How Technology is helping solve civic challenges

Technology is allowing citizens around the world to participate in solving local, national, and global problems.

The emergence of ICTs has transformed the current and future surroundings and models of development and coexistence in all of its fields. The adoption and integration that they have in more or less extent had, as well as the positive or negative impact they have been able to generate, is based on their role as binding agents, ones capable of generating products and processes that can be attributed to actions and results of innovation.

Civil society — the network of institutions that define us as actors in the civil sphere autonomous of governments — is supposed to serve as the leader in promoting diversity and social benefit.

Unfortunately, non-profit groups, academic institutions and philanthropic organizations engaged in social change are struggling to adapt to the new global, technological and virtual landscape.

Legacy modes of operation, governance and leadership competencies rooted in the age of physical realities continue to dominate the space.

To be sure, early adopters are already using technology to effectuate change at a pace and scale not previously available in the physical and digitally disconnected world. The marginal cost of delivery remains too high. But with today’s technologies, with support from the board and management to make it happen, social change at scale is possible.

The core assets needed today to advance social change — ideas, individuals and institutions — continue to be the primary ingredients. What is changing and will continue to change, however, is the way these assets are assembled to deliver maximum social impact.

Sometimes even the best-intentioned policymakers overlook the power of the people. And even the best-intentioned discussions on social impact and leveraging big data for the social sector can obscure the power of every-day people in their communities.

Over the last few years we have seen growing recognition of the potential of “civic tech,” or the use of technology that “empowers citizens to make government more accessible, efficient and effective”. At the same time, we are yet to witness a true tech-enabled transformation of how government works and how citizens engage with institutions and with each other to solve societal problems.

For organisations immersed in civic tech, we can become so focused on the “tech” of civic tech that we lose sight of the civic part of our mission – to innovate technologies which empower others to change for the better their own lives, communities, cities and countries.

The viability and growth of the civic tech sector depends on the sharing of assets and practices among the community. Applying network technology or platforms to meet the demands of diverse actors in the space and matching those needs with the supply of expertise and tools will be key to continued expansion and creation of meaningful impact.

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