One of the most exciting things about starting a tech company is finding yourself in the middle of one of the most enthusiastic, energetic and visionary communities on earth. After pedaling up the road to the Oxford Internet Institute’s “Collective Action and the Internet” conference yesterday, this was all affirmed to me again. The focus in the talks this morning was “civic tech”, a field that, it seems, is about to explode, and since about 2015 has had the ability to drive any tech blogger, investor or Internet enthusiast into frenzy:
In a world in which all our services are rapidly being gobbled up and re-delivered by software, the interaction between the public users and the people developing this tech has remained minimal. Services are currently built for people rather than with them, and this is perhaps the main reason why the way towns, communities and cities (‘civic’ spheres) are organized have been pretty impervious to this technological takeover – it is difficult to develop something for the public good without talking to the public about it. Instead, a civic tech project would be one that creates a platform for some service around which a community can naturally grow and evolve their own content and direction.
Cycle.land is most excited about creating the platform through which people can share their bikes. Rather than overly restricting the ways in which this platform is used, we want to give it the freedom to operate in the way users want it to. Whether you want to start a local community of free bike sharing, or rent out your Cervelo time-trial bike to a visiting athlete, a platform that is built to grow with its users gives you the freedom to do either, and it is this organic growth of a community that defines civic tech.
Walter Goodwin wrote this post with <3