A weekly curation of new findings and developments on innovation in governance.

Table of Contents

Open Data for Developing Economies

Aug 04, 2016 01:31 pm

Scan of the literature by Andrew Young, Stefaan Verhulst, and Juliet McMurren: This edition of the GovLab Selected Readings was developed as part of the Open Data for Developing Economies research project (in collaboration with WebFoundation, USAID and fhi360). Special thanks to Maurice McNaughton, Francois van Schalkwyk, Fernando Perini, Michael Canares and David Opoku for their input on an early draft. Please contact Stefaan Verhulst ( for any additional input or suggestions.

Open data is increasingly seen as a tool for economic and social development. Across sectors and regions, policymakers, NGOs, researchers and practitioners are exploring the potential of open data to improve government effectiveness, create new economic opportunity, empower citizens and solve public problems in developing economies. Open data for development does not exist in a vacuum – rather it is a phenomenon that is relevant to and studied from different vantage points including Data4Development (D4D), Open Government, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Open Development. The below-selected readings provide a view of the current research and practice on the use of open data for development and its relationship to related interventions.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

  • Open Data and Open Development…
  • Open Data and Developing Countries (National Case Studies)….(More)”

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Metric Power

Aug 04, 2016 08:53 am

Book by David Beer: This book examines the powerful and intensifying role that metrics play in ordering and shaping our everyday lives. Focusing upon the interconnections between measurement, circulation and possibility, the author explores the interwoven relations between power and metrics. He draws upon a wide-range of interdisciplinary resources to place these metrics within their broader historical, political and social contexts. More specifically, he illuminates the various ways that metrics implicate our lives – from our work, to our consumption and our leisure, through to our bodily routines and the financial and organisational structures that surround us. Unravelling the power dynamics that underpin and reside within the so-called big data revolution, he develops the central concept of Metric Power along with a set of conceptual resources for thinking critically about the powerful role played by metrics in the social world today….(More)”

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Expanding citizen science models to enhance open innovation

Aug 04, 2016 06:39 am

 in the Conversation: “Over the years, citizen scientists have provided vital data and contributed in invaluable ways to various scientific quests. But they’re typically relegated to helping traditional scientists complete tasks the pros don’t have the time or resources to deal with on their own. Citizens are asked to count wildlife, for instance, or classify photos that are of interest to the lead researchers.

This type of top-down engagement has consigned citizen science to the fringes, where it fills a manpower gap but not much more. As a result, its full value has not been realized. Marginalizing the citizen scientists and their potential contribution is a grave mistake – it limits how far we can go in science and the speed and scope of discovery.

Instead, by harnessing globalization’s increased interconnectivity, citizen science should become an integral part of open innovation. Science agendas can be set by citizens, data can be open, and open-source software and hardware can be shared to assist in the scientific process. And as the model proves itself, it can be expanded even further, into nonscience realms.


The time is right for citizen science to join forces with open innovation. This is a concept that describes partnering with other people and sharing ideas to come up with something new. The assumption is that more can be achieved when boundaries are lowered and resources – including ideas, data, designs and software and hardware – are opened and made freely available.

Open innovation is collaborative, distributed, cumulative and it develops over time. Citizen science can be a critical element here because its professional-amateurs can become another significant source of data, standards and best practices that could further the work of scientific and lay communities.

Globalization has spurred on this trend through the ubiquity of internet and wireless connections, affordable devices to collect data (such as cameras, smartphones, smart sensors, wearable technologies), and the ability to easily connect with others. Increased access to people, information and ideas points the way to unlock new synergies, new relationships and new forms of collaboration that transcend boundaries. And individuals can focus their attention and spend their time on anything they want.

We are seeing this emerge in what has been termed the “solution economy” – where citizens find fixes to challenges that are traditionally managed by government.

Consider the issue of accessibility. Passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act aimed to improve accessibility issues in the U.S. But more than two decades later, individuals with disabilities are still dealing with substantial mobility issues in public spaces – due to street conditions, cracked or nonexistent sidewalks, missing curb cuts, obstructions or only portions of a building being accessible. These all can create physical and emotional challenges for the disabled.

