Civic Tech: Solutions for governments and the communities they serve

Microsoft is proud to have been a capstone sponsor of the fourth annual Code for America Summit recently in San Francisco. Code for America’s mission is to build technology and organize a network of people dedicated to making government work for the people, by the people, in the 21st century. This year’s conference brought together a record number of government, civic and technology leaders from across the country to learn from each other and celebrate the terrific work of the civic technology community. The Summit highlights a point that we should all recognize: Civic tech is booming. Just a few years ago – before cities began creating roles such as “chief innovation officer” and municipalities started hosting hackathons – civic tech was virtually nonexistent. Today, it is burgeoning in communities across the United States and around the world – and the trajectory of civic tech is definitely upward, and the growth is moving fast .

What is civic tech?  Broadly defined, civic tech ranges from engagement between the city government and its population on social platforms, all the way to enterprise solutions that offer deep government IT problem-solving. The civic tech movement was fueled in part by President Obama’s December 2009 directive to put government data online. By January 2014, 43 U.S. cities had also put their public data online in the hopes of spurring start-up entrepreneurs and connecting more efficiently with their citizens. Every week in cities across the country, civic-minded technologists, designers and citizens participate in hackathons, app competitions and similar events to use open government data and build tools to solve pressing problems.

At Microsoft, we are committed to help communities navigate this exciting new landscape with our people, ideas and technology.  We don’t have all of the answers, but we know that technology can be a powerful tool for good — and so we seek to partner with hackers, technologists, academics, governments, nonprofits and others to address community needs through technology.  We’ve hired civic tech and innovation teams in Boston, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco and Silicon Valley to engage deeply in this work. We’re out in the community, and at events like the Code for America Summit and the Personal Democracy Forum. Most importantly, we’re up to the challenge of building more productive, safer and healthier cities.