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The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms!
FrontlineSMS!
Sean McDonald!
Civic tech started as an idea. !
!
That became a community.!
!
Then became a buzzword.!
!
Now, it is a market.!
	
  
What defines civic tech isn’t
just about value.!
!
!
!
It’s about values.!
In a connected world,!
community values begin!
with!
!
relationships in context.!
	
  
Relationships begin by
meeting people	
  
where they are!
	
  
So, Mobile?!
7.2 billion active mobile subscribers!
3.6 billion unique users!
!
SMS is the only platform that reaches them...
The world’s most accessible
data channels !
!
!
!
are still offline.!
Defining civic tech will require
us to design systems for more
than one platform!
!
and ask a few hard questions. !
What is Minimum Viable
Usability? !
!
!
!
For who?!
Governments can’t design for one user. 

Tech systems do. This is a BIG difference.
How solutions scale!
0! 20k!downloads!
The Scale of Simple Usability !
Data ≠ Usability!
!
Usability ≠ Engagement!
!
Engagement ≠ Impact!
Data is not an output, it defines the
entire process.!
!
Digital access defines representation.!
Indicators define priorities...
Open !
Is!
!
!
!
Not !
Enough!
Is civic tech good business?!
!
A complement to business?!
!
Good branding for the same
old business?!
The Non-Profit Business
Can venture capital help
governments and
communities build !
equitable relationships or
will it lead to !
trickle down dem...
Often, we don’t need more
platforms or products, we need
better connections. !
Ci(zens	
   Ci(es	
  &	
  Coun(es	
   State	
  
How Connected Systems (could) Communicate	
  
Na(onal	
  
civic tech isn’t about
individual platforms or
people, it’s about the
structure of the
information relationships
between t...
Relationships are Networked
Communications Infrastructure!
Most governments (and people)
simply aren’t designed to listen
at scale. !
!
Listening requires shared
understanding. And ...
Frontline Connects Platforms and Systems	
  
#The Value of Connected Civic Text!
Message-powered healthcare! Zimbabwe Ministry of Health!
St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Malawi!
Pa(ents	
  book	
  appointments	
...
Interactive radio! Search for Common Ground, Ghana!
SFCG	
  used	
  Frontline	
  to	
  enable	
  
community	
  radio	
  st...
Message-powered banking! Honey Care, Kenya!
Community	
  based	
  savings	
  organiza(ons	
  
(SACCOs)	
  use	
  Frontline...
Message-powered education! VSO Int’l., Papua New Guinea!
VSO	
  Interna(onal	
  used	
  SMS	
  to	
  
deliver	
  stories	
...
NETWORKED LAND TITLING! Mercy Corps, Bolivia!
Mercy	
  Corps	
  incorporated	
  
Frontline	
  into	
  a	
  digital	
  land...
The most powerful civic
technology we have is
finding!
!
!
!
better ways to work together. !
DESIGN	
  	
  
Not for some People. !
Not by some People.!
With All the People.!
	
  
Civic Text 	
  
@FrontlineSMS!
sean@frontlinesms.com!
!
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)
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The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)

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Sean presented this at a session at The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference (TICTeC 2015) on 25 March 2015 in London.

Published in: Technology

The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms by Sean McDonald (Frontline SMS)

