▨ Jamie McHale

Attending CivTech Demo Day 3.0

A showcase of technology-led innovation in the public sector · February 2019

I recently attended the CivTech Demo Day in Edinburgh. CivTech is a pilot run by the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate that aims to improve the interaction between public and private sectors. By issuing challenges rather than solution specifications, public sector organisations can work hand in hand with private sector entrepreneurs to develop products that benefit the public, whilst also creating a foundation for selling on to other customers.

One of the key ideas behind this initiative, which was mentioned in the presentations was the book ”The Entreprenuerial State” by Mariana Muzzucato. The book argues that the public sector is often under-valued in its contribution to innovation. I read ”The Value Of Everything” last year, a follow up that goes on to argue that we are not sufficiently accounting for value in the modern economy. I also recently listened to Mariana Muzzcato debate with Russ Roberts on the EconTalk podcast, which you might enjoy.

The demo presentations were good this year, improving year on year. There seemed to be more audience questions about data privacy. It seems that with the implementation of GDPR the privacy issue has become more salient. People asked questions about chatbots using Facebook and other platforms as interfaces. Is that suitable for apps that are dealing with wellbeing and mental health? Data is now being viewed as a trust-issue for customers and not simply as a resource to be tapped for profit. This is a good mindset change, and I’m glad the issue was raised.

There was a mixer after demo day - one of the positive spillover effects of this is that some applicants who weren’t successful with the challenge pitches were also present. Figuring out products, meeting people, and seeing the results of the programme should be helpful in building the entrepreneurial community in Scotland.

For further information on CivTech check out: