Focus and the ROPI

I’ve written in other postings how the OSET Institute’s focus makes it distinctive – a focus not primarily on talking, but on making breakthrough digital voting technology that people can see, touch, and try. That focus is also the basis of the Open Source Election Technology Institute’s unique “giving proposition;” that is, what makes donors’ dollars here provide a higher – we argue demonstratively higher – return than other types of donation to voting, election, or politically oriented causes. Please give me the next 500 words to explain why.

Some people use the term ROPIReturn on Philanthropic Investment – for this type of comparison. Our proposition is that the ROPI for the OSET Institute is high because of real tangible results, with efforts to get them into the hands of people who can help make a positive difference in changing how America votes.

Said differently, the real focus is tangible work product – real demonstrative results that produce ROPI for our donors. You can read and learn all over our online community about the work and the results we’re steadfastly committed to delivering. The challenge is that systems by which citizens vote are the cornerstone of a digital democracy and must be designed and developed in full public view. And this work must be done in an open, collaborative manner by a not-for-profit organization working in the public eye for the public benefit for at least two reasons.

First, the work to make voting technology right is imperative – more so than another study on what’s wrong. Yet no one (we know of) is really tackling the difficult engineering problems of how to make digital voting technology truly reliable, secure, and trustworthy.

And that’s no surprise, because to properly design and develop this stuff, heavy lifting is required: it’s a complicated process of high assurance engineering and it can be expensive. And it’s not a particularly profitable undertaking – there really isn’t a sizable market opportunity to build a case for ROI. But that’s what’s required: fundamentally re-inventing how this stuff works without regard to whether it “pencils out” commercially.

If there are professionals re-thinking how voting technology must work, then they’re working in a less than highly visible manner, and not in a way we believe is essential to creating trustworthy technology; that is, a process with results that can properly withstand the scrutiny required to relieve citizens of their apprehensions.

Second, we believe the digital tools of voting are far too important to be left to the private sector to “black box” design and development that does pencil out for the sake of commercial advantage. And the complexities of digital innovation are too dynamic and too time sensitive to relegate to the necessary but glacial processes of government administration.

The only way to assure reliable secure and trustworthy digital voting technology is to design and develop it using high assurance methods in an open source manner, under the watchful eye of a meritocratic community, and held in the public trust. And after it’s been well vetted in the public eye, it must also pass muster with then established federal certifications. This is the only way “how America votes” can properly be re-invented and owned as an essential public works for the common good of a digital democracy. This is the charter and mission of the Open Source Election Technology Institute.

And therefore, we believe that the effort of the OSET Institute can provide a demonstratively high “ROPI” or return on philanthropic investment. Now you can see why we hope you’ll join us in this imperative cause.

O.K., your ball; let’s hear from you.


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