Bring on CivicTech!
How governments can leverage an ever-changing technological landscape to better serve their citizens? Interested in taking part? We’re looking for ideas and people who want to explore with us.
If you’ve been paying attention to technology headlines of late, you’ve probably started to recognize a proliferation of new terms created to describe emerging technology-based industries, spun thematically around a traditional industry – think FinTech for technology applications in the financial industry, EdTech for education, and so on. This is evolution in action, as technology emerges from its own vertical silo – tech for tech’s sake – and rightly finds its way into everything else.
While these kinds of collaborations have always existed in some form, this time is different. This isn’t about incremental technology improvements anymore, but instead a time of increasing substantive transformation in how things get done. From driverless vehicles to artificial intelligence, the future is going to be different and continually changing. It is exciting for some, terrifying for others, and happening either way.
It is easy to bemoan how the public sector may be lagging behind the times technologically. Government isn’t really designed to be pushing the boundaries of risk and innovation, and we should be thankful for that in many ways. But it is not immune from the need and desire to change. As information becomes increasingly quick and easy to access from our devices, governments can sometimes struggle to compete for our attention, and technology offers an opportunity to improve those outcomes.
That’s CivicTech, simplified. It is an emergent space whereby technology is building new bridges to connect Community with what has historically been the exclusive domain of Government. It’s growing, and why shouldn’t it? The problems that governments are now grappling with far exceed their own capacity, and it’s pretty obvious to everyone that they’re going to need help and participation from society in new and different ways.
A Taste of Things to Come
There are new companies popping up every other week with all kinds of innovative attributes, ultimately aimed at enhancing our democracy. We’ve selected a few themes and Canadian examples within each to highlight as a means of demonstrating what is possible.
Governments Doing it Right
Governments themselves are reaching out in new and diverse ways, trying to entice community participation and contribution through technology-based platforms. While different, they all aim to create a civic innovation ecosystem within the communities they serve, which will hopefully lead to smart outcomes. Here’s a few interesting examples:
Industries Stepping Forward
Industry is moving into the CivicTech space on its own, spotting well-worn issues and gaps in government interactions, and developing tech-based solutions. In all cases here, technology is used in various ways to enhance community participation in traditionally complex government processes. For example:
Sounds great! Now what?
As a consulting firm, we are neither a government nor a technology application builder, but we have been an intermediary working for all levels of government in Canada and First Nations for more than 4 decades. We have been there to help them interpret change since our inception, and this is no different. We see ourselves as an interpreter, an accelerator, and a trusted advisor to government and First Nations, and we think we can play a role in promoting the responsible and impactful deployment of CivicTech in all the communities we work with.
In the Fall of 2017, we are just dipping our toes in the water, and there is lots more to come in the months and years ahead – a design competition as a means to showcase the Canadian CivicTech scene and our own version of a CivicTech Accelerator. We are also looking for ideas, partners, and governments of all stripes that are game to explore with us. Got an idea? Let’s connect!