“Civic tech is a great potential solution, but it is a solution that is vulnerable to being monopolised by elites if we don’t try to push the service beyond its traditional user base.”
This was the conclusion drawn by Rebecca Rumbul, head of Research at mySociety, a UK not-for-profit social company, during the Personal Democracy Forum Poland, which took place in Gdansk, Poland in March.
“Civic Tech is a kind of digital space between government and citizens. A digital space that provides tools which encourage citizen participation in politics”, she said. Rumbul noted that “we have a lot of assumptions about civic tech: that it helps create better communities, that it makes it easy to ask for information that affects people’s lives.” “We also think that with civic tech, we are building interfaces that are easy for everyone to use”, that also have offline benefits, she added.
But today, not everyone uses digital solutions and older people are in the minority of users, as are those on lower incomes, she said, adding that “civic tech is obviously not currently a universal solution.”
Should be accessible to all citizens
Because “if civic tech is to be any kind of solution, it needs to be accessible and relevant to all citizens, it needs to help citizens, regardless their age or skin colour” – this is something that can be obstructed by the digital gap between communities.
“We need to bridge the digital divide, because if we don’t do this, civic technology has the potential to make things worse and not better”, she said, adding that everybody should be equal facing technology.
That said, people using civic tech believe in it. It gives people confidence that they are able to do something, she concluded.