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Making Public Transit Fairer to Women Demands Way More Data

Jan 22, 2020 03:39 am

Flavie Halais at Wired: “Public transportation is sexist. This may be unintentional or implicit, but it’s also easy to see. Women around the world do more care and domestic work than men, and their resulting mobility habits are hobbled by most transport systems. The demands of running errands and caring for children and other family members mean repeatedly getting on and off the bus, meaning paying more fares. Strollers and shopping bags make travel cumbersome. A 2018 study of New Yorkers found women were harassed on the subway far more frequently than men were, and as a result paid more money to avoid transit in favor of taxis and ride-hail….

What is not measured is not known, and the world of transit data is still largely blind to women and other vulnerable populations. Getting that data, though, isn’t easy. Traditional sources like national censuses and user surveys provide reliable information that serve as the basis for policies and decisionmaking. But surveys are costly to run, and it can take years for a government to go through the process of adding a question to its national census.

Before pouring resources into costly data collection to find answers about women’s transport needs, cities could first turn to the trove of unconventional gender-disaggregated data that’s already produced. They include data exhaust, or the trail of data we leave behind as a result of our interactions with digital products and services like mobile phones, credit cards, and social media. Last year, researchers in Santiago, Chile, released a report based on their parsing of anonymized call detail records of female mobile phone users, to extract location information and analyze their mobility patterns. They found that women tended to travel to fewer locations than men, and within smaller geographical areas. When researchers cross-referenced location information with census data, they found a higher gender gap among lower-income residents, as poorer women made even shorter trips. And when using data from the local transit agency, they saw that living close to a public transit stop increased mobility for both men and women, but didn’t close the gender gap for poorer residents.

To encourage private companies to share such info, Stefaan Verhulst advocates for data collaboratives, flexible partnerships between data providers and researchers. Verhulst is the head of research and development at GovLab, a research center at New York University that contributed to the research in Santiago. And that’s how GovLab and its local research partner, Universidad del Desarollo, got access to the phone records owned by the Chilean phone company, Telefónica. Data collaboratives can enhance access to private data without exposing companies to competition or privacy concerns. “We need to find ways to access data according to different shades of openness,” Verhulst says….(More)”.


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UK citizens' climate assembly to meet for first time

Jan 22, 2020 03:38 am

Sandra Laville in The Guardian: “Ordinary people from across the UK – potentially including climate deniers – will take part in the first ever citizens’ climate assembly this weekend.

Mirroring the model adopted in France by Emmanuel Macron, 110 people from all walks of life will begin deliberations on Saturday to come up with a plan to tackle global heating and meet the government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The assembly was selected to be a representative sample of the population after a mailout to 30,000 people chosen at random. About 2,000 people responded saying they wanted to be considered for the assembly, and the 110 members were picked by computer.

They come from all age brackets and their selection reflects a 2019 Ipsos Mori poll of how concerned the general population is by climate change, where responses ranged from not at all to very concerned. Of the assembly members, three people are not at all concerned, 16 not very concerned, 36 fairly concerned, 54 very concerned, and one did not know, organisers said.

The selection process meant those chosen could include climate deniers or sceptics, according to Sarah Allan, the head of engagement at Involve, which is running the assembly along with the Sortition Foundation and the e-democracy project mySociety.

“It is really important that it is representative of the UK population,” said Allen. “Those people, just because they’re sceptical of climate change, they’re going to be affected by the steps the government takes to get to net zero by 2050 too and they shouldn’t have their voice denied in that.”

The UK climate assembly differs from the French model in that it was commissioned by six select committees, rather than by the prime minister. Their views, which will be produced in a report in the spring, will be considered by the select committees but there is no guarantee any of the proposals will be taken up by government.

Allen said it was rare for members of a citizens’ assembly to get locked into dissent. She pointed to the success of the Irish citizens’ assembly in 2016, which helped break the deadlock in the abortion debate. “This climate assembly is going to come up with recommendations that are going to be really invaluable in highlighting public preferences,” she said….(More)”.