To help deal with this issue, several individual solution seekers have merged citizen science, open innovation and open sourcing to create mobile and web applications that provide information about navigating city streets. For instance, Jason DaSilva, a filmmaker with multiple sclerosis, developed AXS Map – a free online and mobile app powered by Google Places API. It crowdsources information from people across the country about wheelchair accessibility in cities nationwide….

Perhaps the most pressing limitation of scaling up the citizen science model is issues with reliability. While many of these projects have been proven reliable, others have fallen short.

For instance, crowdsourced damage assessments from satellite images following 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines faced challenges. But according to aid agencies, remote damage assessments by citizen scientists had a devastatingly low accuracy of 36 percent. They overrepresented “destroyed” structures by 134 percent….(More)”

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Gamification of physical activity: Beat the Street and Pokémon Go

Aug 03, 2016 10:16 pm

Katherine Knight at NESTA: “Since launching in the US on 6 July, Pokémon Go has become a global phenomenon with millions of downloads and more active users than Twitter. The game has been attributed with improving mental health, establishing augmented reality as mainstream and boosting traffic to local businesses.

Pokémon Go has also caused a massive spike in physical activity similar to that seen following New Year’s Resolutions. While the game’s main intention was not to transform the health of its players, it has clearly demonstrated the powerful potential of gamification as a means to get people active.

Gamified design has already been recognised by leading organisations in transport, nature, and the voluntary sector as a way to engage new audiences and change behaviour, but only recently have we come to understand how gamification can be used to dramatically increase physical activity and improve public health.

Changing habitual behaviours such as inactivity or driving to school and work has proven difficult via traditional health initiatives. Gamification provides new opportunities move people towards a more active lifestyle by providing positive incentives and rewards for players who get moving. In the case of Pokémon GO, the incentive to catch and collect as many Pokémon as possible is enough to nudge players to go outside and get active.

Gamification offers advantages over other types of physical activity campaigns due to its ability to bypass the perceived barriers to becoming active. Gamified design can deliver health through stealth by encouraging people to play a fun, free game rather than take part in a fitness scheme.

The impact of gamifying health can be clearly seen in Intelligent Health’s Beat the Street initiative which transforms communities into playable cities. At the heart of Beat the Street is a six-week game where residents are encouraged to explore their local area by tapping cards and fobs against special sensors – Beat Boxes – distributed across their town. Players are rewarded with points, can create teams and earn prizes depending on how far they run, walk or cycle….(More)”.

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Network Science

Aug 03, 2016 10:09 pm

Book by Albert-László Barabási: “Networks are everywhere, from the Internet, to social networks, and the genetic networks that determine our biological existence. Illustrated throughout in full colour, this pioneering textbook, spanning a wide range of topics from physics to computer science, engineering, economics and the social sciences, introduces network science to an interdisciplinary audience. From the origins of the six degrees of separation to explaining why networks are robust to random failures, the author explores how viruses like Ebola and H1N1 spread, and why it is that our friends have more friends than we do. Using numerous real-world examples, this innovatively designed text includes clear delineation between undergraduate and graduate level material. The mathematical formulas and derivations are included within Advanced Topics sections, enabling use at a range of levels. Extensive online resources, including films and software for network analysis, make this a multifaceted companion for anyone with an interest in network science….(More)”

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Stop the privatization of health data

Aug 03, 2016 04:46 pm

John T. Wilbanks & Eric J. Topol in Nature: “Over the past year, technology titans including Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM have been hiring leaders in biomedical research to bolster their efforts to change medicine….

In many ways, the migration of clinical scientists into technology corporations that are focused on gathering, analysing and storing information is long overdue. Because of the costs and difficulties of obtaining data about health and disease, scientists conducting clinical or population studies have rarely been able to track sufficient numbers of patients closely enough to make anything other than coarse predictions. Given such limitations, who wouldn’t want access to Internet-scale, multidimensional health data; teams of engineers who can build sensors for data collection and algorithms for analysis; and the resources to conduct projects at scales and speeds unthinkable in the public sector?

