Why its Time for a New Approach to Civic Tech

Article by Anthony Zacharzewski: “…It’s true that there has been some recent innovation around this theme, including tools designed to support audio and video-based deliberation…However, the needs of modern participation and democracy are changing in a far more fundamental way, and the civic tech field needs to do more to keep pace.

For years, civic tech has focused on the things that digital tools do well – data, numbers, and text. It has often emphasised written comments, voting ideas up and down, and the statistical analysis of responses. And perhaps most tellingly, it has focused on single events, whether participatory budgeting processes or major events such as the Conference on the Future of Europe. 

Many of these approaches are essentially digitised versions of physical processes, but we are starting to realise now that one-off processes are not enough. Rather, civic tech tools need to bring people into longer-term conversations, with wider participation. 

This is where the next generation of civic tech tools needs to focus. 

Today, it is easy for a participant in a participatory budgeting process to use a polished digital interface to suggest an idea or to vote.

However, nothing on these platforms enables people to stay in the democratic conversation once they have had their say, to stay informed on the issues in their area, or to find opportunities to participate elsewhere. Even platforms such as Decidim and Consul, which allow people to participate in multiple different processes, still have a fundamentally process- and discussion-based model…(More)”