Civic Technology/Printable version

Civic Technology

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Give Directions

Having your community accurately represented on digital maps and geographic guides is very important. By ensuring your community is well marked, one can help reduce the number of people who are lost in your community, as well as make it easier for people to conduct business.

OpenStreetMap edit

OpenStreetMap (OSM for short) is a freely available, open source map of the world which anyone can edit, just like Wikibooks or Wikipedia. Behind the scenes, many programs use OpenStreetMap to provide directions and other information to their users. Here are just a few ways OpenStreetMap data is often silently used by common applications.

  • Giving Directions to travelers, delivery drivers, and general motorists.
  • Assisting visually impaired people by applications that use OSM to note sidewalk info.

The OpenStreetMap community maintains their own beginners' guide.

Wikivoyage edit

The Wikivoyage website.

While basic maps are well and good, they don't offer further context of a location to a visitor. That's where Wikibooks and Wikipedia sister project Wikivoyage comes into play.

Wikivoyage is a travel guide that assists tourists in their journeys. Even if your city isn't a tourist hotspot, it may well lie on someone's journey, so it's worthwhile to improve local articles there. This helps tourists find local businesses, events, and other amenities to spend their time and money while visiting. Assisting tourists to have the best experience your community offers is mutually beneficial for both the community and the traveler.

If you want to act as a guide, you can become a docent on Wikivoyage as well.

Wikivoyage maintains a beginners guide with their plunge forward page. Editing Wikivoyage articles is easy, and many articles can be easily improved with a graphical listing editor.

Preserve History

Digitize artifacts edit

Local museums and libraries often have collections of artifacts, photographs, and documents. In many cases, underfunded institutions have been unable to commit resources to preserving these objects digitally, while retaining and preserving the original article.

When properly digitized, backed up, and distributed these artifacts can be more easily shared with the world, and a facsimile can aid scholars should the original be destroyed in a disaster. Of course the original should always be retained and safeguarded. Ask their staff If there is a way you can help out, either by volunteering your time, spreading the word, or donating.

Wikimedia Commons edit

Taking photographs of local nature can help Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons is a sister project to Wikibooks and Wikipedia. It aims to be a collective repository of freely licensed images. By taking your own photos of local landmarks, events, and natural sites, you can help preserve local history for future generations.

Examples of features you should consider adding to commons if they are missing.

  • Important local buildings.
  • Monuments and structures.
  • Important parks and natural features.
  • Major events.
  • Historical Sites.

Visit the Wikimedia Commons welcome page to get started.

Record a Story edit

Many people have stories to tell, which are passed down verbally. These stories could one day help historians, but are all too often lost to time. By using a simple recording application, you can ask someone with such a story allow you to record and submit their story, preserving it for future generations. One example of an application that can help you do this is StoryCorps, which is focused on the United States. Other countries often have similar programs.

For more information on StoryCorps read their Wikipedia article.

If you live in a region without access to a service like StoryCorps there are other ways of sharing a story. A local library or historical society might be interested in a copy of your stories. You could share it as a podcast, or otherwise publish it online.

Example story ideas to record:

  • Family history.
  • Major events in someone's life.
  • Stories about a local event or business.

Transcribe Documents edit

There exist vast numbers of documents which predate computers which have been scanned, but not formatted for efficient digital use. This creates problems, as such documents can't be searched, and can also not be used with a screen reader by those with vision impairments.


Translate edit

The World Wide Web provides a wonderful resource, yet all too often many bits of important information are only available in one language such as English. Many open projects such as Wikibooks allow content to be translated into a number of languages. If you know an additional language, you can help keep it alive by translating content from English to another language.

One example of such a project is Wikibooks and its sister projects such as Wikipedia. A full list of Wikimedia projects can be seen here.

Train AI edit

Oftentimes AI are trained to recognize speech patterns from a specific group, and then are unable to understand those with a regional accent. You can help AI understand your accent by giving samples of your voice to help train software. Common Voice, a project by the nonprofit Mozilla, allows you to easily help train an AI on your own unique voice.

You can read more about Common Voice on Wikipedia or you can also jump in and get started on their website.


If you have a particular skill, you may be able to share it online.

Wikibooks edit

Wikibooks is a collection of open source books. By editing and improving Wikibooks articles, you can help share your knowledge with others. Editing Wikibooks is also a good opportunity to practice English skills.