Balancing Tech Innovation

We focus on the digital aspect of government at our peril. Tech innovation needs to balance fairness, accessibility, and user-centric approaches with innovation, and do so in a way that engages all voices fairly.

This was a constant theme of FWD50 2020, in part because of world events shining a light on democratic processes, social justice, and the need to tackle society-level issues around trust, government continuity, and new leadership approaches. In partnership with the Canada School of Public Service’s Digital Academy project, we’re sharing six of our favourite talks from last November.

  • Most of the work of navigating government services rests squarely on the shoulders of citizens. Instead, argues Pia Andrews in Designing a user centric Digital Channel for Service Canada, we should build a user-centric set of services that focuses on what the user wants to do rather than on government’s structure or how processes are designed behind the scenes. 
  • The United Nations has an accelerator! It’s a decentralized network of 90 labs that innovate on public sector challenges, serving over 100 countries. In Building and Understanding a Learning Network: Early Tales from the UNDP Accelerator Labs, Jeremy Boy and Gina Lucarelly share how the lab listens for what the network is learning, and how it reveals challenges and possible solutions to the UN.
  • As the head of Code for America, Amanda Renteira is putting what she’s learned in a life of public service into Civic Tech. Her conversation with FWD50 chair Alistair Croll, Towards what’s possible: Rebuilding public trust, looks at the role Civic Tech plays as a bridge between the breakneck risk of the private sector and the careful deliberation of the public one. And it underscores that we need to talk about what’s working, and how citizens can be part of the solution, if we are to regain public trust in government.
  • We can’t reach consensus until we know the arguments and facts around a topic—and in 2021, we very much need consensus. Jamie Joyce is the founder of The Society Library; in Debating as a Nation: a Feature of 21st Century Democracy she talks about how we might debate as a society, rather than devolving into opposing teams and shouting past one another.