If you’re reading this, that means the weekend is almost here!

Let’s dive right in, because like every week, we’ve hand-picked the hottest civic tech news for you. 

1. “How Civic Tech can steer development and create smarter cities” by P. Sisson for Curbed

A cleaner, more serene and smarter city is right around the corner. “Smart city concepts” have been buzzing around the scene since they first arose, but what does the term really mean? What makes a city “smart”? And who decides that? Aren’t lifelong citizens better at deciding what their city needs than, say, smart cameras? 

“There’s a big difference between data and wisdom,” Sisson writes.  In this article, he explores the concept of smart cities and how civic tech has the potential to engage citizens to co-create them. A must-read for techies who are interested in the future of cities. 

2. “Digital tools looking like democracy’s nemesis” by A. Kapoor for The Economic Times

Digitalisation and democracy — do they go hand in hand, or do they work against each other? In this opinion piece, Kapoor explains why he believes that digital tools might mean the downfall of democracy, and does so by means of three phenomena: fake news, cyber attacks, and the use of big data and micro-targeting techniques.

“The digital communication tools, that were once expected to make democracy more resilient, have started to look more like democracy’s nemesis,” says Kapoor. A must-read for anyone who’s interested in the future of democracy and the impact of the internet. And let us know: what do you think? Will the digital age be democracy’s blessing — or its doom?

3. “Importance of citizen participation in fixing Nigeria” by N. Uwechue for Vanguard

“Citizen participation is a pillar of democracy and is necessary for a sustainable democracy. It means citizens performing their social responsibility of participation in governance as part of their civic duties,” writes Uwechue, a Nigerian pro-social advocate. Uwechue points at the lack of citizen participation as the main reason for Nigeria’s current state of crisis. As she states, Nigeria’s democracy is still relatively young, and many of its citizens do not know what participation can do for them or what they can do to make it stronger.

This article offers a nice perspective on citizen participation from a viewpoint that is non-European and stems from a relatively young democracy. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the state of democracy across the globe, and the challenges faced by countries that are still in the developing phases. 

4. “Big Tech feels the heat as U.S. moves to protect consumer data.” By Red Deer Advocate

Over the years, tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon have built a lucrative business on offering consumers’ personal data to advertisers. “Companies gather vast data on what users read and like and leverage it to help advertisers target their messages to the individuals they want to reach (…) Facebook drew 99% of its revenue from advertising last year,” states the article. 

But that might change soon because Washington has put a national law on the table that could significantly rein in these tech giants’ ability to access and handle private data. The regulation of an industry that has traditionally “resisted closer oversight as a threat to its culture of free-wheeling innovation” could have a big impact on the dominating status of these tech giants. 

Why is this relevant? Well, anything concerning the storage and use of citizen data is important to the realm of civic tech, because these privacy regulations may affect us all sooner or later. This is a must-read for anyone who’s interested in privacy, data and the Big Tech giants.

5. “There are better ways to do democracy” by P. Coy for Bloomberg 

Recently, the Brexit disaster has blemished the reputation of direct democracy and risen fears of democratic dysfunction. Coy states that there are better ways to involve citizens in the democratic process than, for example, referendums, who often give way to extremism. As an alternative he explores the concept of guided deliberation, a concept that makes citizens think like jurors and is thought to bring out the best in them. Also, the option of ranked-choice voting instead of a simple yes or no could help citizens to fully express their range of preferences. 

A must-read article for anyone following the Brexit news with disbelief, of anyone wondering how we’re going to fix democracy.

6. “How citizen-centric are you?” By S. Wray for SmartCitiesWorld

What can cities do better to engage their citizens in city development or the creation of smart cities? 

In the conversations that shape this debate, it’s no longer about the shiny new tech, but about starting from what citizens need. In a recent poll, SmartCitiesWorld asked cities and suppliers how they prioritise their smart city effort, and only 19% of cities said they involved citizens. 

Are you doing better? Take the survey and find out how citizen-centric your city or municipality truly is. After all, knowledge is power! This is a perfect read if you’re part of a local administration and you want to see how your city or municipality performs on the citizen-centricity-scale. 

And look, we’re already the end of our list! You may feel a little more enlightened and the weekend is a little closer, so we consider that a win-win!

If you have even more of a civic tech itch to scratch, check out our previous selections on the blog, download our brand-new comprehensive e-guide on participatory budgeting, or contact our experts to get started with digital participation in your city!

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