Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 has rocked the boat for all of us.

And many of the changes brought about by the pandemic seem to be here to stay. Luckily, not all of these changes are as negative as the socially-distanced, fun-hating coronavirus would have you think. A changing mindset about internet access for everyone? Increased efforts to turn our cities into cycling utopias? A bigger focus on collective intelligence to tackle complex public issues? These are the shifts that will partly define the ways we move forward as a collective.

Besides that, we also look at the upcoming (and dare we say, highly anticipated) presidential elections in the USA and the plummeting trust levels between citizens and governments. Yes, it’s here: our monthly curated list of must-reads from the realm of Civic Tech and digital democracy.

1. “Opinion: Post-COVID, We Must Treat Internet as a Utility” by GovTech

With people across the world confined in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become blatantly clear that internet access is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “can’t-do-without.” According to experts, internet access has rapidly become essential for survival, which means that it shouldn’t only be regulated as a necessity; it should, some say, even be provided by the government.

As this article states, “if the internet is a necessity, like power and water, we need clear rules to ensure the greatest possible access and the lowest possible price.” A must-read for everyone living and working in the digital age.

2. “Using Collective Intelligence to Solve Public Problems” by Nesta

Councils can’t know everything … and nor should they. Our communities provide a goldmine of collective intelligence that, when tapped into, immediately improves and diversifies our public services. Now that councils find themselves forced to reevaluate a number of services due to the coronavirus pandemic, the time is especially perfect for harnessing the power of our collective intelligence to rebuild better.

Nesta’s extensive report offers an overview of how to tackle complex social issues by opening the conversation and decision-making process. Nesta also provides a helpful, practical checklist to help councils navigate this new way of working. A must-read for councils in the 21st century.

3. “The character of US democracy is on the ballot” by The Financial Times

On November 3rd, Americans face an important decision. Will Donald Trump stay in office for a second term, or will Joe Biden become the country’s new Democratic president?

This article not only provides an overview of both candidates’ track records and intentions; it also addresses the issue of protecting the democratic integrity of the election process itself. Trump’s repeated comments on the fraudulent nature of postal balloting, for one, pose a fundamental threat to democracy. “As Americans weigh their vote, they should recognise that more than pandemic management is at stake next week. The system itself is on the ballot,” states the article. A must-read for everyone invested in the elections (and the integrity of democracy in one of its strongest hotbeds).

4. “How cities are fighting the pandemic by embracing the outdoors” by Apolitical

Another fundamental change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic? A spike in walking, cycling, and generally sustainable ways to move around. “As cities plan how to live sustainably with the virus in the medium to longer-term, more walking and cycling is critical to enabling more people to travel safely and efficiently around their cities.” And many cities have responded quickly to this shift, expanding cycling or pedestrian infrastructure while roads and highways fell quiet.

This article outlines some of the most creative ideas and best practices from cities worldwide dealing with this new reality. A must-read for councils looking to turn their cities into greener, cleaner, and more pleasant homes for their communities.

5. Podcast: Dissecting trust with Rachel Botsman

At 14%, our trust in politics today is painfully low. In this podcast episode, Rachel Botsman, an expert on trust and technology, takes a closer look at the reasons for this bump in the road. According to Botsman, the narrative is shifting away from the government and towards local decision-making levels that co-create policies with its communities. A must-listen for everyone who wonders how we can rebuild the mutual trust between governments and citizens.

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