President Obama discussed the role of civic engagement in the 21st century at SXSW
Technology is a big driver for change and there are currently 600,000 tech job openings across the US. In South Africa alone there are hundreds of openings for software and development jobs every day; according to Career Junction the Information Technology sector has the highest demand for employees (see the Career Junction Index
here). It would be interesting to find out what this stat would be across Africa?
Imagine the potential of accessibility and trust governments could build with citizens when providing them with open data.
At this year's SXSW Interactive Conference, President Barack Obama was the keynote speaker and also the first sitting US president to make an appearance at the interactive conference. He set the tone for the conference, as he discussed civic engagement in the 21st century.
In order to digitise processes, Obama set up a startup within the Whitehouse called the 'U.S Digital Service' which aims to redefine the experience of the government and how it can work for the people. Obama recruited top tech talent in order to run this service. Staff from this department gave a talk at the conference titled 'We the people: Using technology to solve big challenges'. A big opportunity for them is open data – data that can be freely used - and creating tools to assist people in their everyday lives.
Key topics included:
Data-driven justice: How can open data build trust between law enforcement and citizens?
Digital government: How are the Obama Administration's digital teams transforming how Americans access government services online?
Accelerating opportunity creation: How is the trifecta of technology, open data and community engagement empowering citizens and local leaders with the tools they need to solve their challenges?
What are other governments doing across the world in order to drive this change with civic engagement in the digital age? The United Kingdom has a Digital Service arm in order to drive digital transformation of the UK government.
In Africa, Uganda is a key example, where they deployed Biometric Technology to improve general election transparency. This process has been implemented across other African countries, where it has encountered some challenges where fingerprint sensors weren't of a high enough quality. There's also the cost of investing in the technology and maintaining it. However, more than half of African countries have adopted this technology and Africa is also seen has a global forerunner.
African governments still have a long way to go in order to drive digital as a whole within civic engagement and it's an area to be taken seriously, considering the age we are living in.