  1. 1. The Politics of Civic Tech Platforms! FrontlineSMS! Sean McDonald!
  2. 2. Civic tech started as an idea. ! ! That became a community.! ! Then became a buzzword.! ! Now, it is a market.!  
  3. 3. What defines civic tech isn’t just about value.! ! ! ! It’s about values.!
  4. 4. In a connected world,! community values begin! with! ! relationships in context.!  
  5. 5. Relationships begin by meeting people   where they are!  
  6. 6. So, Mobile?! 7.2 billion active mobile subscribers! 3.6 billion unique users! ! SMS is the only platform that reaches them all! Interna(onal  Telecommunica(ons  Union,  2010  
  7. 7. The world’s most accessible data channels ! ! ! ! are still offline.!
  8. 8. Defining civic tech will require us to design systems for more than one platform! ! and ask a few hard questions. !
  9. 9. What is Minimum Viable Usability? ! ! ! ! For who?!
  10. 10. Governments can’t design for one user. Tech systems do. This is a BIG difference.
  11. 11. How solutions scale!
  12. 12. 0! 20k!downloads! The Scale of Simple Usability !
  13. 13. Data ≠ Usability! ! Usability ≠ Engagement! ! Engagement ≠ Impact!
  14. 14. Data is not an output, it defines the entire process.! ! Digital access defines representation.! Indicators define priorities.! Routing defines power.! Algorithms define decision-making.! Visualizations define understanding.! Reporting defines accountability.! ! Every decision about data is a ! decision about power.! !
  15. 15. Open ! Is! ! ! ! Not ! Enough!
  16. 16. Is civic tech good business?! ! A complement to business?! ! Good branding for the same old business?!
  17. 17. The Non-Profit Business
  18. 18. Can venture capital help governments and communities build ! equitable relationships or will it lead to ! trickle down democracy?
  19. 19. Often, we don’t need more platforms or products, we need better connections. !
  20. 20. Ci(zens   Ci(es  &  Coun(es   State   How Connected Systems (could) Communicate   Na(onal  
  21. 21. civic tech isn’t about individual platforms or people, it’s about the structure of the information relationships between them  
  22. 22. Relationships are Networked Communications Infrastructure!
  23. 23. Most governments (and people) simply aren’t designed to listen at scale. ! ! Listening requires shared understanding. And shared context.  
  24. 24. Frontline Connects Platforms and Systems  
  25. 25. #The Value of Connected Civic Text!
  26. 26. Message-powered healthcare! Zimbabwe Ministry of Health! St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Malawi! Pa(ents  book  appointments   with  remote  hospitals  and   clinics.   Community  health  workers   monitory  and  report   symptoms,  enabling  officials  to   recognize  outbreaks  earlier.   St.  Gabriel’s  handles  twice  as   many  pa(ents  at  half  the  cost.     Disease  repor(ng  in  Zimbabwe   improves  by  400%,  covering   75%  of  the  country.  
  27. 27. Interactive radio! Search for Common Ground, Ghana! SFCG  used  Frontline  to  enable   community  radio  sta(ons  to   take  ques(ons  from  listeners   via  SMS.   Listeners  can  text  in  their   ques(ons  and  get  them   answered  live  on  the  air.   Enabling  sta(ons  to  halve  the   cost  of  listener  engagement.  
  28. 28. Message-powered banking! Honey Care, Kenya! Community  based  savings  organiza(ons   (SACCOs)  use  Frontline  to  enable  members  to   remotely  deposit  into  their  accounts.   Deposit  processing  (me  was  reduced  by  85%,   and  average  account  balance  improved  by  50%.  
  29. 29. Message-powered education! VSO Int’l., Papua New Guinea! VSO  Interna(onal  used  SMS  to   deliver  stories  to  schools  in   remote  areas  where  books   were  scarce.   Stories  and  lesson  plans  were   delivered  daily,  and  based  on  a   structured  phone(cs   curriculum.   Students  in  the  program  were   twice  as  likely  to  meet  literacy   standards  for  their  age.  
  30. 30. NETWORKED LAND TITLING! Mercy Corps, Bolivia! Mercy  Corps  incorporated   Frontline  into  a  digital  land   (tling  process  for  rural   farmers.     Land  (tles  were  delivered   40%  faster  and  cheaper  under   the  program.   Land  boundary  loca(ons,   agreement  statuses,  and  (tling   agency  reports  were   transmied  over  SMS.  
  31. 31. The most powerful civic technology we have is finding! ! ! ! better ways to work together. !
  32. 32. DESIGN     Not for some People. ! Not by some People.! With All the People.!  
  33. 33. Civic Text   @FrontlineSMS! sean@frontlinesms.com! !

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