Stefaan G. Verhulst recently offered some suggestions on how to “build a civic tech field that can last and stand the test of time.” Stefaan is a smart guy, connected, well informed, and his suggestions make smart sense of a messy landscape. But they also accept a fundamental premise which tends to go unchecked in international discussions about civic tech.
…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. In many ways, civic tech still operates under the radar screen and often lacks broad acceptance. So how do we accelerate and expand the civic tech sector? How can we build a civic tech field that can last and stand the test of time?
I think this represents a popular perspective, but would argue that there’s a hidden question begged. The need for a strong sector or community does not follow directly from widely recognized promise and lack of significant impact. I’m all for the exciting way in which civic tech can strengthen governance, civic engagement and quality of life, but would like to suggest that we might not need a civic tech sector for that at all, at least not in the sense of a scope of work defined by common interests. It might even be getting in the way. Continue reading “Against the civic tech sector”
Open Knowledge International recently asked for feedback on survey questions for the 2016 Open Data Index. This is great, and has produced a modest but likely useful discussion to improve Index processes for national research, as well as the resulting data. But regardless of how much effort goes into fine tuning the survey questions, there’s a fundamental problem underlying the idea of an international open data index. There’s a good argument to be made that you simply can’t compare the politics of #open across countries. Open Knowledge should think carefully about what this means when refining how they present the Index, and see what can be learned from the last 15 years of experience with international indices on human rights and governance. Continue reading “Apples, oranges and open data”