Yet there is a major downside to monoliths such as Google or smaller companies such as consumer-genetics firm 23andMe owning health data — or indeed, controlling the tools and methods used to match people’s digital health profiles to specific services.

Digital profiling in other contexts is already creating what has been termed a ‘black box’ society. Online adverts are tailored to people’s age, location, spending and browsing habits. Certain retail services have preferentially been made available only to particular groups of people. And law enforcers are being given tools to help them make sentencing decisions that cannot be openly assessed (see This is all thanks to the deliberately hidden collection and manipulation of personal data.

If undisclosed algorithmic decision-making starts to incorporate health data, the ability of black-box calculations to accentuate pre-existing biases in society could greatly increase. Crucially, if the citizens being profiled are not given their data and allowed to share the information with others, they will not know about incorrect or discriminatory health actions — much less be able to challenge them. And most researchers won’t have access to such health data either, or to the insights gleaned from them….(More)”

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Responsible citizenship app for IRL social network

Aug 03, 2016 02:07 pm

Springwise: “Many point to the breakdown of community cohesion as a direct result of social media. Now a French startup based in Lyon has launched an app that promotes exchanges between people who don’t necessarily know each other, but who use the same services in the same area.

Launched in September 2015 a few months before COP21, CityLity aims to connect citizens with each other and their local services, branding itself as a “social network of proximity”. Users can search for local services such as a local plumber or sports facility; they can alert the responsible authority about a problem that needs fixing (a leaking water hydrant for example); they can even ask for help moving house from their neighbors. The system also incentivizes eco-friendly behavior, and has created the country’s first interactive eco-responsible map which lists services such as recycling, charging points for electric cars and rental bike stations.

Encouraging smarter local networks is the driving force behind an app where citizens can input questions in the same way as they would use Siri and receive evidence-based answers regarding their city….(More)”

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Cognitive Emotion and the Law

Aug 03, 2016 09:34 am

Paper by Harold Anthony Lloyd: “Many wrongly believe that emotion plays little or no role in legal reasoning. Unfortunately, Langdell and his “scientific” case method encourage this error. A careful review of analysis in the real world,however, belies this common belief. Emotion can be cognitive and cognition can be emotional. Additionally, modern neuroscience underscores the “co-dependence” of reason and emotion. Thus,even if law were a certain science of appellate cases (which it is not), emotion could not be torn from such “science.”

As we reform legal education, we must recognize the role of cognitive emotion in law and legal analysis. If we fail to do this, we shortchange law schools, students, and the bar in grievous ways. We shortchange the very basics of true and best legal analysis. We shortchange at least half the universe of expression (the affective half). We shortchange the importance of watching and guarding the true interests of our clients, which interests are inextricably intertwined with affective experience. We shortchange the importance of motivation in law, life, and legal education. How can lawyers understand the motives of clients and other relevant parties without understanding the emotions that motivate them? How can lawyers hope to persuade judges, other advocates, or parties across the table in a transaction without grasping affective experience that motivates them? How can law professors fully engage students while ignoring affective experience that motivates students?Finally, we shortchange matters of life and death: emotions affect health and thus the very vigor of the bar.

Using insights from practice, modern neuroscience, and philosophy, I therefore explore emotion and other affective experience through a lawyer’s lens. In doing this, I reject claims that emotion and other affective experience are mere feeling (though I do not discount the importance of feeling). I also reject claims that emotion and other affective experience are necessarily irrational or beyond our control. Instead, such experience is often intentional and quite rational and controllable. After exploring law and affective experience at more “macro” levels, I consider three more specific examples of the interaction of law and emotion: (i) emotion, expression, and the first amendment, (ii) emotion in legal elements and exceptions, and (iii) emotion and lawyer mental health. To provide lawyers and legal scholars with a “one-source” overview of emotion and the law, I have also included an Appendix addressing a number of particular emotions…(More)”.

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Bitcoin: innovation of money and evolution of governance

Aug 02, 2016 07:54 pm

Nozomi Hayase in Open Democracy: “In its seven years of existence, Bitcoin has gained widespread attention with its disruptive potential in finance. Some see it as a form of digital gold, offering a safe haven against capital controls and asylum to people whose currency is debased.

