#Croydon #TechCity: March Review

By - Tuesday 25th March, 2014

Becca Taylor reviews the politics-themed March #Croydon #TechCity gathering

Image by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

Politics and tech are two subjects that don’t often cross over in a cohesive way. Whether it’s a Grant Shapps budget faux pas, David Cameron’s phone call banter, or Ed Balls’ infamous “Ed Balls” tweet, our politicians don’t always get it right online. But with Croydon becoming the fastest growing tech cluster in London and Boris Johnson amongst the politicos jumping on the Tech City bandwagon, it was only right to look at the ways the two will cross paths.

First up were founders Dominic Campbell and Carrie Bishop, who run Future Gov, an organisation that works within local government to improve their tech services in the community. Dominic introduced us to their ethos, ‘We Gov’ and spoke passionately about the problems they’ve faced in local government that they want to overcome with community. Carrie echoed this, stating plainly “I hate all political parties equally, and believe in the power of communities to solve their problems.”

Carrie introduced us to some of their start-ups with Future Gov, which include Casserole Club, a network bringing together isolated elderly people with neighbours who cook too much, and Doc Ready, a checklist for young people with mental health issues who need to remember multiple concerns to bring up at doctor’s appointments. Interestingly, their research led them to find that young people didn’t want an app – they wanted to print something to take with them, for fear of being seen as disrespectful when using a phone in a doctor’s office. Future Gov has beaten big multi-national companies to council contracts and their research-led ethos is setting them apart from the crowds.

Open Data is not the prettiest, but rooting through it creates jobs, it generates useful information for us as citizens and helps businesses grow

After the break, Cause Hub founder Sanjay Poyzner took to the stage to introduce us to his site, which believes in big ideas and good intentions. Cause Hub is the result of a partnership formed at Hack for Good, which led Sanjay and his business partner to research the way charities lobby MPs and get support for their petitions. Cause Hub helps connect the average person, who sees petitions on their social media timelines, with the facts and the issues behind them, giving them the most tangible thing they can do for the causes they care about. Sanjay’s work is currently being backed Bethnal Green Ventures (an organisation based neither in Bethnal Green nor Croydon) and the team are working with Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth, who will use the app locally before the public launch.

Closing the evening was Croydon Tech City veteran Alex Bilbie who works as a software developer for Pro-G Media, one of Croydon’s most successful tech companies. Alex is passionate about Open Data and the way we can use it both in our everyday lives, and in the important job of holding our politicians to account. Open Data comes in many forms: we see it when we use a tube or bus app to find the next travel connection; when we check food hygiene ratings before going out for a meal; and geodata such as maps and postcode information.

Open data also keeps governments accountable – take for example websites such as They Work For You, which provides the voting record of MPs in Parliament, or What Do They Know, which provides a huge database of Freedom of Information requests as well as guidance for making your own. Alex admitted Open Data is not the prettiest, but rooting through it creates jobs, it generates useful information for us as citizens and helps businesses grow.

Continuing on a political theme, the next Tech City event will be The Politician’s View, a debate and chance to question our Croydon MPs Steve Reed and Gavin Barwell. Entry is free and the event takes place from 7pm on April 10th. Bring your toughest questions!

Steve Reed (MP, Croydon North) and Gavin Barwell (MP, Croydon Central) will be discussing Croydon Tech City on Thursday April 10th at 7pm at Croydon Conference Centre.

Registration is required: either by signing up to the event on Eventbrite or  with your name to confirm your attendance.

Becca Taylor

Becca Taylor

Becca is a newcomer to South London, currently living in Sutton and working in Purley, as ICUK.net's Head of Marketing. She has a background in politics and journalism, and is slowly learning the ropes in the tech world. A graduate of Swansea University, Becca is also a keen fitness enthusiast and a proud fan of Southampton FC.

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