Microsoft is developing a “taxonomy of civic technology” to help guide the social impact of tech

Kit McDonald

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Coinciding with The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, Microsoft Director of Civic Technology Matt Stempeck has written a blog on Microsoft’s site detailing the field of civic technology and how they intend to study technology’s societal impact. Civic tech is the use of technology for the public good, and it spans a variety of fields including government, communities, journalism, politics, and cities.

Matt is the Director of Civic Technology on Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Engagement team. Along with Micah Sifry and Erin Simpson, the blog shares that investors, philanthropists, and media are about to see the field of civic technology take off.

The collaboration has begun categorizing and subcategorizing ways that technology affects different areas of the Civic Graph. The researchers started by taking inventory of civic tech, beginning with what exists currently rather than an opinion or idea. Together, a list of common functions was put together, which helped the team focus on solutions for improving health, education, cities, elections, and shared challenges instead of giving domain-specific examples. From there, they broke it down further into social processes that work together to employ technologies interpersonally.

Civic Graph
Civic Graph.

Considering the depth of technology, engagement in the mainstream has created useful tools called civic features. Likewise, civic products are stand-alone products build specifically for one or several community benefiting purpose. However, many tools that are on the list of civic tech weren’t even expected to have such an impact. Called civic externalities, features or tools that promote awareness and transparency open communication to the broader public.

Work isn’t even nearly done as the options are almost limitless. However, the team hopes to pull together more support from others. At the conference in Barcelona, the team shared the collaborated work in progress and is inviting critiques of the process. As they continue to refine and build the support for the civic tech field, an active worksheet is available to be accessed and shared. For more information on how the project intends to develop the field, visit the Microsoft blog.