The invention of cryptocurrency coincided with a global crisis of legitimacy in the 2008 financial meltdown, which was followed by bank bailouts and for the people, a cycle of austerity. In that seminal white paper, mysterious creator Satoshi Nakamoto described Bitcoin as a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would allow “online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution”. The core invention is distributed trust and Nakamoto stated that it was put forward as a solution to the “inherent weakness of the trust based model”, where financial institutions act as trusted third parties.

Bitcoin, I will argue, is not just an innovation in banking and finance, but at its core, concerns a challenge to governance systems that can lead to an evolution of humanity. For so long, social progress has stagnated, with the selfish and callous sides of man taking the upper hand. Unprecedented levels of government and corporate corruption in recent years have signaled a breakdown of systems of accountability. This deep failure of democracy has exposed the existence of individuals who exhibit a total lack of conscience and empathy for others. They embody a dark side of individuality, with aggressive and narrow selfish desires that often come in conflict with the public good. Now, the destructive actions of this minority seem to have become a threat to civilization itself. We shall explore how Bitcoin provides a new model of governance that is resilient to these adversarial forces.

Security holes within representative democracy

In the US, the launch of constitutional democracy brought a significant departure from the monarchy of olden times, where the king acted as ordained ruler. Yet, the foundation of this governance has not fundamentally changed, as it still relies on authority, requiring people to trust those who claim to represent them in the form of elected officials.

Representative democracy has increasingly become a mask used by ruthless individuals to hide and gain a grip on the populace. Behind the veil of secrecy, corporate masters behind the charade of electoral politics sponsor political candidates, who with campaign promises keep people passive and manage down their expectation levels. With future faking, which involves making plans that will never happen, and gas-lighting, a tactic known to challenge one’s memory, they deceive and gain power over others.

Money as a weapon of control

Money dependent on systems of representation requires trust to work. With the creation of the Federal Reserve and other central banks, private corporations began taking over the supplying of money. This centrally planned money production intermediates human relationship by dividing all into classes of creditors and debtors, where the former are masters, while the latter often become de-facto slaves.

The hidden captains of this managed democracy direct the flow of currency through financial engineering and have created incentive structures that are bent toward preserving their power. Stimulated by toxic asset bubbles, derivatives and quantitative easing, these incentives work like invisible hands of the market. They suppress democratic values by controlling information, which is the currency of democracy and suppressing free speech with economic censorship, as was seen in the case of the financial blockade against WikiLeaks. With radical deregulation, this system promotes fraud and depravity, exemplified in HSBC’s money laundering and top bank’s currency rigging. Through oppressive monetary policy and predatory lending that is presented as humanitarian aid, institutions such as the IMF and World Bank indebtdeveloping countries, holding whole populations in poverty.

All of this has resulted in the creation of a two-tiered justice system and derisked capitalism, where those in power are never allowed to fail and are not held accountable either by markets or the legal system….

Bitcoin as a new security model

Bitcoin brings an elegant solution to this systemic parasitic rent-seeking and exploitation. As asset-based digital cash, it offers an alternative to the promissory system of value creation by decree from above. Currency is its first application and Bitcoin’s underlying technology, the blockchain is a public asset ledger. This is a distributed database that records a history of transactions in the network without anyone in charge. Once data is verified, no one can undo it. This immutable timestamp goes beyond simple accounting of monetary transactions.

Bitcoin enables a new security model and it addresses the problem of security holes in the existing trust-based model of governance. Author and security expert Andreas Antonopoulos called this “trust by computation” that has “no central authority or trusted third party”….

Governance without central authority

Over the decades, democratic governments have become vehicles of control that have lost their fail-safe. Increasingly, people are held hostage by this corrupted political system. Satoshi’s white paper published in 2008 cleared a path for evolution. This wisdom can help humanity solve the problem of a historic failure of accountability.

Bitcoin ungoverns people as well as unbanking them around the world. Proof-of-work distributes what used to be third party trust across a massive global decentralized network, fostering a kind of self-governance in each individual. People who till now have been blindly handing over their consent to institutions can instead choose to be equal under the law of mathematics.