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Reuse of open data in Quebec: from economic development to government transparency

Jan 22, 2020 01:33 am

Paper by

Reuse of open data in Quebec: from economic development to government transparency

Paper by Christian Boudreau: “Based on the history of open data in Quebec, this article discusses the reuse of these data by various actors within society, with the aim of securing desired economic, administrative and democratic benefits. Drawing on an analysis of government measures and community practices in the field of data reuse, the study shows that the benefits of open data appear to be inconclusive in terms of economic growth. On the other hand, their benefits seem promising from the point of view of government transparency in that it allows various civil society actors to monitor the integrity and performance of government activities. In the age of digital data and networks, the state must be seen not only as a platform conducive to innovation, but also as a rich field of study that is closely monitored by various actors driven by political and social goals….

Although the economic benefits of open data have been inconclusive so far, governments, at least in Quebec, must not stop investing in opening up their data. In terms of transparency, the results of the study suggest that the benefits of open data are sufficiently promising to continue releasing government data, if only to support the evaluation and planning activities of public programmes and services….(More)”.


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People learn in different ways. The way we teach should reflect that

Jan 22, 2020 12:03 am

Article by Jason Williams-Bellamy and Beth Simone Noveck: “There’s never been more hybrid learning in the public sector than today…

There are pros and cons in online and in-person training. But some governments are combining both in a hybrid (also known as blended) learning program. According to the Online Learning Consortium, hybrid courses can be either:

  • A classroom course in which online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant portion, but not all face-to-face activity
  • An online course that is supplemented by required face-to-face instruction such as lectures, discussions, or labs.

A hybrid course can effectively combine the short-term activity of an in-person workshop with the longevity and scale of an online course.

The Digital Leaders program in Israel is a good example of hybrid training. Digital Leaders is a nine-month program designed to train two cohorts of 40 leaders each in digital innovation by means of a regular series of online courses, shared between Israel and a similar program in the UK, interspersed with live workshops. This style of blended learning makes optimal use of participants’ time while also establishing a digital environment and culture among the cohort not seen in traditional programs.

The State government in New Jersey, where I serve as the Chief Innovation Officer, offers a free and publicly accessible online introduction to innovation skills for public servants called the Innovation Skills Accelerator. Those who complete the course become eligible for face-to-face project coaching and we are launching our first skills “bootcamp,” blending online and the face-to-face in Q1 2020.

Blended classrooms have been linked to greater engagement and increased collaboration among participating students. Blended courses allow learners to customise their learning experience in a way that is uniquely best suited for them. One study even found that blended learning improves student engagement and learning even if they only take advantage of the traditional in-classroom resources. While the added complexity of designing for online and off may be off-putting to some, the benefits are clear.

The best way to teach public servants is to give them multiple ways to learn….(More)”.


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The Experimenter’s Inventory: A catalogue of experiments for decision-makers and professionals

Jan 21, 2020 02:40 pm

Report by the Alliance for Useful Evidence: “This inventory is about how you can use experiments to solve public and social problems. It aims to provide a framework for thinking about the choices available to a government, funder or delivery organisation that wants to experiment more effectively. We aim to simplify jargon and do some myth-busting on common misperceptions.
There are other guides on specific areas of experimentation – such as on randomised controlled trials – including many specialist technical textbooks. This is not a technical manual or guide about how to run experiments. Rather, this inventory is useful for anybody wanting a jargon-free overview of the types and uses of experiments. It is unique in its breadth – covering the whole landscape of social and policy experimentation, including prototyping, rapid cycle testing, quasi-experimental designs, and a range of different types of randomised trials. Experimentation can be a confusing landscape – and there are competing definitions about what constitutes an experiment among researchers, innovators and evaluation practitioners. We take a pragmatic approach, including different designs that are useful for public problem-solving, under our experimental umbrella. We cover ways of experimenting that are both qualitative and quantitative, and highlight what we can learn from different approaches….(More)”.


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How Aid Groups Map Refugee Camps That Officially Don't Exist

Jan 21, 2020 11:05 am

Abby Sewell at Wired: “On the outskirts of Zahle, a town in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, a pair of aid workers carrying clipboards and cell phones walk through a small refugee camp, home to 11 makeshift shelters built from wood and tarps.

A camp resident leading them through the settlement—one of many in the Beqaa, a wide agricultural plain between Beirut and Damascus with scattered villages of cinderblock houses—points out a tent being renovated for the winter. He leads them into the kitchen of another tent, highlighting cracking wood supports and leaks in the ceiling. The aid workers record the number of residents in each tent, as well as the number of latrines and kitchens in the settlement.

