We are thrilled to announce our 2015 Summer Fellows. We would like to thank everyone who applied for this fellowship. With over 1,000 applicants from all over the globe, we were astounded to see how many young, talented individuals are out there that are looking to apply their technical skills for social good. Narrowing down this incredible pool of talented individuals to four fellows was a daunting task. To those that were not selected this year, we hope you’ll consider applying again next year.

Below is the list of TechChange’s 2015 Fellows:

Ethan Bogdan
Nithya Menon
Sara Abu-Ghnaim
You Jin Lee

Congratulations to Ethan, Nithya, Sara, and You. We are excited to have you all join us this summer!

OpenTok helps us bridge self-paced content and real-time video engagement. If you’re interested in exploring our platform, check out our upcoming course on mHealth: Mobile Phones for Public Health, organized in partnership with the mHealth Alliance. Class starts on Nov. 12!


Generally speaking, most online learning is divided into two camps: Self-paced content (Coursera, Moodle, etc.) or real-time video webinars (Adobe Connect, etc.). The problem is that our experience indicated that we needed both self-paced content to accommodate the mid-career professionals that comprise most of our students interested in technology, as well as real-time engagement to provide direct interaction with technologists and practitioners. Rather than compromise, we set out to build our own online learning platform.

When we set out to re-imagine online learning for our needs at TechChange, we realized that in order for our learning approach to work, we needed to create an environment conducive to collaboration and co-creation of learning. Our ability to beam in experts from all over the world for remote interviews is crucial to to making this type of learning possible. We use a video chat service called OpenTok to power these engagements.

OpenTok is a flexible video streaming service that allows us to integrate live video chat into our learning platform without having to worry about the actual video streaming itself. OpenTok provides a robust application programming interface (API) that allows a developer to integrate OpenTok services directly into your website or mobile application. They also offer pre-built solutions that you can simply embed into a website, but the brilliance of the OpenTok model is in their fully-featured API.

We tried other video platforms before finding OpenTok, but none of them offered the flexibility and feature richness that OpenTok offers. Using OpenTok we are able to allow remote presenters to simply log into our website and start publishing their audio-video feeds to our courses in only two clicks. This has greatly increased the ease of use of the platform and made it possible to convene important conversations between experts and course participants from countries around the world, including: Libya, Pakistan, Kazakstan, Kenya, Thailand, Egypt, and many others

Due to the bandwidth and other constraints we face bringing together this global audience (our courses generally include participants from 20+ countries), OpenTok’s robust API has been key to our success. With OpenTok speakers and participants can easily toggle video and audio streams to conserve bandwidth. We also convene participant panels where small groups of course participants can discuss pressing issues and share their personal experiences. We believe this video interaction goes a long way to creating virtual learning communities and adds greatly to course outcomes.

More recently, we used OpenTok to power our live stream of the International Conference of Crisis Mappers 2012. We received an excellent response to this offering and are looking forward to using OpenTok to allow other conferences and events to further engage with the global audiences that hunger for access to these important discussions. We believe it is especially important to provide access and inclusion to these communities that for any number of reasons are unable to be physically present for the increasing number of important discussions happening at ICT4D events and conferences in D.C. and around the world.

Finally, none of this would have been possible without OpenTok’s incredible customer support and technical assistance. I’ve spent countless hours on their IRC channel getting advice and support from members of their tech team. A special thanks goes out to @digitalsai, @meliho, and @jonmumm and others at OpenTok for all of their technical assistance and invaluable support as we’ve developed our OpenTok integration.

The TechChange course on Mobiles for International Development starts on June 18. Sign up now!

Have you ever been stuck on the mobile version of a website and were unable to go where you wanted just because you were surfing on your smartphone? One solution gaining prominence is called responsive design, which uses proportional measurements and other techniques to display appropriately-sized content on any device from large displays to smartphones. We are pleased to announce that we have launched our new fully-responsive website with the mobile device in mind. Not sure what responsive design is? Try resizing this window wider and narrower and watch what happens, or if you have a smartphone, try loading our site on it.

1. Mobiles matter and your audience uses them

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of mobile tech (re: Blog Posts of ours: Thoughts on Mobile Money for Development, FrontlineSMS and Technological Responsibility, Risk and Rewards of Mobile Technology in Governance Deployment), and mobile internet users are projected to surpass desktop users by 2015. Furthermore, Jon Evans of TechCrunch predicted that in five years most Sub-Saharan Africans will have smartphones and Vodafone recently announced that they will make a high-end low cost smartphone specifically designed for consumers in developing economies. We tweet more than a dozen articles every day on new innovations in mobile tech, from the developing world to higher education. That’s why when we redesigned our website to represent our online identity, we designed it with mobile in mind. This isn’t just on principle; we’ve seen our mobile traffic increase 175% from the same period last year.

2. Because it can save your organization time and money over the long run

There are many ways to approach mobile, and in the end we decided that a responsive design approach made the most sense for our needs. Building a responsive site based off a common codebase limits the hours needed to update code for each mobile platform out there (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, and more). While tools exist to streamline these processes and create cross-platform mobile apps, like PhoneGap and Appcelerator, this approach seemed overkill for our site. Furthermore, even if you do develop a native app, with the increase of mobile web use,  your site will be much easier to find, navigate, and utilized by web searchers.

We’re obviously not the first organization to do this (and we’re a little embarrassed it took us this long to catch up), but we are huge believers in the potential for responsive design to broaden reach and shorten development times (over the long run) and we are happy to be a resource for others considering a move in this direction.

3. Because it forces you to re-evaluate your priorities

We decided to take a “mobile first” approach to responsive design, which emphasizes designing for the smallest and most constrained canvas and then building upwards. We felt that this would be a good way to sift through the many pages and multitudes of text on our former site and pull out what was absolutely necessary and most relevant to our users. There are many many reasons to go mobile first, but we found that this process helped clarify our mission and focus.

The last point is that we didn’t do it alone. We read forums, checked ideas, circulated betas, and then asked for feedback from tech communities to help us keep building our model. That’s why we’d like to close with asking you, the reader, for your feedback if/when you get a chance to check out our site — either on a mobile device or otherwise. Also feel free to ask us any questions by emailing info@techchange.org!

After all, any technology is only as powerful as the community that uses it.