It’s that time again—the time of the month where we browse the digital newsscape for compelling snippets of knowledge and serve them to you in one freshly curated list.
On the radar this month: how to organize the vaccine rollout, close the digital gap, move a movement forward, tackle data poverty, and stay relevant in Civic Tech. Phew! Let’s do this.
The efficient organization of the vaccine rollout currently poses a massive challenge to the Civic Tech sector in the US. Across the country, cities are devising new, digital methods to provide residents with pertinent information and, most importantly, direct access to the vaccine.
California and Alaska have created online portals for residents to review vaccine eligibility or schedule vaccine appointments. Colorado’s online hub, on the other hand, is all about information. The state has designed a range of infographics to get its many messages across, from the effects of the vaccine to the logic behind vaccine eligibility.
And that’s not all. “Other states are working to facilitate connections between their residents and local pharmacies (…), while some agencies (…) have created a digital-inclusion-friendly text messaging interface to keep their residents up-to-date on vaccine news in the area.” A must-read for anyone wondering about the role Civic Tech might play in COVID-19 recovery.
Professional meetings, boozy brunches with friends, chats with grandma—the pandemic moved everything online. Robust databases became the focal point of many people’s lives. “It was data about residents that drove state and local vaccine rollout; data about small businesses that directed PPP loans; data about testing, infection, and mortality that highlighted the inequitable impact of COVID-19; and data that made evident the support residents needed to work, eat, learn, and survive during the pandemic.”
This quickly unveiled an irrefutable truth: that, even in our digitalized society, there’s still a tremendous digital and data divide. Millions of Americans and millions more people worldwide don’t have access to high-quality internet and are left excluded.
This article centers on the different ways in which cities have attempted to close this digital gap. The city of Chattanooga, for example, provided vulnerable families with no-cost devices and high-speed internet and set up free public WiFi points across the city. Portage in South-West Michigan has launched several plans to stimulate two-way communication between residents, businesses, stakeholders, and the city administration. In Denver, the city focused on reducing barriers to the workforce and shaping an economic development strategy to fight climate change and create a more equitable society. A must-read for anyone wondering how to empower residents in times of crisis.
“My children all got computers from the school—they gave them laptops and even a dongle, but I don’t know how to use it, so I keep it safe in a drawer.” Now that we’re talking about the digital divide, let’s examine how it can manifest in real life. Nesta has gathered stories from four people across Scotland and Wales facing data poverty. Alaia, who had a pay-as-you-go mobile subscription and often relied on public WiFi, was suddenly charged a lot of money when she got confined to her home. Rhys lives alone and relies on data to power his social life, which leaves him struggling to pay other bills. When Gloria’s husband lost his income, they had to stop their broadband contract. Jenny, too, had to terminate her contract after losing her job and relationship due to a health condition—but she needs her phone connection to stay in touch with her doctor.
As Nesta states, “knowledge around data poverty is scarce. We know it exists, but we haven’t yet been able to quantify the scale and depth of the problem.” A must-read for anyone trying to understand what data poverty actually looks like.
In our quickly growing and developing Civic Tech field, it’s not always easy to stay relevant. As Civic Hall points out, “of the thousands of civic tech organizations and projects around the world, only a small fraction of them have lasted over ten years.” Long story short, they decided to dive deeper into this subject and research how to ensure longevity in our sector. Which Civic Tech organizations and companies have come to stay? And how have they managed to stick around for over a decade?
In this article, Civic Hall offers an insightful overview of the main lessons learned. The most commonly cited factors of longevity were “the tenacity of founders and their team, developing a strong product or service offering that resonated with a clear market, and building strong relationships with well-aligned funders.” By zooming in on each of these factors, we learn how to stay on our toes, adjust, and pivot if needed. A must-read for Civic Tech players hoping to remain relevant in the years to come.