The visit is part of an initiative by the Switzerland-based NGO Medair to map the locations of the thousands of informal refugee settlements in Lebanon, a country where even many city buildings have no street addresses, much less tents on a dusty country road.

“I always say that this project is giving an address to people that lost their home, which is giving back part of their dignity in a way,” says Reine Hanna, Medair’s information management project manager, who helped develop the mapping project.

The initiative relies on GIS technology, though the raw data is collected the old-school way, without high tech mapping aids like drones. Mapping teams criss-cross the country year round, stopping at each camp to speak to residents and conduct a survey. They enter the coordinates of new camps or changes in the population or facilities of old ones into a database that’s shared with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and other NGOs working in the camps. The maps can be accessed via a mobile app by workers heading to the field to distribute aid or respond to emergencies.

Lebanon, a small country with an estimated native population of about 4 million, hosts more than 900,000 registered Syrian refugees and potentially hundreds of thousands more unregistered, making it the country with the highest population of refugees per capita in the world.

But there are no official refugee camps run by the government or the UN refugee agency in Lebanon, where refugees are a sensitive subject. The country is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and government officials refer to the Syrians as “displaced,” not “refugees.”

Lebanese officials have been wary of the Syrians settling permanently, as Palestinian refugees did beginning in 1948. Today, more than 70 years later, there are some 470,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Lebanon, though the number living in the country is believed to be much lower….(More)”.

Four maps showing the growth of informal Syrian refugee settlements in the Zahle district of the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon
Maps compiled by UNHCR showing the growth in the number of informal refugee camps in one area of Lebanon over the past six years.COURTESY OF UNHCR


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Hospitals Give Tech Giants Access to Detailed Medical Records

Jan 21, 2020 03:01 am

Melanie Evans at the Wall Street Journal: “Hospitals have granted Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines and Amazon.com Inc. the ability to access identifiable patient information under deals to crunch millions of health records, the latest examples of hospitals’ growing influence in the data economy.

The breadth of access wasn’t always spelled out by hospitals and tech giants when the deals were struck.

The scope of data sharing in these and other recently reported agreements reveals a powerful new role that hospitals play—as brokers to technology companies racing into the $3 trillion health-care sector. Rapid digitization of health records and privacy laws enabling companies to swap patient data have positioned hospitals as a primary arbiter of how such sensitive data is shared. 

“Hospitals are massive containers of patient data,” said Lisa Bari, a consultant and former lead for health information technology for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center. 

Hospitals can share patient data as long as they follow federal privacy laws, which contain limited consumer protections, she said. “The data belongs to whoever has it.”…

Digitizing patients’ medical histories, laboratory results and diagnoses has created a booming market in which tech giants are looking to store and crunch data, with potential for groundbreaking discoveries and lucrative products.

There is no indication of wrongdoing in the deals. Officials at the companies and hospitals say they have safeguards to protect patients. Hospitals control data, with privacy training and close tracking of tech employees with access, they said. Health data can’t be combined independently with other data by tech companies….(More)”.


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Information literacy in the age of algorithms

Jan 21, 2020 01:57 am

Report by Alison J. Head, Ph.D., Barbara Fister, Margy MacMillan: “…Three sets of questions guided this report’s inquiry:

  1. What is the nature of our current information environment, and how has it influenced how we access, evaluate, and create knowledge today? What do findings from a decade of PIL research tell us about the information skills and habits students will need for the future?
  2. How aware are current students of the algorithms that filter and shape the news and information they encounter daily? What
    concerns do they have about how automated decision-making systems may influence us, divide us, and deepen inequalities?
  3. What must higher education do to prepare students to understand the new media landscape so they will be able to participate in sharing and creating information responsibly in a changing and challenged world?
    To investigate these questions, we draw on qualitative data that PIL researchers collected from student focus groups and faculty interviews during fall 2019 at eight U.S. colleges and universities. Findings from a sample of 103 students and 37 professors reveal levels of awareness and concerns about the age of algorithms on college campuses. They are presented as research takeaways….(More)”.


