Civic Technology for Participatory Cities of the Future

Article by Francesca Esses: “As cities continue to expand and demographics diversify, it has become challenging for governments, on a local level, to make informed decisions representative of the local population. Through town hall meetings and public hearings, traditional means of public engagement are no longer sufficient in attaining meaningful citizen input to policy and decision making. These types of engagement methods have come under criticism for their inaccessibility, timelines, and representation of the broader demographic of modern society…

Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. History would suggest that pandemics have forced humans to embrace change, described as a ‘portal’ from the old world to the next. COVID-19 has created an unparalleled opportunity to reimagine technology’s role in shaping society. It is anticipated that a surge in technological innovation will materialise from the pandemic and the subsequent economic instability.

Concerning smart cities, the COVID-19 pandemic has been referred to as the “lubricant” for further development in this area. There has been a significant rise in civic tech projects globally as a direct response to the pandemic: organisations such as Code for Japan, Code for Germany, and Code for Pakistan have all launched several projects in response to the virus. We’ve already seen civic tech initiatives across Africa implemented as a direct response to the pandemic; the Civic Tech Innovation Network referenced at least 140 initiatives across the continent.

Civic technologists also created a comprehensive COVID-19 data platform available at, described as the first easy-to-use global repository, enabling open access to real-time data containing over 30 million anonymised cases in over 100 countries. The data curated on the site aims to help epidemiologists monitor the trajectory of the virus and track variants. A list of other corona-focused civic tech initiatives can be found here….

Restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 have positively impacted the earth’s climate, resulting in a pollution reduction, with carbon emissions falling globally. We’ve all seen the images of smog-free skies over the notoriously muggy cities across the world. According to reports, overall carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 7 percent compared to 2019. It’s argued that a more socially conscious and responsible consumer is likely to emerge post-pandemic, with a greater focus on sustainability, responsible living, and carbon footprint….(More)