In the Civic Tech Field Guide, we focus on examples of govtech that seek to improve society to make it more just and democratic, not just more digital or efficient. We recognize that this is a subjective, values-based perspective of govtech. There is a much larger government IT industry, and we do not aspire to catalog and curate every instance of governmental technology.
“A new wave of technology is changing the way our countries – and local and federal governments as well as arms-length agencies – collect taxes, deliver services, distribute welfare, maintain security and much more. In time, and perhaps a surprisingly short time, the whole way the state engages with its citizens will be different. Driving this change is the rise of GovTech, new technologies applied to public services and specifically designed for government purposes.”
– Govtech, Europe’s next opportunity, by Public and Accenture
“[T]he technology infrastructure that government departments use to do their internal work or deliver services to their “customers” ie. citizens. Around here, we like to say govtech is the “operating system” of government.”
– Ron Bouganim, Founder and Managing Partner of the Govtech Fund
Tools and platforms that share official communications and democratic processes. Including:
- Service alerts are governmental notifications pushed to residents, often by municipal governments notifying residents about local service issues.
Digital communication channels between constituents and representatives, trying to improve the feedback loop. Including:
- Issue reporting platforms enable residents to notify their government(s) of items in need of attention, often municipal in nature.
Redesigning public service delivery, often from a Human Centered Design perspective rather than a government or bureaucracy perspective.
Marketplaces for government technologies where all participants pass procurement rules.
Tech designed to improve the general functioning of government.
Standards and protocols for managing citizen or resident identity in a digital manner.
“Nudging in public policy continues to face concerns related to manipulation, paternalism, and the removal of choice. However, as Sunstein and other proponents argued, all government programs are at some level applying choice architecture and nudging. Setting defaults and program design choices more deliberately, guided by science, can improve service delivery and increase the well-being of citizens. But it is important to appreciate that critics remain. Therefore, providing transparency and accountability for behavioral interventions is essential to sustaining or building trust in government. Nudges and other interventions inspired by the behavioral sciences need to be publicly disclosed and debated, as is the case for public policies more generally.”
Data and tools designed to help people vote by informing voters about registration requirements, ballot information, districts, and election dates, locations, and procedures. Including:
- Voter registration tech seeks to help voters overcome suppression and bureaucratic hurdles to exercising their right to vote.
- Election administration: Rather than build redundant resources outside of government, election administration tech works to empower and assist the people who are already responsible for running elections.
- Voter assistance tech seeks to help inform voters about their choices in elections and where and how they can vote.
- Match views to votes tools help voters identify the ballot choices that best match to their own views and perspectives.
- Help more people run for office: Tools, resources, databases, and trainings to encourage a more representative group of people to run for office.
Online forums are digital conversation hubs for conversations of civic import. They are often designed to facilitate constructive dialogues, but sometimes fail by attempting to creating new destinations rather than embrace existing community hubs. They include:
- Civic forums are online discussion platforms built to foster civic conversation and debate.
- Neighborhood forums promote conversation within geographically-defined communities.
Systems that assist individuals in identifying government or community provided benefits and services.
Designing democratic government so that it can continue functioning if forced to govern remotely, as experienced during the COVID-19 social distancing.
A Govtech Primer
- Companies Made Millions Building Unemployment Websites That Didn’t Work by Colin Lecher for The Markup (2020)
- Thinking About Govtech (PDF): An introduction to govtech, why it matters, and barriers to adoption (2019)
- Do you know how your country’s state of digital development compares? Find out by exploring the OECD’s Going Digital indicators.
- Building an AI World: a CIFAR Report on National and Regional AI Strategies
- A Digital government reading list (2020)