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Finding the Blank Spots in Big Data

Jan 20, 2020 03:09 pm

Eye on Design: “How often do we think of data as missing? Data is everywhere—it’s used to decide what products to stock in stores, to determine which diseases we’re most at risk for, to train AI models to think more like humans. It’s collected by our governments and used to make civic decisions. It’s mined by major tech companies to tailor our online experiences and sell to advertisers. As our data becomes an increasingly valuable commodity—usually profiting others, sometimes at our own expense—to not be “seen” or counted might seem like a good thing. But when data is used at such an enormous scale, gaps in the data take on an outsized importance, leading to erasure, reinforcing bias, and, ultimately, creating a distorted view of humanity. As Tea Uglow, director of Google’s Creative Lab, has said in reference to the exclusion of queer and transgender communities, “If the data does not exist, you do not exist.”

“In spaces that are oversaturated with data, there are blank spots where there’s nothing collected at all.”

This is something that artists and designers working in the digital realm understand better than most, and a growing number of them are working on projects that bring in the nuance, ethical outlook, and humanist approach necessary to take on the problem of data bias. This group includes artists like Onuoha that have the vision to seek out and highlight these absences (and offer a blueprint for others), as well as those like artist and software engineer Omayeli Arenyeka, who are working on projects that collect necessary data. It also includes artist and researcher Caroline Sinders and the collective Feminist Internet, who are working on building AI models, chatbots, and systems that take into account data bias and exclusion in every step of their processes. Others are academics like Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein, whose book Data Feminism considers how a feminist approach to data science would curb widespread bias. Still others are activists, like María Salguero, who saw there was a lack of comprehensive data on gender-based killings in Mexico and decided to collect it herself….(More)”.


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Belgium’s experiment in permanent forms of deliberative democracy

Jan 20, 2020 02:30 pm

Article by Min Reuchamps: In December 2019, the parliament of the Region of Brussels in Belgium amended its internal regulations to allow the formation of ‘deliberative committees’ composed of a mixture of members of the Regional Parliament and randomly selected citizens. This initiative follows innovative experiences in the German-speaking Community of Belgium, known as Ostbelgien, and the city of Madrid in establishing permanent forums of deliberative democracy earlier in 2019. Ostbelgien is now experiencing its first cycle of deliberations, whereas the Madrid forum has been short-lived after having been cancelled, after two meetings, by the new governing coalition of the city.

The experimentation in establishing permanent forums for direct citizen involvement constitutes an advance from hitherto deliberative processes which were one-off experiments, i.e. non-permanent procedures. The relatively large size of the Brussels Region, with over 1 200 000 inhabitants, means that the lessons will be key in understanding the opportunities and risks of ‘deliberative committees’ and their potential scalability….

Under the new rules, the Regional Parliament can setup a parliamentary committee composed of 15 (12 in the Cocof) parliamentarians and 45 (36 in the Cocof) citizens to draft recommendations on a given issue. Any inhabitant in Brussels who has attained 16 years of age has the chance to have a direct say in matters falling under the jurisdiction of the Brussels Regional Parliament and the Cocof. The citizen representatives will be drawn by lot in two steps:

  • A first draw among the whole population, so that every inhabitant has the same chance to be invited via a formal invitation letter from the Parliament;
  • A second draw among all the persons who have responded positively to the invitation by means of a sampling method following criteria to ensure a diverse and representative selection, at least in terms of gender, age, official languages of the Brussels-Capital Region, geographical distribution and level of education.

The participating parliamentarians will be the members of the standing parliamentary committee that covers the topic under deliberation. In the regional parliament, each standing committee is made up of 15 members (including both Dutch- and French-speakers), and in the Cocof Parliament, each standing committee is made of 12 members (only French-speakers)….(More)”.


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The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer

Jan 20, 2020 12:19 pm

Edelman: “The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that despite a strong global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures—government, business, NGOs and media—is trusted. The cause of this paradox can be found in people’s fears about the future and their role in it, which are a wake-up call for our institutions to embrace a new way of effectively building trust: balancing competence with ethical behavior…

Since Edelman began measuring trust 20 years ago, it has been spurred by economic growth. This continues in Asia and the Middle East, but not in developed markets, where income inequality is now the more important factor. A majority of respondents in every developed market do not believe they will be better off in five years’ time, and more than half of respondents globally believe that capitalism in its current form is now doing more harm than good in the world. The result is a world of two different trust realities. The informed public—wealthier, more educated, and frequent consumers of news—remain far more trusting of every institution than the mass population. In a majority of markets, less than half of the mass population trust their institutions to do what is right. There are now a record eight markets showing all-time-high gaps between the two audiences—an alarming trust inequality…

Distrust is being driven by a growing sense of inequity and unfairness in the system. The perception is that institutions increasingly serve the interests of the few over everyone. Government, more than any institution, is seen as least fair; 57 percent of the general population say government serves the interest of only the few, while 30 percent say government serves the interests of everyone….

