How are GovTech companies enhancing public services?
GovTech, also known as CitizenTech, refers to the technology developed to enhance public services. By 2025, the market is predicted to reach a total value of $400bn. However, in order to foster this growth, governments need to embrace the change. The UK government, for example, has launched its own £20m GovTech fund to encourage startup development. This month, European leaders met at the GovTech Summit in Paris to fuel conversation and celebrate the diversity of the growing sector.
Here, D/SRUPTION looks at 10 leading GovTech companies and the ways that they are transforming government-to-citizen relationships.
APPCityLife is a platform as a service (PaaS) that enables cities to deploy affordable mobile apps for a variety of solutions including beacons and wearables. The company, founded in 2009, wants to solve the last mile delivery problem of data exchange between organisations and citizens. One public services company that has utilised APPCityLife is Roadrunner Food Bank in New Mexico. Through the Roadrunner app, users can access information about upcoming food drives, donation points, and volunteering opportunities.
Chicago based CityBase was formed in 2013 to connect cities and citizens, and make government more accessible. The company is now working with more than 100 government agencies and utilities to improve services via a unified API. CityBase helps city authorities to reach residents and businesses through traditional in-person interactions as well as online. Through CityBase, municipalities can combine data streams using a unified web based platform. This makes it easier for residents and organisations to communicate and carry out transactions.
Engima provides data management for assets, compliance, underwriting, and life sciences. With so much data available to governing bodies, it’s difficult to know what is relevant. Set up in 2011, Enigma combines real world, third party and internal company data to offer insights in the form of knowledge graphs and maps. The company is able to standardise datasets and public information, helping to unify government data into cohesive visual tools. This means that any critical decision can be cross referenced against them and, in theory, enable better policy making.
Luxembourg based Airboxlabs‘ Footbot device is helping to address one of the biggest issues faced by governments today: pollution. According to the company, indoor pollution is five times worse than outside, contributing to breathing related ailments and affecting citizen health. Footbot’s software embedded sensors send Over The Air updates about air quality. Data is stored in the cloud, which can be connected with the clouds of other organisations. This could be used within the physical offices of governing bodies, or as part of the services they provide – think hospitals, housing blocks, and shopping centres.
Founded in 2016, Valerann has created a smart road system that provides high resolution, real time information about road use. The smart road is kitted out with a suite of sensors and Internet of Things connectivity that aims to detect risks, prevent accidents and automate traffic control. In the long run, Valerann is geared towards enabling the adoption of autonomous and semi autonomous vehicles. Their cloud and web based control centre aims to connect autonomous vehicles (AVs) to traditional alternatives, which will be vital for regional and city authorities during the transition from human driven to self driving vehicles.
6) Headlight AI
Handling the vast amounts of data that will be created from growing connectivity is (or should be) at the top of official organisations’ agendas. An autonomous vehicle, for example, outputs 400GB of data every single hour. Headlight AI improves sensor performance using artificially intelligent software that trains sensors to adapt in real time and cope with exponential data flows. One of the applications of Headlight AI’s patent pending technology is to help drones and autonomous robots work out where they are in GPS denied locations. As a result, official organisations can experiment with advanced technology even though the infrastructure might not be fully developed.
7) Forward Health
NHS Trusts approved Forward Health has developed a secure app called Forward which aims to improve patient safety and security. Patient data is stored within the app for five years unless otherwise requested, and is secured using https and 2048 bit RSA key encryption. Information about a patient can only be accessed by the clinical team responsible for that person, or by someone with a duty of care for them. Forward Health evidences the ongoing commitment of healthcare services to protect patient data.
8) Mark 43
In response to the inefficiency of public safety software, particularly in law enforcement, Mark 43 founder Scott Crouch set up a cloud based system to improve the speed and agility of police IT systems. Since 2012, New York based Mark 43 has enabled police officers to carry out arrest reports, investigations, and share data. This, in turn, helps the community and builds a better relationship between the police force, other official organisations, and those that they serve.
9) Strawberry Energy
Strawberry Energy launched in London in 2017 and is now active in 17 different countries. The startup creates smart benches for urban spaces, bringing about the normalisation of Internet of Things connected street furniture. The benches, which come in four different iterations, are solar powered, equipped with environmental sensors, and offer free charging and WiFi. Installing smart benches across cities is one way of familiarising citizens with connectivity and building the important infrastructural foundations for the wider rollout of IoT enabled public services.
Enabling technology is important, but so is modernising the democratic process itself. Members of the public need to be able to understand why policy is enacted and what it means for them. French GovTech company Fluicity is establishing trust between citizens and government officials by providing a platform for open, transparent communication. Users can access the platform via an app or on the web, searching for current projects and submitting suggestions that can be put to a community vote. Fluicity combines mobile technology and collective intelligence to encourage and empower citizens to get involved with new public policies. This allows representatives to gauge the support for any given policy, improving the dialogue between policy makers and those who are affected by them.
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