What is digital civics?

Digital technologies and citizen-driven design has the potential to transform services and ways of working to meet future local needs of public service delivery and community development. Digital Civics is a RCUK funded research initiative to reimagine digital local government and communities. Since 2014, we have been examining the design and application of digital technologies in different areas of service provision: social care, community health, public health, education and local democracy. The initiative is conducted in close partnership with our local authorities (Gateshead, Newcastle and Northumberland), many local and international third sector partners and businesses, and the communities of the North East of England. Through a process of place-based innovation we design, develop and evaluate local solutions, along with understanding their relevance to other contexts and scales.

Central to our approach is designing for citizens (rather than consumers) and service models that are relational (rather than transactional). Our ambition is that by working with local authorities and citizens on locally embedded and responsive demonstrator projects, we can create a space in which both citizens and local government can explore the potential for digital technologies to underpin new and sustainable models of service provision. Moving away from the traditional consumer-producer model of service provision has a number of implications for local government, including the need to provide participatory platforms through which citizens can take a more active role in shaping agendas, make decisions about service provision and participating in the provision of sustainable and resilient services. Our work so far has given us a better understanding of what this shift means for citizens, communities and institutions. We are constantly learning through working with others to develop digital tools and design approaches to enable this change.

What is Open Lab?

Digital Civics is led by Open Lab, Newcastle University’s world-leading cross-disciplinary research centre into human-computer interaction (HCI) and social and ubiquitous computing. Open Lab’s digital civics research is focused around two main initiatives:

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics – training a minimum of 55 PhD researchers between 2014 and 2022 in the field of digital civics. These researchers may come from, and work in, a variety of academic disciplines, ranging from computing to education, public health, politics and sociology. The CDT is funded by a £4.7m award from the EPSRC.

Digital Economy Research Centre – 25 postdoctoral researchers from Newcastle University and Northumbria University, as part of a network of research into the digital economy. The £10.4m centre is supported by a £4m EPSRC award.

Our partners

Age UK; Arjuna Group; Arup Group Ltd; Assoc Directors of Adult Social Service; BBC; BT; cloudBuy; DEMOS; eBay Research Lab; FutureGov; Gateshead Council; IBM; Line Communications Group Limited; Microsoft; Newcastle City Council; Northumberland County Council; Orange; Ordnance Survey; Philips; Promethean Ltd; Red Hats Labs; Reflective Thinking; Royal Town Planning Institute; Skype Communications SARL; SMART Technologies; Society of IT Management; Tunstall Healthcare (UK) Ltd; VocalEyes Digital Democracy; Voluntary Organisations’ Network NE

Our website

The headings at the top of the page will take you to the latest content relevant to each of the major areas of research within digital civics. This website is designed to show the projects in action, with regular updates from the researchers themselves, so keep checking back to see how the projects are progressing. You can view the profiles of the people behind the projects on the “People” page, and see the academic publications resulting from their research on the “Publications” page.

To find out more about Open Lab, visit openlab.ncl.ac.uk