Against the backdrop of growing cynicism around capitalism and the fairness of our current economic systems are deep-seated fears about the future. Specifically, 83 percent of employees say they fear losing their job, attributing it to the gig economy, a looming recession, a lack of skills, cheaper foreign competitors, immigrants who will work for less, automation, or jobs being moved to other countries….(More)”.


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The Handbook of Public Sector Communication

Jan 20, 2020 02:57 am

Book edited by Vilma Luoma-aho and María José Canel: “Research into public sector communication investigates the interaction between public and governmental entities and citizens within their sphere of influence. Today’s public sector organizations are operating in environments where people receive their information from multiple sources. Although modern research demonstrates the immense impact public entities have on democracy and societal welfare, communication in this context is often overlooked. Public sector organizations need to develop “communicative intelligence” in balancing their institutional agendas and aims of public engagement. The Handbook of Public Sector Communication is the first comprehensive volume to explore the field. This timely, innovative volume examines the societal role, environment, goals, practices, and development of public sector strategic communication.

International in scope, this handbook describes and analyzes the contexts, policies, issues, and questions that shape public sector communication. An interdisciplinary team of leading experts discusses diverse subjects of rising importance to public sector, government, and political communication. Topics include social exchange relationships, crisis communication, citizen expectations, measuring and evaluating media, diversity and inclusion, and more. Providing current research and global perspectives, this important resource:

  • Addresses the questions public sector communicators face today
  • Summarizes the current state of public sector communication worldwide
  • Clarifies contemporary trends and practices including mediatization, citizen engagement, and change and expectation management
  • Addresses global challenges and crises such as corruption and bureaucratic roadblocks
  • Provides a framework for measuring communication effectiveness…(More)”.

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Improving public policy and administration: exploring the potential of design

Jan 19, 2020 02:48 pm

Paper by Arwin van Buuren et al: “In recent years, design approaches to policymaking have gained popularity among policymakers. However, a critical reflection on their added value and on how contemporary ‘design-thinking’ approaches relates to the classical idea of public administration as a design science, is still lacking. This introductory paper reflects upon the use of design approaches in public administration. We delve into the more traditional ideas of design as launched by Simon and policy design, but also into the present-day design wave, stemming from traditional design sciences. Based upon this we distinguish between three ideal-type approaches of design currently characterising the discipline: design as optimisation, design as exploration and design as co-creation. More rigorous empirical analyses of applications of these approaches is necessary to further develop public administration as a design science. We reflect upon the question of how a more designerly way of thinking can help to improve public administration and public policy….(More)”.


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Unlocking Technology for the Global Goals

Jan 19, 2020 12:01 pm

Report by the World Economic Forum: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is still in its early years yet it is already changing the way we work, live and interact. As 4IR technologies become faster, smarter, and more widely applied, the pace of transformation will only accelerate.

In parallel, we face global challenges of increasing magnitude and immediacy. The United Nation’s 17 Global Goals give a blueprint for what we globally and collectively must do if we are to end extreme poverty, protect our natural environment, revert climate change and create a more sustainable, equal and prosperous future for all.

Despite a rapid rise of 4IR technologies being applied across many aspects of industry and commerce, the potential of these technologies to accelerate progress to the Global Goals is not being realised. Today’s technological revolution is a time of enormous promise to accelerate progress on the Global Goals, both broadening and deepening current action.

But unlocking this potential requires a change in priorities and significant challenges to be overcome. This presents us with a dilemma of how to drive systems-level change in priorities, and to overcome significant challenges to ensure that it has an impact over the next 10 years on the global goals, and also on these challenges in the long term.

In this report, developed in collaboration with PwC, we showcase the significant opportunity to harness new technologies for the Global Goals. Through analysis of over 300 technology applications, the report explores; 1) the extent to which this opportunity is being realised, 2) the barriers to scaling these applications, and 3) the enabling framework for unlocking this opportunity….(More)”.


