Caption: Chiheb delivers his final presentation on NDI, Tunisian Governance, and the importance of technology.

NDI, Tunisian Governance, and the Importance of Technology

Reflections from 2016 Visiting Fellow, Chiheb Bouchnak

I have been working on e-government strategies formulation and implementation for over ten years within the Tunisian public sector. I am also head of the Tunisian eGovernment Society, an NGO that is dedicated to promoting the implementation of evidence-based policies to transform the public sector through digital technology. I also organized a number of activities that addressed these issues including Tunisia's 2015 Hackathon ‘AppsForDemocracy’.

I believe that democracy and transparency are still in their early stages in Tunisia, and that both young professionals and entrepreneurs) should continue to engage in order to go deeper and faster in promoting openness.

As a visiting fellow in Washington (May 2016), I aimed to learn how communities work together and involve citizens in the decision making process to find a model to use in my local community. I also tried to figure out what initiatives can be effectively implemented to promote open government and open data at local levels  with real impact, and how to coordinate these efforts across various actors in and out of government, civil society and the private sector. 

My placement at NDI gave me an unprecedented opportunity to do so. NDI has developed unique experience and knowledge about how citizen participation and open government can be effective. The organization’s interest ranges from gender equality to elections and from technology to political inclusion of marginalized groups. NDI has multiple offices in different countries around the world making it look, for me, like ‘a small UN’. It was very instructive for me to talk to people from the different thematic and regional divisions and to take part at a number of the staff meetings.

I am also really grateful to the NDI team for being so kind and helpful to me and for setting up a lot of interesting meetings (ex. Open Gov Hub) where I had the chance to meet inspirational leaders from the US Government and civil society. Finally, when at the NDI, I mostly focused on NDI’s DemTools Democracy Toolkit. DemTools is comprised of six open-source software packages that are intended to provide civic and political organizations with the resources they need to effectively communicate with citizens and decision-makers. I found the Civi Tool to be the most interesting, especially in regards to the Tunisian context.

Civi is a CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) System aiming at improving citizen engagement and involvement in politics and public life looks to have a great potential of success. I have been working on understanding how the application technically works and, back home, I will keeping working on it to try to implement it with the assistance of the NDItech and Governance team.