Civic Tech is Not Sci-Fi. Busting Myths at the PARTI PARTY Conference in Bratislava

by Participation Factory

As partners of the participation expert-focused conference Parti Party in Bratislava this August, we had a chance to be a part of several sessions as speakers. One of them was a session on Civic Tech.

Although in recent years Slovakia has seen significant growth in participatory planning at both regional and municipal levels with a number of experienced participatory professionals managing various projects, there’s a notable gap when it comes to utilising opportunities to employ the Civic Tech tools. Often, the use of technology in these initiatives is limited to familiar platforms like Google Forms, Slack, and rudimentary survey sites. Recognizing this, our mission was to dig deeper and unveil the potential of the Civic Tech landscape.

Together with the participants, we discussed processes and projects Civic Tech can be used in as well as advantages and myths about digital participation. To demonstrate the width of the utilisation of the tools in the participative processes, we also showcased various tools from Europe, including complex all-in-one platforms that are able to add a digital layer to most of the participative processes as well as niche tools focused on specific functions and use cases such as community mapping, surveying, consultations, or participatory budgeting. 

A significant part of our session centred on the challenges and the question: Why are regions and municipalities hesitant to embrace Civic Tech? Moreover, during our previous interactions with Civic Tech insiders, we identified and shared key challenges that tech providers face when cooperating with the public sector. Among the recommendations of the Civic Tech companies to the public sector are:

  • Avoid complicated internal processes and bureaucracy.
  • If the Covid-19 pandemic forced you to digitize processes, do not take a step back to the analogue way of doing things.
  • Focus on improving your marketing and communications.
  • Avoiding the trap of trying to create novel solutions when effective ones already exist.
  • Be open to innovations.

Part of the session was also dedicated to current trends in digital participation, as in other technological fields, which currently is, of course, AI. It already is and will continue to be a central topic in the near future, as some of the Civic Tech providers are already employing AI in their solutions mainly for processing large amounts of data. We can also expect growth of the Civic Tech market in general, as well as increasing focus on security and privacy and mutual integrations of individual tools.

We are grateful for every opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with Civic Tech, as we see great potential in e-participation. It was no different with the Parti Party conference. However, our efforts are never over. If you too want to navigate the world of Civic Tech and discover the right tools for your projects, don’t hesitate to contact us!