Skip to content

Most talk about civic technology focuses on what it can do for cities. But that neglects its possibilities for bringing countryside communities together. A Code for Europe project is reusing open source software to help parents access vital children’s services in a rural area of Scotland.

Clackmannanshire is Scotland’s smallest council area, with 50,000 residents. Its biggest town, Alloa, is home to 20,000 people. The pressures on young families are the same as they are in cities – and can be exacerbated by being far from friends and relatives.

Clackmannanshire Council was concerned about having to make cuts, and asked where it could invest its resources best,” says Rory Gianni, a Code for Europe fellow who is working with the council.

One of its priorities is trying to help vulnerable families.

“We’re trying to increase the opportunities for young families and kids. It’s about early intervention – the earlier you get opportunities, the better for later on in life.

“You have families that think they’ll be less isolated if they move here,” Gianni says. “But if you have trouble with your partner, then you’re by yourself.”

Based on Californian app

Clacks Kids, which is due to launch soon, allows parents to search for services, activities and events. The app is based on SMC-Connect, which was developed by Code for America in San Mateo County, California.

“You’ll be able to say, ‘I’m free on Monday between 5 and 7’, and it’ll come up with a list of things to do,” Gianni says.

The council benefits, too, through an admin system based on Ohana API, another open source tool which is designed to work with services for people, such as medical care or social services.

“The council can see all services going in – so it helps it understand what’s out there,” Gianni explains. “You may have a voluntary support group that doesn’t have a website, just a post on Mumsnet.”

Because Clackmannanshire is Scotland’s smallest county, services are coordinated across different areas, a challenge that Gianni has had to bear in mind when putting Clacks Kids together.

But the county’s size has helped Gianni, who is in the first year of his Code for Europe fellowship at Clackmannanshire. He is also working on developing an open data platform, mapping tools, and a system to open up council decision-making to the public.

“Stuff moves quicker here,” he says. “It’s helped – people sat ‘we’ll get you this server’, or ‘I know someone who can help with that’. It’s an advantage.

“I’m really enjoying the fellowship. I like the model of being able to bring in ideas and set them into the local context. There’s a lot of support here, which makes it enjoyable.”

Waving at Mum by Brian Smith used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.