As the pandemic evolves, we’re collectively breathing a careful sigh of relief. In some parts of the world, life as we know it is slowly but surely restarting.
The last few months—and the ones to come—will go down in history as a defining time. It’s hard to predict the future, but it’s likely that we’ll one day describe these realities as ‘before-COVID’ and ‘after-COVID’. The actions we decide to take now will lay the foundation for the way we live and work in the future. How will we move on from this? Will the post-COVID world (or, in the meantime, the with-COVID world) be very different, and if so, which differences will be the most striking?
It’s a time to reflect and philosophise, so this list comes at an appropriate time. We curate a selection of interesting articles, reports, and opinion pieces from the fields of Civic Tech, GovTech, and digital democracy every month. Missed the last one? Read it here.
1. “Beyond the crisis: what our post-covid world could look like“, Nesta
The title says it all. Offering a look at different scenarios and predictions for the post-pandemic world, Nesta is sharing a series of “essays that hope to illuminate the lessons and possible futures thrown up by the current crisis.” Which lessons can we learn from the varying national policy responses? And what kind of society do we want to become?
From optimistic scenarios that make us dust off our rose-coloured glasses to doom predictions that make us stop and think, this corner of the internet is looking for answers — and stumbling upon more questions along the way. A must-read for those who like to speculate, think ahead, and be prepared.
2. “How digital tools can keep democracy thriving during lockdown“, The Conversation
If the show must go on, so must democracy. Not that that’s an easy feat. Elections and parliamentary sessions have to be postponed, crisis regulations have to be formulated, and everyone has been working remotely for weeks. But this lockdown has also provided governments with the space and urgency they needed to experiment with digital democracy tools. “(…) Digital tools can help keep parliaments and governments thriving in a way that enhances rather than threatens democracy.“
This article explores how the rapid shift to digital forms of democracy is changing the way we govern and participate. What can we learn from this phase? Which tools will we keep when lockdown lifts? After all, “the tools chosen, and the way in which they are used, will have significant ramifications for the use of digital methods in the long term.” A must-read for every administration.
3. “In the digital age, being gender-blind is not an option“, by Apolitical
Apolitical brings a sliver of good news in these strange times: the digital gender gap is shrinking. Research indicates that in low-to-middle-income countries, women are 20% less likely to use mobile internet than their male peers. Three years ago, this number was still at 27%. This progress is caused mainly by significant improvements in South-East-Asia. But the difference is still staggering. “Three hundred million fewer women than men in low-and middle-income countries have access to mobile internet. This is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of the United States.”
Besides, this pandemic has made the role of the internet even more crucial. More than ever, access to the web has become a basic necessity. It’s the “life line” that keeps us connected to the world around us. The crisis deepens the digital gender divide and negatively impacts the education of girls in the most vulnerable communities. A must-read for every digital citizen.
4. “The Music Cities Resilience Handbook” by Sound Diplomacy
Music is a universal language, and a vibrant music scene makes for happy, creative and culturally rich communities. In times of crisis, it’s exactly where we look for comfort. “Music, arts and culture are vital tools to inspire people, retain community spirit and enhance well‐being. From Italians and Spaniards singing on balconies in solidarity, to the growth of online choirs, to virtual symphonies of music, arts and culture is increasingly important for mental health.” Still, these are trying times for musicians and other creatives. With the cultural sector being hit harder than most in this pandemic, it’s time to think about reparations.
This free handbook is developed specifically to rethink the place of music and the arts in our communities, and to include musicians in the post-crisis recovery plans. A must-read for everyone who enjoys music — and let’s be honest, who doesn’t? Download the free guide here.
5. “Naomi Klein: How big tech plans to profit from the pandemic“ by The Guardian
In this opinion piece, Naomi Klein (political analyst and author of ‘The Shock Doctrine’) describes the (even) dark(er) side of the pandemic. While thousands across the world are still succumbing to the virus every day, big tech firms seem to have found a way to turn the situation around — for their own profit. As Klein states, “Far more hi-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent – and highly profitable – no-touch future.”
Klein’s long-read dives deeper into a future scenario that shows technology not as a benefit to society, but as a controlling and all-powerful entity that is not subjected to critical questions or democratic principles. A must-read for, well, everyone.
6. “How to run the world remotely” by Vox
As many of us are working remotely, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the way our governments operate on a day-to-day basis. Nations, states and diplomats across the world have moved their processes and workflows to the digital sphere. Even the US Supreme Court, an institution that isn’t exactly known for its swift adjustment to change, has taken the first steps to work online.
This shift comes with a few technical glitches — “the [Canadian] health minister started speaking while on mute, (…) and there was an awkward moment when someone — not on mute this time — laughed while another MP was giving a tribute to Canadians who’d lost their lives in the pandemic” — but it’s showing governments across the world that there are new possibilities to collaborate. Will this permanently change the nature of government? Maybe, a little. According to this article, Zoom governments might just be here to stay. A must-read for everyone who has had a Zoom meeting in the past week.
More of our Civic Tech reads:
- The future of Digital Democracy: A series of conversations with expert thought-leaders from politics, GovTech and Civic Tech on the democracy of tomorrow.
- How citizen participation helps to rebuild trust within communities
- Monthly Civic Tech must-reads #6