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Social media firms 'should hand over data amid suicide risk'

Jan 19, 2020 11:55 am

Denis Campbell at the Guardian: “Social media firms such as Facebook and Instagram should be forced to hand over data about who their users are and why they use the sites to reduce suicide among children and young people, psychiatrists have said.

The call from the Royal College of Psychiatrists comes as ministers finalise plans to crack down on issues caused by people viewing unsavoury material and messages online.

The college, which represents the UK’s 18,000 psychiatrists, wants the government to make social media platforms hand over the data to academics so that they can study what sort of content users are viewing.

“We will never understand the risks and benefits of social media use unless the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram share their data with researchers,” said Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the college’s child and adolescent mental health faculty. “Their research will help shine a light on how young people are interacting with social media, not just how much time they spend online.”

Data passed to academics would show the type of material viewed and how long users were spending on such platforms but would be anonymous, the college said.

The government plans to set up a new online safety regulator and the college says it should be given the power to compel firms to hand over data. It is also calling for the forthcoming 2% “turnover tax” on social media companies’ income to be extended so that it includes their turnover internationally, not from just the UK.

“Self-regulation is not working. It is time for government to step up and take decisive action to hold social media companies to account for escalating harmful content to vulnerable children and young people,” said Dubicka.

The college’s demands come amid growing concern that young people are being harmed by material that, for example, encourages self-harm, suicide and eating disorders. They are included in a new position statement on technology use and the mental health of children and young people.

NHS England challenged firms to hand over the sort of information that the college is suggesting. Claire Murdoch, its national director for mental health, said that action was needed “to rein in potentially misleading or harmful online content and behaviours”.

She said: “If these tech giants really want to be a force for good, put a premium on users’ wellbeing and take their responsibilities seriously, then they should do all they can to help researchers better understand how they operate and the risks posed. Until then, they cannot confidently say whether the good outweighs the bad.”

The demands have also been backed by Ian Russell, who has become a campaigner against social media harm since his 14-year-old daughter Molly killed herself in November 2017….(More)”.


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Global problems need social science

Jan 19, 2020 03:31 am

Hetan Shah at Nature: “Without human insights, data and the hard sciences will not meet the challenges of the next decade…

I worry about the fact that the call prioritized science and technology over the humanities and social sciences. Governments must make sure they also tap into that expertise, or they will fail to tackle the challenges of this decade.

For example, we cannot improve global health if we take only a narrow medical view. Epidemics are social as well as biological phenomena. Anthropologists such as Melissa Leach at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, played an important part in curbing the West African Ebola epidemic with proposals to substitute risky burial rituals with safer ones, rather than trying to eliminate such rituals altogether.

Treatments for mental health have made insufficient progress. Advances will depend, in part, on a better understanding of how social context influences whether treatment succeeds. Similar arguments apply to the problem of antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic overuse.

Environmental issues are not just technical challenges that can be solved with a new invention. To tackle climate change we will need insight from psychology and sociology. Scientific and technological innovations are necessary, but enabling them to make an impact requires an understanding of how people adapt and change their behaviour. That will probably require new narratives — the purview of rhetoric, literature, philosophy and even theology.

Poverty and inequality call even more obviously for expertise beyond science and maths. The UK Economic and Social Research Council has recognized that poor productivity in the country is a big problem, and is investing up to £32.4 million (US$42 million) in a new Productivity Institute in an effort understand the causes and potential remedies.

Policy that touches on national and geographical identity also needs scholarly input. What is the rise of ‘Englishness’? How do we live together in a community of diverse races and religions? How is migration understood and experienced? These intangibles have real-world consequences, as demonstrated by the Brexit vote and ongoing discussions about whether the United Kingdom has a future as a united kingdom. It will take the work of historians, social psychologists and political scientists to help shed light on these questions. I could go on: fighting against misinformation; devising ethical frameworks for artificial intelligence. These are issues that cannot be tackled with better science alone….(More)”.


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The Future State CIO: How the Role will Drive Innovation

Jan 19, 2020 02:03 am

Report by Accenture/NASCIO: “…exploring the future role of the state CIO and how the state CIO will drive innovation.

The research included interviews and a survey of state CIOs to understand the role of state CIOs in promoting innovation in government.

  • The study explored how state IT organizations build the capacity to innovate and which best practices help in doing so.
  • We also examined how state CIOs embrace new and emerging technologies to create the best government outcomes.
  • Our report illuminates compelling opportunities, persistent obstacles, strategies for accelerating innovation and inspiring real-world case studies.
  • The report presents a set of practical recommendations for driving innovation…(More)”.

