Navigating the Innovation Gap: What the Heck is Civic Tech?

August 10, 2017 Sara Audisho

Here's the short version: it's precisely what we’ve been diving into in the previous segments. Urban innovation. Urban tech. Urban sustainability. Might even be worthy of ‘planet-saving nerdmania’.

Forget Facebook.

The cooler, edgier place to work where engineers and coders can still nerd out are at tech ‘collaborations’. So long are the days of calling your business a company, firm or agency. Sign us up for ‘collaborations’. One shining example is DigitalC, a Cleveland-based civic tech collaboration. Oh my!

In all seriousness though, it's onto something.

“Many communities that were built on a 20th century manufacturing base now face the challenge of transitioning to a digital economy,” they claim. To remedy this, they’re bringing together civic and technology leaders to “reshape” priorities. With the use of big (and open) data, DigitalC wants to fuel inclusive economies that inspire creativity and innovation.

Back up…inclusive economy? From what we can gather, it’s basically saying that it wants to transition communities reliant on old technology into the digital age, or more accurately, the digital economy.

The challenge is to do so in a way that doesn’t leave 20th century workforces behind. Hence, the goal of moulding a digital but also inclusive economy, paving “a pathway that enables 21st century opportunities for all.”

It’s a little high level but the idea is having the right group of people together to convince others that plenty cities are overdue for a makeover. DigitalC is one of many collaborations that exist now to help communities gain access to new technology and gradually replace aged infrastructure.

Half of the battle is bringing awareness to the need of transition, and DigitalC tackles this by organizing conferences and events to showcase the current best civic tech practices in the United States and across the world.

Investing in innovative projects is also an integral part of this team’s initiative. DigitalC has its own fund to support entrepreneurs contributing to civic tech.

It doesn’t stop there either. DigitalC runs data literacy bootcamps for organizations and businesses wanting to equip their members with basic data knowledge. It even has in-house learning studios, if you find yourself in Cleveland wanting an introduction to: “critical skills of design thinking, data gathering and analysis, and using simple and complex analytics tools,”

Pushing an agenda sounds aggressive, but this is an agenda that we can get behind (and is kind of inevitable).

There are smart ways to transition our communities, and we know for certain that collaboration between industries is necessary to make that happen. Hats off to DigitalC and initiatives like it for working to bridge the gap.


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