Recap — Harvard Ash’s #Tech4Democracy Showcase & Challenge

| MSNE Staff


On Friday October 9th, entrepreneurs, technologists, social scientists and academics convened in an effort to promote technology implementation into government services. The event, titled #Tech4Democracy Showcase and Challenge, occurred at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government and was sponsored by The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a subset of HKS, in collaboration with HUB Week.

During the two-hour long showcase, 28 competing presenters actively displayed their projects with showmanship and eloquence to a boisterous crowd. Members of the crowd were then asked to “cast their vote” for their favorite projects. Simultaneously, the #Tech4Democracy team employed “professional judges” to survey the quality of the projects and give tangible feedback. The projects ranged in scope from “VetTrack”, a civic tech project that is working to navigate a broken system for our nation’s veterans, to “DoneGood”, an app that makes it easy to find business who share your values (i.e. going green, stand with workers, etc.). Each project was unique in so far as the project derived its origin from a different sector: housing, energy, voters’ rights, community engagement. This “uniqueness of projects” provided the audience with an unparalleled experience of understanding all of the ways in which civic tech can be implemented.

The most impressive part of the evening was the earnestness with which the Ash Center delineated the importance of investing in nascent civic tech ventures. While ‘investing’ traditionally has a monetary connotation, in this scenario ‘investing’ referred to the act of giving the civic tech ventures a place to share their ideas, learn from one another and receive feedback from a politically active and engaged audience. As avid civic tech enthusiasts, this message resonated strongly with the Microsoft New England team and affirms the approach we have taken towards encouraging the fusion of tech, government and democracy.

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