CivicTech

CivicTech vs COVID-19: The Use And Abuse Of The Power To Heal

CivicTech vs COVID-19: The Use And Abuse Of The Power To Heal 150 150 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 3 min.

If we knew how fast this coronavirus was spreading, we could have saved lives. CivicTech has the power to really help or really hurt this cause.

TLDR: Every expert will agree that the reported rate of infection by the coronavirus COVID-19 is by far too low. We can get a more precise number if CivicTech triangulated data from self-reporting on smartphones and analytics on searches or social networks. Yet, while doing so we may awake an authoritarian state and suffer totalitarian abuse.

We gathered over 290 CivicTech initiatives with an average valuation of $6 Million per company. This number puts it ahead of LegalTech in terms of value and behind RiskTech. Based on current events surrounding the contagion, let us have a fresh look at the CivicTech landscape.

Democrat

CivicTech is the technology in support of government action or to combat their inaction. We usually see it when apps crowdsource valuable information like Covid-19 tracking or government spending. And we feel it when communities crowdfund for good causes. The main goal is the safety and sustainability of our society by addressing a social change. CivicTech also can act as a warning system for abuse of powers or an attack on justice. In the same manner, it can also act as a conduit to abuse powers and attack justice.

One reason CivicTech is so effective is that it is immune to red tape. There are numerous reasons that governments aren’t able to act decisively. Most obstacles are rooted in regulations that aim to protect citizens but have the opposite effect due to unforeseen circumstances. Example: In The Netherlands and France, according to the letter of the law it is illegal to cover your nose and mouth in public. This law is commonly known as the Burqa ban. Let’s ignore the constitutional irony but focus on the medical facts: now it’s a deadly sin if we don’t cover our face in public.

The data that CivicTech is able to gather will help everyone make informed decisions. This includes government and political decisions we can all judge on the same facts. That’s why we treat CivicTech as the most valuable technology of all markets. It is the only segment within the legal family with the immediate capacity to save lives at scale.

Dictator

The gathering of data to inform opinions can also be deployed to control crowds. Forbes reported a couple of governments deploying corona trackers as spy apps. They stated that Israel will unleash cyber tech “usually used for counter-terror” to enforce quarantines and to check the movements of people testing positive for the virus. The country will actively track citizens by geolocating their cellphones. Similarly, one of the most effective corona tracking efforts was a collaboration between Chinese officials and Tencent. The New York Times called it a: “..template for new forms of automated social control that could persist long after the epidemic subsides,..”

These draconian measures during times of crisis aren’t nefarious by nature. However, their impact over time does have the tendency to become diabolical. The US approach to swiftly lockdown borders has been widely applauded. Meanwhile, the UK slower tactic was equally admired. Their protracted reaction, scientists argue, will accelerate the immunization of the masses. Nevertheless, like in France, the decisions to lockdown or slowdown seem to depend on whenever a nation is in the middle of an election or not.

Make no mistake, these events provide a blueprint for stripping liberties at scale. The laws enacted after the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago, allow the installation of mass surveillance technology which is still operational today. Therefore we must stay vigilant towards how fast our freedom will return. We’ve seen videos where authorities threaten citizens for disobeying the emergency precautions. We heard officials gently encourage to watch each other in these trying times. As someone who has survived a dictatorship, I also recognize these subtle signals. I’ve seen what happens once rulers get a grip on absolute power, it’s hard to let go.

Double Agent

So when does CivicTech work best? When we deploy it with honest intent and safeguards against abuse. We should treat CivicTech as a double agent that can provide us with both the powers to heal or to damage our trust. Especially the trust we have in institutions that need to guide us in times of crisis. Democracy only works when information is correct and transparent for all. If a society operates on lies, it literally suffers and dies.

If more people knew the exact velocity of Covid-19 infections and the stress on a nation’s healthcare system, collectively we would have been able to ‘flatten the curve’ sooner. Instead, we witnessed institutions haplessly misjudge and misinform us on a simple metric. A metric I’m still hoping we can obtain with CivicTech. Now we have to enter an undetermined period of unfamiliar powerlessness. And since we lack the compass of correct data, we have no clue how long it will last.

Why CivicTech Is The Most Valuable of Them All?

Why CivicTech Is The Most Valuable of Them All? 1254 620 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.

Recently we celebrated CivicTech by posting 21 initiatives from across the world on the 26th & 27th of October. They are the most valuable of LegalTech and here’s why.

What is CivicTech?

Steve Balmer wasn’t going to donate to charity. He told his wife he paid enough in taxes. As she explained to him, it doesn’t work that way and to find out how it does work they donated $10 million to create USAFacts.org. A site dedicated to telling everyone how the US government spends tax dollars. The Balmer’s were exercising a basic human right to know the facts. Because without facts, Free Speech is nothing more than Fake News.

Over a 100 countries have established some kind of freedom of information law. Despite having access to all that data it still takes a considerable amount of tech to really get to the truth. The Panama Papers (11.5 million), Paradise Papers (13.5 million) and the little lighter Kennedy Assassination Records (13.000+) prove you need all the help you can get. Here’s a practical definition: CivicTech is whatever technology is developed to protect your civil rights. And most of it starts with knowing what rights we have.

Why is CivicTech so valuable?

Financial numbers tell us that it is. This July, Legalpioneer calculated the average investments per market and CivicTech came out on top but has since slipped to third. Unfortunately, not all have “Mr. Developer” money to invest in the importance of understanding our rights and how they affect our position in society.

But bear in mind, the US opioid crisis unveiled how much ($248 million) is spent to influence these positions. Equally, their presidential elections revealed how little ($46.000) is needed to nudge even the largest democracy. We were brought up to believe our vote and voice matter, the reality is that it can just as easily be bought and bargained. Those who pay for and play with our liberties bank on anarchy to be more profitable then stability and fairness.

If you acknowledge how important funding is for our individual rights, the above-mentioned amplifies how perilous we have become. It’s not just providing power to the people, also to the individual. Cyberbullying and Sexual Harassment are rampant and a real reminder that it isn’t going away with just saying you’re sorry.

Who will defend our civil rights?

When you distill it, it boils down to the following. You need at least $248 million to get your own law approved. About $10 million to find out the truth or defend your privacy in court. Around $40k to misinform a susceptible audience to become the new sheriff of planet Earth. But if you do not have the means and the “report abuse” button does not work. You have just a single vote to oppose injustice. That is if you are eligible and able to register.

There is Access to Justice (#A2J) movement across the world which is addressing a more affordable system. But it still begs the question: why is it so expensive in the first place? Maybe it is a lack of tech-savvy empathic professionals to make it more user-friendly and efficient.

I called them “Fair Defenders” and it is a slightly corny name which belies the immense responsibilities we entrust upon them. Challenges like rising income inequality, massive job displacements, environmental disasters and global disinformation.

These defenders acknowledge that the tech is mightier than the sword. They use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to stop Cyberbullying (video) and protect the LBGT community. Employ Blockchain to preserve citizens rights or simply create a community and start the conversation (TEDTalk). And as this court case proves, they can also stop AI from violating our civil rights.

We hope these examples inspire you to create more civic tech, the worlds needs it.

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