On the “Engaging Cities” blog, Emily Shaw takes a look at how civic technology needs to focus on tangible solutions, not just technological deliverables. She notes that civic technology needs to look beyond the digital world and take account of the physical community it is intended to serve. If the production of new technological designs takes no account of the “existing power structures,” it’s usefulness towards solving social problems is likely to be countered.
The true meaning of the word “technology” encompasses all useful tools, not only the digital. Since this isn’t an automatic insight for the civic tech community, it is especially vital that we remain conscious of the range of necessary skills when developing our strategies. To solve problems with the power-distant public, digital work must be put in service to information gathered through use of “soft skills” like training, like facilitating, outreach, and liaising. People who are not comfortable with technology often do not feel empowered by interacting with it — but everyone feels empowered when they are listened to or taught new skills.
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Contributor: Sarah Mirembe, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16