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Carrboro Firm Develops Web App to Register Voters in Libya

By Danny Hooley Posted June 28, 2014 at 8:51 pm

A web development firm in Carrboro was instrumental in making sure that people all over the sprawling terrain of Libya could register to vote in last week’s elections.

“You text your national ID and your preferred polling location,” says Strategy Director Hao Nguyen of the Carrboro-based web development firm Caktus Group, “and it just texts you back a confirmation. It sounds really simple, but it’s actually a highly complex system.”

Nguyen is talking about the company’s SMS voter registration system used in last week’s elections in Libya. Caktus Group was hired to help make last week’s voting process, which was marred by occasional violence, run as smoothly as possible.

“The Libyan General national Congress issued a mandate to create an SMS – a mobile-message voter-registration system,” says Nguyen, “because the population is actually quite spread out. A big chunk of Libya is in the Sahara Desert. They needed a way to give easy access to voters to register across a wide expanse of a very spread-out population.

“As part of the technology implementation, they had hired another company to help them find us, basically.”

Caktus Group had gained an international reputation through its mobile application specialty Rapid SMS, a programming framework that has been used successfully with The International Rescue Committee, UNICEF, and others around the world.

According to Nguyen, the initial phase of the voter-registration system was built in just six months. It was used in sort of a test run back in February, in elections for Libya’s constitutional draft writers.

Nguyen says that, as of last week, a member of Caktus group was in Libya monitoring the progress of voter registration, and the effectiveness of the SMS application.

“The voter registration system seems to have worked excellently,” says Nguyen. “They needed it in order to verify the people coming to the polling stations were the correct registrants.”

Currently, the system has registered 1.5 million Libyans, according to a press release from Caktus Group.

The company’s founding owners are Tobias McNulty, Colin Copeland, and Alexander Lemann, a group of friends that had attended Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana together.

Caktus Group began life in 2007 with a small group of people working out of a cooperative space in Carrboro.

The company has grown to 20 people, and its own office on Lloyd Street.

Soon, the company will move to Morris Street in Downtown Durham.

“We’re growing so much, and so quickly, we actually had to buy a building in Durham,” says Nguyen. “We couldn’t find a space that was quite large enough for us.”

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