Meet Civic Tech Scholar: Agora

 |   Elsa Sze

AGORA-FEATURE

Earlier this summer the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center-New England and Venture Café co-hosted a neighborhood conversation—an open meeting, a town hall if you will—to discuss the many challenges and issues surrounding the growing integration and usage of data in our local communities.

Government officials, entrepreneurs, local citizens, and corporate giants came together to brainstorm and discuss the big data issues that are impacting our local communities and daily lives. Conversations invoked an urgent desire for change, as such many e-mails were scratched onto napkins in hopes of continued dialogue.

However, e-mails are too clumsy, social media either too personal or too anonymous, and, most unfortunately of all, Venture Cafe coffee hour only happen on Thursdays.

Giving our civic conversations a home

Agora provides online townhalls for local communities. Named after the ancient Greek word for ‘open place of assembly,’ Agora provides a place for citizens to connect with each other and their leaders to discuss issues of importance to their community.

All the attendees were invited to participate in this online townhall to continue our discussions. Speakers, community leaders, and citizens have been tackling issues ranging from data cleaning to how to handle Freedom of Information Act requests.

An engagement gap

With the number of part-time hours worked increasing across the United States, we as citizens are busy having to juggle work, family life, and other responsibilities, leaving no time for us to easily engage with our government.

Our modern world does not offer time for a townhall meeting on a Tuesday afternoon at 4:30pm; but that doesn’t mean we are disinterested or apathetic—it means we don’t have time

Agora provides a place where we as citizens can have our voices heard. Where we as citizens can express the ideals that we expect our representatives to hold. Most importantly, Agora provides a place where we as citizens can do all of this while snuggled up with our favorite Surface tablet in between Netflix binges.

As technology helps us connect to the world around us, why shouldn’t government too?

Townhall for all

For many of us who care about our community but don’t have time to spend hours in public meetings, Agora is an online townhall that connects verified users directly to policymakers, making participation more inclusive and scalable.

To talk about data challenges you have encountered, join the townhall.

To learn more about Agora, visit our website.

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