By Rita Makhoul
Citizens have increasingly raised expectations for convenient interactions when it comes to dealing with government entities. As a result, government entities around the globe are becoming more adept at deploying digital technology to help improve the way they serve and engage with citizens. In most cities, the inconvenient chore of heading to the local governmental office to apply for a passport, renew vehicle registrations, and so forth has been replaced by simply going to the government websites.
Digital advances continue to ricochet around the world and governments have been trying to keep up. Leveraging technology improves collaboration between different entities and advances the levels of service delivered to citizens. Whether it’s evolving how users apply for licenses, creating more efficient processes, fostering increased transparency, or opening up government-controlled data for developers and startups to interact with. There are several ways to push governments into the digital age.
Governments with proactive attitudes embracing technology are catching up with the digital age, resulting in a developing ecosystem of governments and entrepreneurs working together. Around the globe, trends like mobility, cloud and data analytics, are advancing under entrepreneurial thinking, agile processes, and open data. The amply named “GovTech” and “CivicTech” startups are hallmarks of innovation, helping governments step into the 21st century. Here is a list of such startups from around the world:
Based in San Francisco, Appallicious is an open data visualization company that creates products to help government better serve its citizens. It’s best known for its mobility services in disaster response. Municipalities can easily map their emergency resources and dangers in real time using the Disaster and Assessment Dashboard. Citizens can request assistance, first responders can update first aid locations, and local businesses can advertise recovery services. Appallicious is a leader in creating licensable data visualization products that are easily replicated for government and citizens, often in collaboration with the White House, FEMA, states, counties and city agencies.
An open budget tool, OpenGov, based out of the Silicon-Valley, has taken the complexities of government finance and simplified them into easy-to-read charts, setting a new standard for how governments analyze, share, and compare financial data. With OpenGov’s cloud-based platform, state and local governments of all sizes collaborate more effectively, make smarter data-driven decisions, and achieve greater transparency. Increased access connects citizens with senior staff and elected leaders improving trust and dialogue between cities and citizens. These better tools save time and improve decision-making by putting critical data at the fingertips of key decision-makers.
The request process is different at different levels of government, and request forms often must be deposited in person to specific government locations between specific hours. NextRequest wants to solve this problem by putting the whole information request process online, saving citizens time and governments money. Also based in San Francisco, NextRequest is a platform that uses the cloud to handle the constant flow of public records requests and an intuitive dashboard to manage them all.
Out of Georgia, GovSense is designed to allow local government to build smarter communities. The company’s cloud ERP is designed specifically for local government, to empower jurisdictions to design flexible, easy-to-use solutions that meet their needs in land-use planning, project review, regulatory management, permitting & inspections, code enforcement, citizen requests, asset management, work order management and more.
CitizenLab is a civic engagement platform in Belgium on which citizens co-create their city. The platform facilitates a two-way communication between the city and its citizens. Citizens post ideas, discuss them with each other and upvote the best ideas in an eas, accessible way. On the other hand, the city uses CitizenLab to gauge the opinion of its citizens via polling or to ask their creative solutions to an existing problem. The platform’s SaaS solution helps cities to tap into the collective intelligence of the citizens and become more responsive to their citizens’ needs.
In Austria, Urban Sync allows citizens to co-create their city. Users can participate in surveys on urban projects and discuss their local area with neighbors anywhere, at any time. Urban Sync provides the initiators and planners of urban projects with the ability to develop the city according to the wishes of those who live there – a vision that is based on citizens’ ideas, ratings, comments and wishes.
Grillo is developing a new way of detecting earthquakes and delivering notifications to vulnerable people around the world. Grillo has developed its own infrastructure of seismic sensors in Mexico and plans to reach other countries soon. The sensors are deployed in ‘sensor stations’ which send data using Internet of Things technologies (IoT), and are processed in Google Cloud servers using the company’s proprietary algorithms. This allows Grillo to send accurate and geo-located alerts to the population.
SeeClickFix helps hundreds of cities throughout the United States to manage millions of citizen service requests, enabling citizens to report and monitor non-emergency issues in their local communities. It was founded in New Haven, Connecticut, on the belief that citizens who take the time to report even minor issues and see them fixed are likely to become more engaged in their local communities.
Rita Makhoul is the Managing Editor of ArabNet’s website as well the publication ‘ArabNet Quarterly.’ Visit www.arabnet.me for more information.