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Human-centred policy? Blending ‘big data’ and ‘thick data’ in national policy

Jan 18, 2020 05:18 pm

Policy Lab (UK): “….Compared with quantitative data, ethnography creates different forms of data – what anthropologists call ‘thick data’. Complex social problems benefit from insights beyond linear, standardised evidence and this is where thick data shows its worth. In Policy Lab we have generated ethnographic films and analysis to sit alongside quantitative data, helping policy-makers to build a rich picture of current circumstances. 

On the other hand, much has been written about big data – data generated through digital interactions – whether it be traditional ledgers and spreadsheets or emerging use of artificial intelligence and the internet of things.  The ever-growing zettabytes of data can reveal a lot, providing a (sometimes real time) digital trail capturing and aggregating our individual choices, preferences, behaviours and actions.  

Much hyped, this quantitative data has great potential to inform future policy, but must be handled ethically, and also requires careful preparation and analysis to avoid biases and false assumptions creeping in. Three issues we have seen in our projects relate to:

  • partial data, for example not having data on people who are not digitally active, biasing the sample
  • the time-consuming challenge of cleaning up data, in a political context where time is often of the essence
  • the lack of data interoperability, where different localities/organisations capture different metrics

Through a number of Policy Lab projects we have used big data to see the big picture before then using thick data to zoom in to the detail of people’s lived experience.  Whereas big data can give us cumulative evidence at a macro, often systemic level, thick data provides insights at an individual or group level.  We have found the blending of ‘big data’ and ‘thick data’ – to be the sweet spot. 

This is a diagram of Policy Lab's model for combining big data and thick data.
Policy Lab’s model for combining big data and thick data (2020)

Policy Lab’s work develops data and insights into ideas for potential policy intervention which we can start to test as prototypes with real people. These operate at the ‘meso’ level (in the middle of the diagram above), informed by both the thick data from individual experiences and the big data at a population or national level. We have written a lot about prototyping for policy and are continuing to explore how you prototype a policy compared to say a digital service….(More)”.


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Predictive Policing Theory

Jan 18, 2020 02:55 pm

Paper by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson: “Predictive policing is changing law enforcement. New place-based predictive analytic technologies allow police to predict where and when a crime might occur. Data-driven insights have been operationalized into concrete decisions about police priorities and resource allocation. In the last few years, place-based predictive policing has spread quickly across the nation, offering police administrators the ability to identify higher crime locations, to restructure patrol routes, and to develop crime suppression strategies based on the new data.

This chapter suggests that the debate about technology is better thought about as a choice of policing theory. In other words, when purchasing a particular predictive technology, police should be doing more than simply choosing the most sophisticated predictive model; instead they must first make a decision about the type of policing response that makes sense in their community. Foundational questions about whether we want police officers to be agents of social control, civic problem-solvers, or community partners lie at the heart of any choice of which predictive technology might work best for any given jurisdiction.

This chapter then examines predictive policing technology as a choice about policing theory and how the purchase of a particular predictive tool becomes – intentionally or unintentionally – a statement about police role. Interestingly, these strategic choices map on to existing policing theories. Three of the traditional policing philosophies – hot spot policing , problem-oriented policing, and community-based policing have loose parallels with new place-based predictive policing technologies like PredPol, Risk Terrain Modeling (RTM), and HunchLab. This chapter discusses these leading predictive policing technologies as illustrative examples of how police can choose between prioritizing additional police presence, targeting environmental vulnerabilities, and/or establishing a community problem-solving approach as a different means of achieving crime reduction….(More)”.


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Rejuvenating Democracy Promotion

Jan 18, 2020 02:18 pm

Essay by Thomas Carothers: “Adverse political developments in both established and newer democracies, especially the abdication by the United States of its traditional leadership role, have cast international democracy support into doubt. Yet international action on behalf of democracy globally remains necessary and possible. Moreover, some important elements of continuity remain, including overall Western spending on democracy assistance. Democracy support must adapt to its changed circumstances by doing more to take new geopolitical realities into account; effacing the boundary between support for democracy in new and in established democracies; strengthening the economic dimension of democracy assistance; and moving technological issues to the forefront…(More)”.


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