It’s Friday afternoon and — just making assumptions here — we bet you’re almost ready to leave the office.
But don’t drop everything just yet, because we’ve gathered our favourite civic tech reads to wrap up the week. Grab a cup of coffee and follow us down the rabbit hole into the world of digital democracy.
1. One person, one click: is this the way to save democracy? by Paolo Gerbaudo for The Guardian
Last May, Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) had to decide whether or not to join the far-right Lega in a coalition government. Instead of retreating into a conclave of party leaders, they asked members to vote online.
This is a noteworthy example of how digital tech can directly include citizens in important decision-making. Digital democracy has increasingly become a must for political movements, and participatory platforms are popping up like mushrooms. Can it solve the crisis of legitimacy that many political movements are currently facing? This article dives deeper into the digital democracy trend, which is right up our alley.
2. 10 Opportunities for impact measurement in civic tech by Mary Joyce for Civic Hall
How difficult is it really to track the social benefit of civic tech systems? Not as difficult as you might think, according to civic tech-guru Mary Joyce. In this article, she responds to an essay by Matt Stempeck, who listed 10 problems with measuring impact in civic tech. Joyce is still a believer and challenges Stempeck’s statements one by one. This article is a great read in itself, but if you just can’t get enough, read Stempeck’s essay too and make up your own mind! Do you think the impact-measuring glass is half full or half empty?
3. 3 Ideas for blending digital and deliberative democracy by Theo Bass for Nesta
In the UK, deliberative methods of engagement are on the rise. These are mostly offline, face-to-face forms of engagement that require slow brain work and are, of course, limited to the people present in the room at that particular moment. In what way can digital democracy help to broaden these offline approaches? In this article, Bass explores three ways to blend offline and online approaches in a successful way.
4. Why public servants need to get out of the office more by Louise Pulford for Apolitical
Would you spend a month in a small shack without air conditioning on the hottest days of summer? It doesn’t sound like the most alluring get-away, but it’s exactly what Seoul city mayor Park Won-soon did. By spending time in the crumbling neighbourhood of Samyang-dong and living the way the residents live, the mayor got to experience first-hand which problems these people face. It should be an example for every city or municipality aiming to be innovative — it’s all about looking beyond the four walls of an office and focusing on what’s truly important: the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants.
5. Better language models and their implications, by Open AI
A bonus article for the tech-geeks among us. And holy damn, this is BIG. This article explores a new large-scale language model that’s able to generate coherent, human-like text, shatters many language modelling benchmarks, and much, much more. It’s pretty impressive — just take a look at the notably well-written demo text about unicorns and try to wrap your head around the fact that no humans were involved in writing it. What’s the link with Govtech, you ask? Well, such natural language processing models could for instance help governments administration – imagine an automated chatbot helping you doing your taxes, or addressing citizen concerns. It could also have very, very negative impacts: if hacked, it would have the capacity to impersonate government administrations and publish misleading information. The authors of the articles are well aware of the risks – they’ve in fact decided to hold off on open-sourcing part of the model for fear that it would be misused.
That’s it for this week. You’re all set to start the weekend! Feel free to let us know how you liked our selection. And if you’d like to read more, head to our blog. Are you thinking of implementing digital participation in your local government? Get in touch or download our free e-guide that covers all the basics!