How can technologies be used not only in business, but also for interaction between the state and its citizens? Сivic tech concept can help city authorities better understand citizens’ needs and solve their local problems.
Government and society
Nowadays, when technologies are widespread, authorities are starting to use them to interact with society. Mechanisms for citizen participation in urban life have existed for a long time. They support the internal structure of the city, its economy and facilitate everyday tasks for the city authorities. However, these mechanisms are changing over time and now new technologies are being introduced.
How can the city authorities learn about the needs and problems of its citizens and quickly find a solution? How can they involve people in making important decisions for the city? How can we encourage the interaction between government, people and business to improve the quality of life in the city? With the development of technology, new tools are emerging to address such issues. Today we would like to consider one of such tools – civic tech platforms.
Civic tech concept
Civic Technology Platform is a platform for interaction between citizens, local authorities and, in some cases, business. Such platforms seek to improve communication between government and society. Their purpose is to increase the involvement of citizens in solving local problems and their participation in the life of the city.
The civic tech platform is a kind of virtual space, a common environment that connects different users and allows them to share opinions, problems and together look for solutions. This is a simple way to openly communicate with government representatives, as well as to find like-minded people.
Civic tech platforms can include different components and functions, depending on their primary goals. They can also develop over time due to changes in society and the state. This is a dynamic tool that develops alongside its users: citizens, government and business.
Opportunities for the government
Civic tech platforms make the government more open. They include open access to information about the activities of authorities, which in turn increases citizens’ confidence in the state. They also make it possible to access data about the life of the city and use it to optimize the decision-making process. Such solutions can serve as a platform for citizen voting on public initiatives, and they also provide an opportunity for collective decision-making. Moreover, this is a way for the state to receive feedback from citizens and answer their questions.
Opportunities for citizens
Civic platforms provide citizens with various opportunities for interaction with authorities and between each other. Using visualization and mapping, i.e. displaying various initiatives and projects on a city map, makes it possible to filter projects by their location. Citizens can find like-minded people in designated forums or in local communities and then jointly launch a social initiative. Information crowdfunding allows citizens to collect data from users to identify urgent urban problems and their further solutions. Thus, civic tech platforms form a community of active citizens.
Opportunities for business
For business representatives such platforms primarily provide a variety of social opportunities, ranging from financing socially significant projects to full participation in the initiatives proposed by citizens. Companies can launch and implement their corporate social responsibility projects with the help of citizens and government officials. In addition, businesses can use civic tech platforms to explore future opportunities for company’s development. They can use platforms with active users to search, identify and analyze current trends in society.
International examples of civic tech platforms
Civic tech concept is widely developed in Europe and the USA. We would like to present some examples of such platforms implemented in different cities.
Salford City Council offers a unique platform for its citizens. It is available exclusively to residents, as it requires registration by home address. This platform provides detailed information about various aspects of city life: infrastructure features, transport system, schools, waste sorting, etc. It also allows users to pay fines, taxes and various fees online.
Source: official website Salford City Council
In Paris there is a CitizenLab platform that allows users to propose and implement socially significant initiatives. Detailed plans and implementation reports are provided for each ongoing initiative. Thus, citizens can always monitor the progress of active projects. Also, all projects can be seen on the map, which makes it easy to assess how active various areas of the city are.
Source: official website CitizenLab
SeeClickFix is a system that allows Houston citizens to report local issues directly to responsible services. With this system one can state the neighborhood problem, the pit on the road or the issue with the district’s infrastructure. Several parties are connected to the platform at once, so the declared problem is immediately sent to the responsible organization to be solved. The SeeClickFix system also has a mobile app which provides a simplified user experience.
Source: official website SeeClickFix
The Decidim participation platform in Barcelona allows citizens to share ideas for improving the life of the city, comment and discuss other ideas and vote for the most interesting ones. If an idea gains a sufficient number of votes, it is sent to the authorities for consideration. After the approval of the idea, an implementation project is launched. Using this platform citizens also communicate online, make offline appointments, arrange gathering of communities and hold workshops.
Source: official website Decidim.Barcelona
Civic Tech in Russia
In Russia such interaction platforms are just being introduced. They appear not only within cities, but also nation-wide. Here are a few examples: the Active Citizen platform (Moscow), Beautiful Petersburg (St. Petersburg) and Change.org. Of course, the introduction and development of such platforms requires a lot of time and effort from all interested parties, primarily from the state and citizens.
At SAMSONOWA & Partners we have been helping Russian businesses implement and develop innovations for many years. We introduce best foreign practices and adapt them to the Russian market. The concept of civic tech platforms is one of such practices that we would like to see in Russia. It has great potential and can help Russian cities become better for citizens, local authorities and local businesses.
- Fedotova, O., Teixeira, L., Alvelos, H. 2012. E-participation in Portugal: evaluation of government electronic platforms. Procedia Technology.
- Walravens, N. 2013. The City as a Service Platform: A Typology of City Platform Roles in Mobile Service Provision. Nineteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems.
- Белова, Е., Дыба, Е., Новиков, А., Серова, Е. 2014. Механизмы сотрудничества правительства и населения города: систематизация мирового опыта.Московский урбанистический форум
- FUJITSU Report, “Government as a Platform”, 2015
- Governing Institute, “Getting Citizens Involved: How to encourage greater use of citizen engagement platforms”, 2017.