mySociety has published a report as a result of the Civic Tech Cities project, attempting to shed light on one of the more opaque forms of civic technology implementation, namely, the tech developed and implemented by public institutions in response to their own assessment of service-user and citizen needs. This project was designed to examine how civic tech implemented by government is currently operating, who is using it, and what impacts it is having upon service delivery.
The primary deliverable of this project was five case studies of civic tech projects that have been deployed by US cities since 2013:
- SpeakUpAustin (www.speakupaustin.org), in Austin, Texas
- LargeLots (www.largelots.org), in Chicago, Illinois
- RecordTrac (records.oaklandnet.com), in Oakland, California
- DC311 (311.dc.gov), in Washington, DC
- Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) Police Complaint Tracker (www.seattle.gov/opa/file-acomplaint-about-the-seattle-police), in Seattle, Washington
In the study, the users of the civic tech tools and the implementers of the tools within government were interviewed about the impact of the tool’ s introduction on the delivery of the relevant public service, how these additional sources of public input affected the departments where they had been introduced, whether the department had noted increased efficiency, and whether internal or external stakeholders perceived increased effectiveness.
The civic technology tools examined in this study were generally well-appreciated both internally and externally, receiving good reviews both from the government and non-government sides of their use. People inside and outside of government appreciated the benefits of using them, and expressed interest in maintaining and improving them.
- The use of civic tech in municipal government in the US is acting as a driver for broader incremental institutional digital and service delivery change.
- The co-production of civic tech and policy is operationally beneficial for both spheres, resulting in the production of more useful civic tech and more citizen-friendly policy.
- The greatest risk to the success of civic tech is a lack of full institutional absorption of tech tools into structural and budgetary systems.
This study provides encouraging evidence to proponents of institutional civic technology usage, and to supporters of agile and participatory policy development. Whilst a utopian version of e-government remains a distant possibility, the evidence provided in this report demonstrates that incremental digital integration and the development of online tools for, and within, government, provides fertile ground for increasing citizen engagement and improving service and policy.
mySociety is a not-for-profit social enterprise, which builds and shares digital technologies that give people the power to get things changed, across the three areas of Democracy, Freedom of Information, and Better Cities.