The rise of CivicTech to shape the future of cities: how digital ecosystems are transforming urban governance and civic engagement

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Shilpa kumarA former student of IIM-Kolkata, Shilpa Kumar has spent more than three decades within the ICICI Bank group and has served on the board of directors of several organizations.

Rise of Civic Tech in urban governance in India! The coronavirus pandemic has redefined digital ecosystems in all spheres of life. As people turn to technology like never before, we can see the ripple effect on local communities that were previously excluded from the benefits of digital services. How can this help shape the rise of CivicTech in the future of our cities? We’re about to find out.

In this exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, Shilpa Kumar highlights the rise of digital ecosystems that are accelerating momentum in terms of profits for those who were previously completely excluded from the digital society. In his own words, “For example, there is currently an increased momentum for technological innovations in the justice system as well as in our urban and health infrastructure. A strong government technology backbone can deliver services more efficiently and can reduce the dependence of ordinary citizens on interaction and transaction-based services. ”

A former student of IIM-Kolkata, Shilpa Kumar has spent more than three decades within the ICICI Bank group and has served on the board of directors of several organizations. A key part of his career is in the financial markets. In addition, she has also served on regulatory committees, including SEBI’s Secondary Market Advisory Board, RBI’s Technical Advisory Board, and RBI’s Mohanty Committee on Monetary Policy. In addition, she has also held key positions in industry bodies such as FIMMDA and the FICCI Capital Markets Committee, in addition to serving on the advisory committees of the NSE, BSE and the National Securities Depository. Ltd.

She adds: “At ONI, we recently launched a very interesting initiative called Citizen Innovation Lab (CIL), in partnership with CIIE.CO. The objective of this platform is to promote this legal, civic and real estate technology space by addressing the various crucial pillars of a successful startup ecosystem. CIL will develop knowledge about the sector, its opportunities and challenges, it will engage with colleges to sow entrepreneurial energy and activate regional ecosystems. The ultimate goal will be to incubate ideas and early stage startups in these 3 areas of CivicTech, Property Tech and Legal Tech.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset the status quo globally, especially in services that depend on state-citizen interaction. How to meet these challenges in terms of digitization, open digital ecosystems?

India has fortunately embarked on a much needed digitization route over the past decade. The pandemic has clearly shown the benefits of digital identity and digital banking rails to be able to provide direct relief to citizens across the country. This digital ecosystem must expand its reach and depth, extending to sectors that have not yet benefited from technology and to people who are still excluded from our digital society.

Given that urban governance and citizen engagement is an area of ​​focus for ONI, how do you see this space evolving further in a way that engages entrepreneurs working in these areas as well as investors at all levels? .

Cities are the engines of any economy and, therefore, at ONI, we believe that entrepreneurship in the space of urban governance and citizen engagement can have a transformative impact. It is currently a nascent space for philanthropic and investment businesses. We have made this space one of our priority areas for 2021.

Our decision to focus on CivicTech is based on 2/3 principles: For starters, cities themselves are adopting tech backbones, and most city dwellers are digitally equipped. Second, Covid has focused on critical areas related to the future of cities, for example a better focus on civic services, climate resilience, etc. This creates a very interesting space and momentum for entrepreneurs to operate in the capacity to digitize their offerings as well. such as the ability to initiate demand.

A combination of some of these factors can truly lead to profound and inclusive urban change. For this space to truly take off, investors will need to invest in start-ups that believe primarily in their immense intrinsic value for the future and their large impact footprint in addition to their economy. Policies and regulations will also need to support entrepreneurs and start-ups in this area to build a holistic and attractive ecosystem.

How important is civic engagement and a participatory approach between all relevant stakeholders to create inclusive and egalitarian cities? How can these interactions be more institutionalized and streamlined?

Citizen engagement is the cornerstone of all democratic processes. Technology can help citizens access civic services more easily and at lower cost. It can also be useful in finding out where there are gaps that need to be filled.

What are some of the lessons learned during the pandemic in terms of inclusiveness, sustainability and resilience? How are these challenges met by innovators and entrepreneurs?

For a country as large and complex as India, there are many areas to focus on as we move towards full inclusion. It will take a strong and dedicated push to enable digital identity, as well as access through digital and phygital means.

Why do you think this space of CivicTech, PropertyTech and LegalTech has not received the required boost in the ecosystem given the importance of these issues?

These sectors were largely spaces with a strong government presence and therefore it was difficult for entrepreneurs to build sustainable business models. Also, most of them were B2G models and were not really able to meet the needs of private businesses or consumers. This made many of them dependent on philanthropic giving. In civic tech, for example, much of the funding that these 400+ Indian civic tech startups have received is of a philanthropic nature.

These sectors have the potential to create substantial changes in the lives of ordinary citizens.

We need to redefine the way innovation and entrepreneurship have been approached in these sectors.

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