As a new frontier of technology, Civic Tech has grown dramatically in just a few years. “Civic Tech” is technology that enables greater level of public participation in government and can more generally refer to informational technology linking the public sector and civilians. Governments with outdated information systems are turning to civic tech as a way to increase transparency with the public. In a 2014 report, the International Data Corporation estimated that U.S spending on civic tech would reach $6.4 billion in 2015 and that spending towards civic tech would grow at a rate 14 times faster than the rate of spending increase for more general IT development from state and local governments between 2013 and 2018. Omidyar Network, a social impact venture capital firm, estimated that national funding towards civic tech between 2013 and 2015 totaled 870 million, showing an increase of 119 percent over the two-year span. That same network pledged to provide Civic Hall, a community hub for civic tech development in New York City, with a donation of 4 million dollars, half going to the hall itself and the other towards Civic Hall Labs, a nonprofit research wing of the Hall dedicated to innovative civic tech solutions in education, healthcare, and social justice. This new wing of Civic Hall has expanded Civic tech outside of just government and into a social welfare context.
Civic Tech projects have so far centered mainly on app development and social exchange innovation in the form of coordinated “Hackathons,” gatherings of tech specialists and policy makers to develop digital platforms and information services. Partnering with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Civic Hall Labs has employed new collaborative tactics to pioneer socially beneficial services for disadvantaged communities including: JustFix.nyc, a tech group that provides New York tenants facing difficulties with housing access to information about navigating the city’s often intimidating housing court system, Benefit Kitchen, a financial literacy app that connects working families with a path out of poverty, and Addicaid, a personalized and comprehensive tech based recovery app that specializes in wellness promotion and addiction abatement. These solutions are just a few examples of civic tech addressing social needs. Through problem based procurement and an increasing demand for a bottom up approach to addressing constituent needs nationally gives new avenues for Civic tech to flourish in education, healthcare, and the justice system.
“Procurement that stresses solutions, not specs”
New York City’s Civic Hall to grow Civic Tech Ecosystem with $4 million in New Funding
Study: U.S. Civic Tech Spending to Reach $6.4 Billion in 2015