Governance without central authority can at first seem inefficient. But it is more secure than the current system of representation. The more the system reduces the need to trust a third party, replacing it with a borderless network, the lower the security risk becomes. With Bitcoin, governance can be innovated to function as a platform of consensus. Rather than a system to govern others, it can be used as settlement; to work out disputes and reconcile conflicts. Distributed trust as its core technology enables the capacity to set up rules agreed to by everyone, which cannot be altered by one person or group. The Bitcoin blockchain opens a door into a pluralistic society where all can participate in creating governance models and currencies that manifest their values through the principle of mutual aid and voluntary association….(More)”

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Addressing Legal Issues When Crowdsourcing Solutions

Aug 02, 2016 08:50 am

Paper by Jeremy De Beer, Ian McCarthy, Adam Soliman and Emily Treen for the Open and User Innovation Conference 2016: “The increase in crowdsourcing requires both companies and crowds to have a better understanding of previously neglected legal issues. Focusing on the crowdsourcing of solutions, we raise and address two related questions: how and why organizations manage intellectual property issues when engaging in crowdsourcing activities? The answers lie in discussing the hazards of having inadequate intellectual property management strategies in place and the need to manage three considerations: two legal and one strategic. Legally, managers need appropriate ‘terms and conditions’ to (a) acquire sufficient rights from the crowd to achieve their objectives, and (b) mitigate exposure to liabilities associated with using materials submitted by the crowd. Strategically, managers need to accomplish these legal goals without dissuading participation by the crowd due to unnecessarily exploitative practices or onerous obligations. We present a number of examples demonstrating how companies have applied these legal and strategic concepts to various crowdsourcing initiatives and conclude with recommendations for managers and other practitioners….(More)”

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The Potential of M-health for Improved Data Use

Aug 02, 2016 08:48 am

IDS Evidence Report: “The Institute of Development Studies (IDS), in partnership with World Vision Indonesia, are exploring whether a recently implemented nutrition surveillance intervention, known as M-health, is being used to improve community-based data collection on nutrition.

The M-health mobile phone application has been integrated into the Indonesian national nutrition service delivery through the community-based health service called ‘posyandu’. Established in 1986, the posyandu is Indonesia’s main national community nutrition programme. It functions at the village level, enabling communities to access primary health care. The aim of the intervention is to reduce maternal, infant and child (under five) mortality rates. The posyandu involves five priority programmes: maternal and child health, which includes the ‘weighing post’ (growth monitoring); family planning; immunisation; nutrition, which includes nutrition counselling; and diarrhoea prevention and treatment.

The programme works by the mobile phone application (M-health) automatically sending a referral to health workers at the sub-district-level in cases where a child does not meet the required growth targets. The application also provides the health community-based cadres with reminders and steps to accurately plan follow-up visits. These data are then sent to the community health centres at the sub-district-level, known in Indonesia as the puskesmas.

In the period 2013–15, researchers at IDS worked with World Vision Indonesia to assess whether data produced through mobile phone technology might trigger faster response by nutrition stakeholders. This short report supports ongoing work and focuses on how posyandu-level data might be used by different stakeholders….(More)”

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Sustainable Business Models for Public Sector Open Data Providers

Aug 02, 2016 08:31 am

Frederika Welle Donker and Bastiaan van Loenen in the Journal of eDemocracy and Open Government: “Since 2009, Open Government Data initiatives have been launched worldwide and the concept of open data is gaining momentum. Open data are often associated with realizing ambitions, such as a more transparent and efficient government, solving societal problems and increased economic value. However, between proposing an open data policy and successful implementation are some practicable obstacles, especially for government agencies required to generate sufficient revenue to cover their operating costs, so-called self-funding agencies. With lost revenue due to open data, there is a real risk that the update frequency and the quality of data may suffer or that the open data policy may even have to be reversed. This article has researched the financial effects of open data policies for self-funding agencies on their business model. The article provides some hands-on proposals for self-funding agencies having to implement an open data policy whilst ensuring their long-term sustainability….(More)”

