Civic Tech and GovTech—“Potato, potato”, I can hear you thinking. Although many amongst us use the term interchangeably, there are important differences between both. This article sheds a light upon the existing confusion there is between Civic Tech and GovTech. Time to demystify the differences!

Civic Tech vs GovTech

Over the past couple of years, both the terms “Civic Tech” and “GovTech” have rapidly emerged. However, if we take a look at the search results of the past two years, it’s worth noting that GovTech has shown a faster-growing interest, as opposed to its little brother Civic Tech which has been a well-established concept for a longer time already.

Civic Tech vs. GovTech: a comparison

Compared to GovTech, which includes a wide range of technologies provided to governments to increase the efficiency of their internal operations, Civic Tech has its focus on informing, engaging and connecting citizens with their government and one another to generally improve the public good.

The comparison below is definitely an imperfect and non-exhaustive attempt to draw a picture of how these two spaces differ from each other:

  Civic Tech GovTech
Goal Community interactions Operational efficiency
Beneficiary Citizens Governments
Purpose Mission-driven Growth-driven
KPIs Engagement rates, user base Revenue growth, churn rate
Common challenges Citizen engagement at scale, finding sustainable business model Need for customisation, slow internal adoption
  • Open data and transparency
  • Voting and elections
  • Citizen-government interactions
  • Citizen mobilisation
  • Citizen relationship management (CRM)
  • Content management systems (CMS)
  • Public safety systems
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Geographic information systems (GIS)
Customers GovTech, end-consumers, advertisers, elected officials Government agencies
Business model
  • GovTech (SaaS)
  • Advertisement
  • Data monetisation
  • Transaction fees
  • Donations
  • SaaS
  • Consulting
Leading companies Nextdoor, OpenGov, Accela

Can a company be in both the Civic Tech and GovTech space?

Definitely. And that is exactly where the sweet spot is for many civic tech companies.

As also depicted in the table above, selling your civic tech solution to public agencies, often through a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, is a good way to go. This means that your solution has to serve both the community of citizens as your lead beneficiary, and the government as your customer.

What about civic engagement companies? 

Translated to the context of a civic engagement solution, this implies that you consider the community participation itself only as a part of a way longer value chain, that also takes the internal operations into account.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Only by optimising the OS of our govts, we will grow #civictech businesses which combine growth and impact at scale.” quote=”Only by optimising the operating system of our governments, we will be able grow civic tech businesses which combine sustainable growth and social impact at scale.”]

At CitizenLab, for instance, we developed a platform that not only helps public agencies engage their citizens, but also creates internal efficiencies afterwards by having the end-to-end workflow of processing and analyzing the civic input as automated as possible. 

Highly recommended follow-up reading: the Scaling Civic Tech report by Knight Foundation.

Sources: Knight Foundation, Better Planning






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