar skills around the world in many of our other courses. To help our community grow even further, we are taking a step beyond a 4-week online course, and offering a brand new diploma program in Tech for M&E. Check it out here!