To all you city administrators, citizens, techies and democracy enthusiasts: welcome to the  25th edition of our weekly Reading List!

25 weeks ago we decided to browse the web for the most interesting civic tech content, and offer it to you in snack-sized pieces every week. It’s been quite the ride, and this is quite the milestone. But there’s no quarter-life-crisis in sight!

For a walk down memory lane, head to our blog to read our previous editions. If you’re all set, let’s dive right in! This week, we’re talking GovTech, smart cities, why it’s a good thing to have your phone tracked, and why you should suspend your fitness subscription in the name of democracy. 

1. “Applications Of Immersive Technologies In Smart Cities” by Forbes

There’s been a lot of talk about smart cities in this reading list. The topic seems to fascinate many cities, local governments and opinion-makers. By now, we already know what a smart city is, and we’ve explored various angles on what a smart city should or could be. Still, most articles we’ve read about smart cities have limited themselves mainly to a theoretical approach.

This article explores what the use of AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) could do to our cities. AR could have a big impact on navigation, disaster response and the quality and efficiency of medical services. VR could play its role in education, urban planning or police training.

Immersive technologies that either immerse users into an altogether different, interactive and digital environment, or superimpose digital content into a physical world, have unique and compelling uses in smart cities.

A must-read for those who are curious to discover how immersive technologies could benefit us all.

2. “For GovTech, it’s about engineering technology for the people” by The Business Times

Do you know which government websites are there to provide you with information and support at key moments in your life? When a loved one dies, for example? Or when there’s a birth, a move or a wedding in the stars?

Singapore’s GovTech Chief Executive Kok Ping Soon has some clear ideas about the matter. “It’s not about technology for technology’s sake,” he says. “(My mission is to) engineer a digital government to make lives better. And in engineering a digital government, I want to make sure that GovTech is always able to solve the hardest problems.”

Soon argues that making citizens’ lives better should be at the core of GovTech’s purpose. In this article, he elaborates on this train of thought. A must-read for techies looking to make the world a better place.

3. “Having Your Phone Tracked Is Good For Digital Democracy” by Forbes

There’s probably nothing or nobody in this world that knows more about you than your phone does. It knows who you talk to, which services you use, which music you listen to, which apps you enjoy using, and so much more. That’s why, if we think about governments or institutions tracking our phones, we think of it as “creepy”.

This article argues for a different perspective. According to this article, the information that governments can get from tracking your phone can actually influence decision-making. “Look at the big picture where the government can properly understand the reason why people voted the way they did, and you get a much truer democracy,” states the article. And I bet you hadn’t thought of it that way? A must-read for everyone who has a smartphone.

4. “Can Citizen Participation Really Revive European Democracy?” by Carnegie

This article is right up our alley. Across the globe, and more notably throughout Europe, citizen participation projects are popping up like mushrooms and changing the nature of political governance.

The methodological quality of these projects has increased over the years. Besides, a lot of successful cases have inspired European local governments to think about citizen participation and how it could benefit their communities. This article takes a closer look at the evolution of citizen participation and the impact it has on European democracy.

A must-read for (European) local governments hesitating to get started with citizen participation – the time is now!

5. “May the SoulCycle Boycott Make Democracy Better” by The New York Times

How can quitting your gym be a political act? Well, across the United States, people are suspending their Equinox Gym and SoulCycle subscriptions after news broke that the man behind these organisations, Stephen Ross, was hosting a fund-raiser in support of Trump’s re-election campaign.

(…) Boycotts more often serve to draw public attention to an issue than to effect concrete change. With Mr. Ross, critics may or may not manage to inflict any financial pain. They nonetheless are publicly demanding that he answer for — and perhaps ultimately rethink — his political giving. In the process, they’re sending a signal to other major contributors (…).

How did this whole situation come to light? And what value does this boycott actually have? The article dives deeper into the problem and, doing so, raises important questions about where the funding for political campaigns actually comes from. A must-read for anyone looking for an excuse to skip the gym.

That’s it for our milestone edition! If you’re looking for more, download our comprehensive e-guides on participatory budgeting or inclusion in e-democracy, or contact our experts to get started with digital participation in your city!

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