December 2022 Student Spotlight
In this month’s student spotlight, MPA candidate Shahnoza Kurbonshoeva tells us about her recent fellowship with Coding it Forward, her interest in civic technology, and more.
Could you tell us about your summer fellowship program with Coding it Forward? Any interesting projects you’ve worked on?
It has been an exciting experience being in the Coding it Forward fellowship program this summer. The fellowship program aims to bring tech-oriented people into public service industries by helping them explore careers in federal or local government agencies. You also attend many civic tech events during the fellowship and meet industry leaders. Overall experience with Coding it Forward was excellent; I was a data analyst and product manager fellow at the City Manager’s Office in Des Moines.
In the city manager’s office, I worked on performance measurements initiative project. By the end of the fellowship program, together with the team, we published twelve city departments’ performance measurement indicators.
Transparency and accountability are critical parts of any government agency, and current technologies give us a great set of tools to measure the performance of an organization. While working for the city of Des Moines, we collected and visualized the city departments’ performance data and published the visuals on the city’s website for public access. The experience with the city of Des Moines performance measurement initiative was an excellent opportunity to learn where and how technology could help the government organizations’ mission and what obstacles they face while trying to collect data and implement tech innovations.
What has gotten you interested in civic technology?
Like anyone who’s ever had to go to a DMV, post office, or any civic institution for a service, it’s clear that there is room for improvement. We live in a digital age where we can get a toothbrush or video chat with someone across the world with the devices in the palm of our hands. Unlike our personal lives, governmental institutions have been slow to adopt new technologies that can bolster the quality of services to the public in this growing environment. It’s the potential of technology to improve government services by making them more accessible and inclusive that sparked my interest in civic tech.
Technology is an inevitable part of our daily lives; it’s hard to imagine a fully functioning life in the city without a laptop these days. The daily news of tech innovations is everywhere, and while the private sector can flourish with the use of technology, government and non-profit sectors are lagging behind. During my recent fellowship with Coding it Forward, I was very excited to learn that many organizations worldwide, such as Coding for America and Citizenlab, are equipped to help governments efficiently serve the public in the digital age.
While there are many credible reasons why government agencies are slow in adopting tech innovations, the civic tech industry aims to help government organizations to build equitable systems, empower government workers with modern tools for the decision-making process and ensure that government is accessible to all citizens. People interact with gov’t institutions regularly and consistently. Making these places more user-friendly should be on the agenda of public servants.
What is your earliest memory of civic engagement? Did it help to shape how you approach it today?
Park cleanup days during middle school are my first memories of civic engagement. It was a fun experience that helped me to connect to my local community and bring awareness to many other civic issues the community was facing. The experience has taught me a lot about the importance of finding a cause to bring people together, make them have conversations with each other, and build a strong civic community that has the power to address and solve the issues they are facing. So, yes, my first civic engagement experience definitely shapes my approach to this day.
However, considering the fast-changing environment, it’s crucial to adapt to the changes around us and use different strategies for civic engagement in a digital age. For example, encouraging communities to participate in online dialogues, helping them to have online platforms to connect and discuss community issues, and improving communications channels with government representatives online.