Five misconceptions about CivicTech

by Daniela Schmitzová

There are common myths around all innovative sectors, CivicTech is no exception. 

 

As CIVICPORT crew dives deeper into conversation with municipalities, we keep on encountering some common questions and misunderstandings. Here we outline the five most common misconceptions about what CivicTech is and who is it for according to our team:

 

 

1. E-participation (CivicTech) is only about Participatory Budgeting

 

 

In the Czech Republic and elsewhere the CivicTech sector is commonly referred to as e-participation and instantly associated with Participatory Budgeting. CivicTech framework allows to avoid confusion about Participatory Budgeting as the core process and instead brings focus on a great variety of tools and processes out there that can be enabled with CivicTech, including crowdfunding, community organizing, collaborative consumption, co-creation, data management and evaluation.

 

 

2. CivicTech equals Smart City

 

 

At the same time, CivicTech is often directly associated with the Smart City agenda. While the concept of Smart Cities doesn’t rely on local social impact objectives like CivicTech, there is crossover between the two, and thus possibly untapped opportunities for Civic Tech in terms of innovation, collaboration and even new streams of revenue from shaping the Smart Cities agenda. In this way, CivicTech also has the potential to increase the quantity and quality of civic engagement in the Smart City approach but it is not the same as Smart City.

 

 

3. Websites and social media can substitute Civic Tech

 

 

Is Facebook CivicTech? What about SnapChat? These tools most certainly can be used in facilitating communication but the dividing line comes back to the question whether this technology was designed to improve the public good. Even though these services can help activate citizens, their mission is different from the CivicTech tools. They were not designed for facilitation of city data, co-creation, municipal decision-making or project evaluation.

 

 

4. CivicTech is just for bigger cities

 

 

On the contrary, the most effective uses of CivicTech come from smaller municipalities. Smaller towns can often overcome the gridlock and regulatory hustle much easier than many large metropolitan areas. Also, tight interpersonal connections help overcome the difficulty of getting things done. In the end, bigger or smaller, it is the ability to embrace new ways of thinking and doing that makes the difference.

 

 

5. Citizens don’t care for CivicTech

 

 

Many municipalities worry about their citizens not being engaged or being tech-illiterate and not being able to appreciate the innovative approach or even simply use newly implemented CivicTech tools. The biggest concern always revolves around the elderly who are not prone to easy adjustments. Although these are relevant challenges, they just point out the obvious – CivicTech is not the holy grail, it won’t solve all your problems but technology can be a useful means to an end here and there. If you set your goals right, and see that tech can help you conveniently reach them – use it but don’t push it just for the sake of tech.

 

If you want to know more about goal setting and ways to choose the right tools for your community, drop us a line at info@participationfactory.com.