In recent years, “civic tech” has gone from a little-noticed, niche movement to a growing and increasingly influential part of the broad civic community. More than 43 cities across the US – including Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville – have made their public data accessible to citizens, entrepreneurs, academics, and anyone else interested in what they can learn from, or do with, public data. By doing so, cities have made it possible for local innovators to help them deliver more efficient and economical services and to provide better opportunities for interactions between government and citizens.
Greater Boston’s innovation community has had great successes in working with government officials to empower and inform citizens. Apps like Citizens Connect, Will they tow me?, Localocracy and NearbyFYI are just a few examples. But there is an opportunity to expand the role of civic tech in our communities, to take on some of the hardest and most important problems that cities are facing.
To jump start a conversation on what more we can do with civic tech, the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center and The Venture Café Foundation are sponsoring a Conversation on Civic Tech on Thursday, March 27th from 5:30 to 8pm, at NERD. Be a part of the conversation by registering for this free event here.
Among the questions we plan to address include:
- What is Civic Technology?
- What problems should we be trying to solve?
- What is the role of citizen engagement?
- How do we make it easier for the technology community to connect with public officials and citizens about problems that technology can help solve?
We’ve lined up a group of exciting panelists to spark the conversation, and invite you to engage in the discussion. Panelists include:
- Kate Crawford, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research (Social Media Collective), a Visiting Professor at the MIT Center for Civic Media, a Senior Fellow at the Information Law Institute at NYU, and an Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales.
- Nigel Jacob, Co-Chair, New Urban Mechanics
- Carlos Martinez-Vela, Executive Director, Venture Café Foundation
- Travis McCready, Vice President for Programs, The Boston Foundation
We expect this to be a highly interactive session and the first in a series of discussions about civic tech. Partnering with the Venture Café Foundation, we plan to host conversations over the coming months to dig deeper into specific problems that civic tech could address, including transportation, public health, public art, and education.
In addition, @MSNewEngland is hosting a Tweet Chat, “Continuing the Conversation on Civic Technology,” date TBA soon. The official Twitter hashtag is #civictechbos, where you can follow the chat and engage with local civic tech leaders. More info will be coming soon.
I look forward to seeing you on the 27th.
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