About the Author: Raina Kumra serves as Senior New Media Advisor in the Innovation Division of the Office of eDiplomacy.
On November 4, the fourth Tech@State kicked off with Civil Society 2.0, in association with the World Bank. The at-capacity event was dotted with leaders from the technology community, government and the 'social good' space, including Tim O'Reilly, Cameron Sinclair, Nigel Snoad, Beth Kanter, and Alec Ross.
For those unfamiliar with the term, civil society includes any organization working for the social benefit such as charities, non-profits, NGOs, CSOs, community groups, women's organizations, faith-based organizations, social movements, business cooperatives, coalitions, and advocacy groups. Civil Society 2.0 is an initiative to create a self-sustaining movement to connect social good organizations with technology based tools and volunteers to help raise digital literacy and increase their impact in the 21st century.
The morning kicked off with Susan Swart, Chief Information Officer of the State Department, expressing how collaborative technologies are making waves in the daily work of the State Department, as well as in the long term diplomatic agenda. Tim O'Reilly, a leading voice in the open source movement, spoke about what Civil Society 2.0 means for the tech community. He addressed common sense rules for how the tech community can encourage growth in Civil Society 2.0 by thinking small, using existing tools, and building interoperability in the technology we use towards development. Beth Kanter, co-author of the Networked Nonprofit, gave an overview of how nonprofits work now, and how they could work better by being part of a strong network. She encouraged non-profit organizations to function more like sponges instead of fortresses and allow the free agent forces to work within an organization.
The afternoon program took place at the World Bank, where the group heard from Aleem Walji, practice manager for Innovation and Technology at the World Bank, and Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist for Africa. Breakout sessions included discussion on "Democracy, Transparency, and Civic Engagement,""Promoting Economic Opportunity,""Disaster Risk Management,""Fragile States," and "The Role of Science, Tech, and Environment." Participants included Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity, Adele Waugaman of the UN Foundation, Tim Kane of the Kauffman Foundation, Andrew Rasiej of the Personal Democracy Forum, and Darien Rodriguez Heyman of CODE Green Agency.
On November 5, Tech@State: Civil Society 2.0 conference continues in an interactive "unconference" format.
The State Department' support of Civil Society 2.0 stems from the realizations that:
- Collaborative technologies are changing the way we work internally, and how we interface externally.
- There are groups on the ground promoting democratic development and working effectively towards the Millennium Development Goals, and we need to support them and their work.
- Innovation happens everywhere, and technology transfer goes in both directions, from developing countries to developed ones and back.
- Understanding the needs of local CSOs, NGOs and grassroots organizations can better inform market development and innovations.
By strengthening this network, we continue to promote the work and mission of civil society that is key to our foundation as a democracy.