Jennifer Arcuri is the Founder of the InnoTech Summit, a leading technology event for entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on ConservativeHome with Ian Liddell-Grainger MP about the importance of technology in improving both our economy and our lives. The particular focus was harnessing tech entrepreneurs to improve our public services and make them fit for the needs of modern Britain.
Sadly for Ian and his constituents, much of his Somerset constituency currently finds itself underwater. They are victims of a truly awful situation. Ian’s determination in fighting for his constituents (and with Environment Agency bosses!) is getting deserved plaudits.
However, out of this awful situation comes a powerful example of what may be a revolution in public services. This horrific problem may produce innovative solutions. It is with this in mind that tech companies large and small met in London on Sunday for #FloodHack.
It is often hard to explain how technology can help the average person but Sunday offered a highly tangible example of how the worlds of tech and public service can meet.
Around 100 members of the tech community (and more online) met with officials from the Cabinet Office to brainstorm the best ideas for new apps and systems for quickly getting information to victims of flooding and other crises. They discussed how the technology of tomorrow can help communicate the vital information needed by people today.
Much was made of the crash on the Environment Agency website, which couldn’t cope with the volume of traffic from concerned citizens. However, improvement required is to communicate better with people before, during and after problems occur.
New technologies will allow us to use twitter updates to show real-time flood forecasting based on real updates from real people. They will also allow us to reach citizens with information on their area based on their location, giving flood victims the information they actually need and not the hot air they too often get. They may (like floodvolunteers.co.uk) link you with people in your area who are willing to offer their support.
There is still a way to go. Concerns were raised on Sunday that there simply wasn’t enough data available to give developers ideal results. Also raised was the need for the government to have all the statistics required on one platform – at the moment the data is fragmented. The government needs to make sure innovators have access to the information they need to bring about these improvements.
Overall, those attending were well aware that these solutions are certainly not the single answer to the prayers of Ian’s constituents and those of other MPs across the country, but they are an excellent step in the right direction. After the floods, I hope that it is not just our flood defences that will be rebuilt, it should be our public services too.