Getting More Civic In Our Apps

Uber is not generally characterized as “civic technology” company. But the recent announcement their request API seems like a real game changer to me.

Today, the Uber API team is excited to announce the public release of our Request endpoint. With the Uber API’s initial launch last August, we made it easy to surface information about Uber products within third party applications, but getting a ride always required deep-linking to the Uber app. With the Request endpoint, you can now build applications that incorporate the entire Uber experience.

There are a number of very practical applications that can be built on the Uber platform which have a clear civic value that are now within easy reach of developers.

My mind is currently spinning with ideas for apps that could help address the problem of drunk driving. But its easy to imagine a variety of other services that could help people get to medical appointments or a variety of other important services in a way that is easier and more economical than it is today.

I don’t think this announcement means that Uber is a civic technology company now just because you can build civic apps on their platform. (Similarly, I don’t think of Twilio as a civic technology company either, though that platform also supports a large number of civic apps.)

Instead, I think this is an example of what Andrew Rasiej mentioned during a recent talk at SXSW – taken from a quote by Nick Grossman:

We don’t need more civic apps; we need apps to be more civic.

Uber has taken a lot of criticism for some of its business practices of late – and rightly so. But their recent API announcement has the potential for tremendous value for the civic technology community.

It will be interesting to see how other companies embrace this idea and become more civic.

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