How will Civic Tech Evolve? 5 Illuminating Articles

When we speak of new technologies, there is an expectation of progress. It’s popular to think of this in terms of new companies or new experiences, but technology is also helping citizens to reevaluate government. Specifically, how we organize public services and provide for citizen engagement.

“A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one,” said Aristotle. Surely this is how it feels to advocate for civic technology. We can make our cities and our nation not just better, but greater.

There’s a lot to be done, but civic tech also brings obligations and responsibilities. Old issues will be exacerbated. There will be unintended consequences.

“The field of civic technology is poised to take off,” writes Matt Stempeck, Director of Civic Technology on Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Engagement team. Stempeck and his colleagues cite a convergence of trends that can unlock tremendous value for citizens and communities. To harness this historic opportunity they propose a four-part taxonomy of civic tech.

We love seeing civic tech implementations. In Chicago, government has taken an agile approach to developing Web and mobile solutions for residents. This is more than user experience. It is about product development and user outcomes. Sean Thornton, Research Fellow for Data-Smart City Solutions, explains how Chicago is integrating civic engagement into civic tech.

It’s inspiring to see how civic tech makes it easier for people to do business. Yes, this includes Web forms and online dashboards. But it can also mean creating an entirely new class of virtual products – as the nation of Estonia has done. Arielle Pardes at Vice magazine explains this innovative use of civic tech to help businesses start and grow.

It has been said that “Philly is to civic technology what Nashville is to country music.” However, success cannot be taken for granted. Philadelphia now has a new mayor, and organizational culture has changed. Juliana Reyes of examines how civic tech teams are defined by people and their ideas.

Civic tech is not just about the application of technology. To be of greatest value, civic tech must become more evidence-based – just like any discipline. Much of this best practice is yet to come, and applied researcher Rosemary McGee explains how civic tech “has some growing up to do.”

Meanwhile, we’re preparing for DataWorks 2016 – the first live open data event in Delaware. This is part of a nationwide movement, the National Civic Day of Hacking, and will be held at 1313 Innovation on Saturday, June 4th. If you appreciate this blog post then you should attend! We’ll save a place for you. Register at our Eventbright listing.

Written on May 12, 2016 by Joe Senft