App Creators Build Community and Legislative Consciousness

(Arshad Ahmed, Photographer)
Created out of the desire to promote a more inclusive, responsive and accountable governance, friends Arshad Ahmed and Aly Ibrahim, designed a free, downloadable app called Civiqa, which is available for iOS and Android phones.

    When friends Arshad Ahmed and Aly Ibrahim saw the need for more inclusive, responsive and accountable governance, they created Civiqa, a phone app.
    Available for iOS and Android, the free, downloadable app launched in January and is designed to promote local, political participation.
    “It is unprecedented in making available at anyone’s fingertips, information about the stack of governments responsible for every location in the entire United States and the legislative and policy work happening there,” said Ahmed, of Orinda. “It empowers constituents in each location to organize politically for the changes they seek.”
    They basically saw a need and filled it.
    “We asked ourselves where’s the digital forum that harnesses the power of mobile for transparent, collaborative discourse between public officials and constituents?” said Ibrahim, who recently moved from Lafayette to a Washington, D.C. suburb.
    Ahmed had a legal practice and taught law at UC Berkeley Law, UC Hastings College of Law, Vanderbilt Law School and Wake Forest Law School, while Ibrahim worked at Pinterest and Google. The two put their careers aside to focus on building Civiqa.
    Together they brainstormed ideas for a digital forum to make organizing campaigns in one’s district easier – whether it’s filling a pothole or changing local policy.
    “It’s obvious to anyone paying attention to the state of our democracy there’s a dire need for a service which feels balanced from a political standpoint, not biased one way or the other and where the system promotes responsiveness and accountability among decision-makers,” said Ahmed.
    Civiqa is community-specific and maps to every government jurisdiction, from congressional to school districts. Locally, there are action cards for the City of Orinda, Acalanes Union High and Orinda Union School Districts.
    “The app is granular enough to cover organizations and officials. There’s an action card for the Orinda City Council – as well as each councilmember,” said Ahmed. “This means any citizen can upload a Q&A with the mayor or city manager for everyone to see.
    “It’s a unique way for neighbors to get together to track and engage our public officials, not to mention it offers a new and exciting platform for public officials to demonstrate, in real time, their responsiveness and accountability to their constituents and supporters.”
    The duo hope Civiqa helps promote transparency and accountability in local communities.
    “Who better than high schoolers – insiders – to know what’s worthwhile to report on within their school action card, or who better than a resident to post video footage of the reception he or she got when asking a question at a city council meeting?” said Ibrahim.
    He added, “Reporting on the app generates a searchable, historical repository which will only get more useful and valuable as AI search technology becomes ubiquitous.”
    Planning to partner with high schools and colleges, they anticipate journalism students filling a transitional zone between novice and professional, where the app is a low-risk, high-reward digital space to practice their craft meaningfully.
    “They can write about local issues important to them and their neighbors and make their reporting immediately available to local audiences,” said Ahmed. “With the app, there’s no waiting for publication. Knowing their reporting will become part of their public portfolio, is far more motivating than the alternative – graded articles, never to be seen or benefitted from.”
    Ahmed and Ibrahim see the potential with Civiqa.
    “The app enables users to follow state and federal legislation by topic, driven by our machine-learning engine,” said Ahmed. “It’s a service that’s never before been available to the public at no charge. Our freely available AI legislative-tracker is a game changer.”
    For more information, visit

Charleen Earley can be reached at

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