02 Jan Defining Civic Tech & Where CivTechSA Fits In
Civic Technology or Civic Tech, like many sectors within the ever-growing Tech industry, is one that may not be as widely discussed as web development or cyber security, but is nonetheless important. These efforts can be defined as the development and or use of technology that enables the engagement or increased public participation in improving government infrastructure and enhancing citizen communications or opportunities.
Over the past few years, Civic Tech has been gaining traction and serves to bridge communities, city leaders, and technology. In order to empower cities and their citizens by making government more accessible, efficient, and effective. Some key areas included in Civic Tech are: data access, transparency, and utility; streamlining and or modernizing public services; and the creation of new channels for resident feedback or engagement.
Civic Tech can be broken into a couple of categories that better define the types of solutions that could be created and utilized:
· Citizen to Citizen (C2C): Technology that improves citizen mobilization or improves connections between citizens.
· Citizen to Government (C2G): Technology that improves frequency or quality of interaction between citizens and government.
· Government Tech: Technology that focuses on internal operations and systems that make government more efficient and effective.
The concept of Civic Tech isn’t new. And in 2015, the U.S. government invested more than $6 billion dollars towards civic tech initiatives. Many believe that the level of interest in Civic Tech will only continue to grow in the coming years. Which is supported by the growing number of Civic Tech initiatives.
As technology continues to be integrated into our daily lives—forcing changes in federal and local policy, healthcare, the workforce, etc., it is important that city governments become more agile and equipped to respond to the shifting needs of residents.
Despite the complexity of identifying and deploying Civic Tech solutions, there is a real need for cities to innovate. Every city can become more agile by taking advantage of their local tech and entrepreneur ecosystems and to see what can be done.
San Antonio, TX in recognition of this and has taken a big step to build-out a one-of-a-kind Civic Tech initiative with its CivTechSA program, a partnership between the City of San Antonio’s Innovation Office and Geekdom, a co-working space that enhances San Antonio’s entrepreneur and Tech scene. After spending months gathering and putting together a municipal Problem Bank, San Antonio has set in motion a 16-week residency program that will bridge the divide between government and industry, inviting companies—particularly, startups and small to mid-size businesses—to apply.
In January, each company that applies will need to address one out of seven civic challenges released with the City’s RFP. In March, a special selection committee will choose three companies to participate in the residency program, set to begin in April and end in July. Residents will then present their solutions to the City of San Antonio in a Demo Day slated sometime in the Fall.
But, San Antonio recognizes that it isn’t enough to just build bridges into the Tech and entrepreneur communities. In order to get the most impact from CivTechSA, there needs to be a holistic approach. This means tapping into other communities and engaging with students from middle school all the way to up to college/university. By introducing students to an entrepreneur mindset and applying civic engagement and Tech, San Antonio is laying the foundation for building out a powerful tech-talent pipeline, ensuring the community can benefit now and in the future.
For more information about CivTechSA and how you can participate, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.