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Transforming Politics

Aug 02, 2016 07:01 am

Book by Bagguley, Paul (et al.): “This volume examines the transformation of politics and social movements at various levels. Starting with a transformation of identity within social movements, it goes on to discuss changes in the scale of social movement mobilisation. The impact of social movements on the state is also considered, with a particular focus upon the ways in which the state is able to incorporate apparently radical political agendas. Finally, the book examines those intellectual and theoretical debates stimulated by recent political transformations….(More)”

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E-Government in Support of Sustainable Development

Aug 01, 2016 08:46 pm

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs: “The UN E-Government Survey 2016 on “E-Government in Support of Sustainable Development” offers a snapshot of trends in the development of e-government in countries across the globe. According to the Survey more governments are embracing information and communication technologies (ICTs) to deliver services and to engage people in decision-making processes in all regions of the world. The 2016 UN E-Government Survey provides new evidence that e-government has the potential to help support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The Survey indicates a positive global trend towards higher levels of e-government development as countries in all regions are increasingly embracing innovation and utilizing new ICTs to deliver services and engage people in decision-making processes. It underscores that one of the most important new trends is the advancement of people-driven services – services that reflect people’s needs and are driven by them. At the same time, disparities remain within and among countries. Lack of access to technology, poverty and inequality prevent people from fully taking advantage of the potential of ICTs and e-government for sustainable development….(More)”

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Consultation on the draft guidelines for meaningful civil participation in political decision-making

Aug 01, 2016 06:16 pm

CDDG Secretariat: “The Council of Europe is preparing guidelines to help ensure meaningful civil participation in political decision-making in its member states. Before finalising these guidelines, the European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) and the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (Conference of INGOs) are organising a wide public consultation on the draft text.

This consultation seeks to involve public authorities and bodies at central, regional and local level such as ministries, government departments and bodies, regional and municipal councils, and elected officials as well as civil society, including voluntary groups, non-profit organisations, associations, foundations, charities, as well as interest-based community and advocacy groups.

The joint working group of the CDDG and Conference of INGOs will carefully consider the comments and observations received when finalising the draft guidelines before presenting these to the CDDG for transmission to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for adoption.

You are invited to submit your observations (in English or French) on the draft guidelines to the CDDG Secretariat ( by 4 September 2016. Your contributions are much appreciated.

Download the draft guidelines for meaningful civil participation in political decision-making

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Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a mortgage: What policymakers can learn from dating websites

Aug 01, 2016 03:13 pm

Angelina Carvalho, Chiranjit Chakraborty and Georgia Latsi at Bank Underground: “Policy makers have access to more and more detailed datasets. These can be joined together to give an unprecedentedly rich description of the economy. But the data are often noisy and individual entries are not uniquely identifiable. This leads to a trade-off: very strict matching criteria may result in a limited and biased sample; making them too loose risks inaccurate data. The problem gets worse when joining large datasets as the potential number of matches increases exponentially. Even with today’s astonishing computer power, we need efficient techniques. In this post we describe a bipartite matching algorithm on such big data to deal with these issues. Similar algorithms are often used in online dating, closely modelled as the stable marriage problem.

The home-mover problem

The housing market matters and affects almost everything that central banks care about. We want to know why, when and how people move home. And a lot do move: one in nine UK households in 2013/4 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Fortunately, it is also a market that we have an increasing amount of information about. We are going to illustrate the use of the matching algorithm in the context of identifying the characteristics of these movers and the mortgages that many of them took out.

A Potential Solution

The FCA’s Product Sales Data (PSD) on owner-occupied mortgage lending contains loan level product, borrower and property characteristics for all loans originated in the UK since Q2 2005. This dataset captures the attributes of each loan at the point of origination but does not follow the borrowers afterwards. Hence, it does not meaningfully capture if a loan was transferred to another property or closed for certain reason. Also, there is no unique borrower identifier and that is why we cannot easily monitor if a borrower repaid their old mortgage and got a new one against another property.

