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New world. With the Covid crisis, communities rely on technologies to communicate with citizens

Citizen participation platform, Citizen Lab helps communities to dialogue with citizens during this unprecedented health crisis. (Illustration) (GETTY IMAGES)

In the midst of the Covid crisis, “civic tech”, that is to say technologies serving citizen life, take on their full meaning. The startup Citizen Lab offers democratic consultation tools for local communities. Its co-founder Aline Muylaert has just received the Margaret Prize which rewards “digital women”. Franceinfo interviewed her.

franceinfo: what type of tool does Citizen Lab offer and for what use?

Aline Muylaert, co-founder of Citizen Lab : We have developed a citizen participation platform and we are working with local communities to help them involve people on topics that interest them. We work, for example, with the city of Rueil-Malmaison, the Greater Paris South region, etc. Our web platform allows us to propose several projects, such as participatory budgets.

Currently, we have quite a few projects related to the Covid-19 crisis. The particularity of our tool is to offer enhanced functions in the back office, with NLB (Natural Language Processing) technologies, i.e. speech recognition, to manage all the data and obtain intelligent analyzes. . We want to make citizen participation more effective.

Does the Covid crisis encourage communities to rely more on these digital tools?

What we are seeing now is that the crisis is accelerating the digitization of governments, including at the local level. We are creating functionalities specifically for the crisis, such as coordinating volunteers or online citizen workshops. We see that many local communities that use our platform still often had offline events. Now, the crisis forces them to move all these events to the “online”, and therefore, we are creating a functionality that allows to easily propose activities thanks to a video presentation and a live dialogue.

Isn't the digital divide an obstacle to the development of uses?

Yes, there is really a challenge to be met at this level. In fact, it is not necessarily a generation problem. The older ones are also very active on the platforms. The problem mainly affects people who are in precarious situations, especially those who do not speak the language, etc. Many initiatives are moving towards inclusion. They also include consultation elements in classic offline mode.

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