However, the dataset identify whether a borrower is a first time buyer or a home-mover, together with other information. Even though we do not have information before 2005, we can still try to use this dataset to identify some of the owners’ moving patterns. We try to find from where a home-mover may have moved (origination point) and who moved in to his/her vacant property. If we can successfully track the movers, it will also help us to remove corresponding old mortgages to calculate the stock of mortgages from our flow data. A previous Bank Underground post showed how probabilistic record linkage techniques can be used to join related datasets that do not have unique common identifiers.  We have used bipartite graph matching techniques here to extend those ideas….(More)”

Full Post: Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a mortgage: What policymakers can learn from dating websites

Are Crowds Wise? Engagement Over Reliance

Aug 01, 2016 09:14 am

Bruce Muirhead at Mindhive: “Crowdsourcing is developing into a mega-trend. It has begun an inexorable shift from the periphery to the mainstream of policy and problem solving methodology. We’ve heard countless times the virtue of crowds and the inherent advantages regarding access to knowledge, transparency, accountability and efficiency – yet all of these advantages rest on the simple assumption that the crowd is wise.

In the fast growing industry of crowdsourcing platforms and in society more generally we can see a growing acceptance by organisations and users alike that the crowds they are engaging with have some common failings. For instance, when addressing a specific problem there is need to consider and discount alternatives before a solution can be arrived at. In a crowd of one it is quite simple to assess the value of each competing solution and evaluate relative to these assessment the most appropriate response. Crowds are obviously not a homogenous grouping capable of relative comparison to the same degree an individual or small group can due to the fact they lack an objective set of priorities or objectives to evaluate them against. A diverse crowd from varied backgrounds will pull the preference of solution in many different directions, In the same way a machine with many moving parts is more likely to fail, a crowd with high levels of expertise, diversity of preference and variance of background is more likely to fail to reach consensus or compromise through logic and reasoning. This presents an interesting catch-22 as many crowdsourcing methodologies recommend involving a large number of varied opinions and backgrounds to enhance the originality and disruptiveness of a solution. However, such levels of disruption also imbalance the internal reasoning of the crowd and make it difficult to develop a nuanced, targeted solution to a challenge. Of course, organisations that seek to engage with crowds can mitigate these risks by developing clear objective standards of reference and outlining and priorities available to the crowd.

Additionally, in a year where the force of a crowd has propelled a man such as Donald Trump to a position that may feasible see him elected President of the United States – how can any argue that crowds are wise? Stephen Walt of Foreign Policy argues that such crowds act as such in a political context due a failing of trusting, in turn resulting from a failure of accountability. ….While crowds don’t always make wise choices, they are neither inherently wise nor unwise groups. There is doubtless intelligence in crowds – what we need to figure out and continue to develop is the process through which we can leverage it to develop more targeted solutions and involving the crowd more effectively….(More)”

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From killing machines to agents of hope: the future of drones in Africa

Jul 31, 2016 09:27 pm
 in The Guardian: “Some are killing machines. Others are pesky passions of the weekend hobbyist. As such, drones have not always been welcomed in our skies.

Across Africa, however, projects are being launched that could revolutionise medical supply chains and commercial deliveries, combat poaching and provide other solutions for an overburdened, underdeveloped continent.

In Rwanda, as in many other African countries, the rainy season makes already difficult roads between smaller towns and villages all but impassable. Battered trucks struggle through the mud, and in some cases even more agile motorbikes and foot traffic are unable get through.

“Rwanda is essentially a rural country. Lots of blood products cannot be stocked at every health centre. At best it can take four to six hours to get supplies through,” says the technology minister, Jean Philbert Nsengimana.

“For mothers giving birth, postpartum haemorrhaging, or bleeding post-delivery, happens quite often. It may not be possible to prevent. Then what is needed is a quick and rapid intervention.”

“This technology has the potential to erase barriers to access for countless critical medicines and save lives on a scale not previously possible,” says Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s chief executive, which is staffed by experienced aerospace engineers including those who have worked at SpaceX, Boeing and Nasa.

“While there are a number of potential applications for this technology, we’re keenly focused on using it to save lives.”…

Drones are being tested in other emerging economies. Matternet, another Silicon Valley startup, has run pilots moving samples from rural clinics to a laboratory inPapua New Guinea and is launching a small medical delivery network inDominican Republic.

The company is also working with Unicef in Malawi to develop a project using UAVs to carry blood samples from infants born to HIV-positive parents, underscoring the physical and geographical challenges that are present across much of the continent.

Some frontline health workers are supportive….(More)”

Full Post: From killing machines to agents of hope: the future of drones in Africa

Why Social Ventures Need Systems Thinking

Jul 31, 2016 06:01 pm

Vanessa KirschJim Bildner and Jeff Walker at Harvard Business Review: “…Over almost two decades, the social enterprise space has been learning how direct impact and systems change work together. The work our entrepreneurs face today is more complex than ever and requires a set of tools and a framework designed to address the complexity inherent when innovations are integrated into existing systems like school districts, welfare agencies, health departments, and corporate structures.

These insights, and the fact that so many of our systemic social challenges remain intractable, has led us to try to better understand what critical levers need to be “pulled” when entrepreneurs are trying to change systems.

The trail to this new approach has been blazed by many extraordinary leaders, some of whom we have funded. These leaders evidence five key characteristics to their approach:

Systems thinking. An individual or organization must first be able to put forward a new solution or set of solutions to a pressing social challenge. This sounds obvious, but we’re suggesting that organizational theories of change, business plans, and other foundational materials need to reflect systems thinking. The most important tool in the new systems entrepreneur’s suite is the ability to embed the solution into the larger system being targeted…

Research and analysis. Beyond technical understanding of solution X and its application to problem Y, systems entrepreneurs must have a deep understanding of the system or systems they are trying to change and all the factors that shape it. Marwell developed an early “influencer map” that gave him a clear understanding of the players, from the federal government to industry and communities, he would need to engage as partners. He also developed a national diagnostic website called SchoolSpeedTest to create a bigger body of data about the problem of limited internet access, with the support of the Federal Communications Commission and 100 other organizations from across sectors.

Communications. Maintaining transparent and compelling communications both internally among collaborative stakeholders and externally with key audiences is crucial to the success of a systems change effort. Marwell knew that he would need to raise awareness of the problem in order to drive through his solution, so he launched a public awareness campaign around broadband access. So Marwell gathered a list of 50 CEOs – Republicans and Democrats alike – to write the FCC, and organized letters from governors, mayors, and education-technology leaders.

Policy. As difficult as it may be to achieve in the politically polarized time we live in, changing policy is often absolutely critical to changing the underlying system that constrains the social change required. Marwell saw this opportunity early on, and he set his sights on updating the Telecommunications Act of 1996’s “E-Rate” discounted pricing provision, which had been wildly successful bringing internet access to 99% of public schools and libraries, but hadn’t kept pace with internet advances. He leveraged his network and was able to start building his case for change in meetings with FCC and White House officials.

Measurement and evaluation. Distinct from the place-setting research and analysis mentioned above, measurement and evaluation is about creating consistent and ongoing data to guide strategy and increase accountability….(More)”

Full Post: Why Social Ventures Need Systems Thinking


Jul 31, 2016 07:26 am

About: “Scholarpedia is a peer-reviewed open-access encyclopedia written and maintained by scholarly experts from around the world. Scholarpediais inspired by Wikipedia and aims to complement it by providing in-depth scholarly treatments of academic topics.

Scholarpedia and Wikipedia are alike in many respects:

  • both allow anyone to propose revisions to almost any article
  • both are “wikis” and use the familiar MediaWiki software designed for Wikipedia
  • both allow considerable freedom within each article’s “Talk” pages
  • both are committed to the goal of making the world’s knowledge freely available to all

Nonetheless, Scholarpedia is best understood by how it is unlike most wikis, differences arising from Scholarpedia’s academic origins, goals, and audience. The most significant isScholarpedia’s process of peer-reviewed publication: all articles in Scholarpedia are either in the process of being written by a team of authors, or have already been published and are subject to expert curation….(More)”

Full Post: Scholarpedia

The Governance Lab

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