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What's happening in Public Sector Innovation
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As Heraclitus* put it about 2.5K years back - the only constant is change. 

One thing that's both constant and consistent right now is how much we're having to change how we do things.

How we work is having to change, how we behave is necessarily changing, and how we try to change other people's behaviours has to change because those first two changes are changing assumptions and behavioural patterns that we thought we could rely on (say that five times quickly...).

That's what we're all about this week. The changes in behaviour that the world is forcing on us, and how that changes how we can respond. We also compare survey testing techniques to making pizza. 

So as another poet-philosopher put it, let's turn and face the strange...**
 

Don't want to go viral anymore...

Speaking of changing behaviours (we could start literally every piece in this week's newsletter with those four words...), the MIT Technology Review has had a look this week at why the term 'viral' might not be the best way to say 'popular on the internet'. 

Apart from the obvious current insensitivity, the problem is that the term 'viral' tends to give credence to ideas that don't deserve it. The assumption is that these pieces of content just happen to become popular because they're compelling. 

Actually, there's a fair chance there's a team of anti-vaccination agitators/state-sponsored psy-ops/marketers-for-Kim-Kardashian's-behind behind it.

In slightly related but definitely different news about what words to use, you should also check out the Digital Transformation Agency's current work on the next edition of the Australian Government Style Manual.

(And take a peek below - they have a couple of jobs going!)

Traditional schmaditional

Did you know the pizza cops actually exist? The True Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, AVPN) set rules for what consists a true pizza,*** up to and including how different sorts of cheeses should be sliced, and where the tomatoes should come from. 

But just because you've always done something one way, doesn't mean that it's necessarily the best way.

Which is what researchers from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment's Behavioural Analysis team found out recently. 

We spoke to them about a recent experience they had trying out a new way to test survey questions. They used online cognitive interviewing, which tested the quality of the questions rather than simply whether or not people could answer them in a pattern they expected. 

By experimenting with something different, the team found a whole new, and better, way to work.

Kinda like how Greek-Canadian pizza innovator Sam Panopoulos experimented with cooking techniques he'd learnt in Chinese restaurants, and with combinations of sweet and savoury flavours, eventually inventing the Hawaiian pizza. Which, in 1999 at least, was listed as Australia's favourite pizza variant. 

If you don't try new things, you won't learn new things.

We're confusing the robots

Speaking of changing behaviours (see?), in another piece from the MIT Technology Review, they take a look at how changes in people's habits and behaviours are messing with artificial intelligence (AI).

Companies like Amazon and Facebook use AI to predict stock needs or ads to show us, based on how we usually behave. Turns out the AI can't handle the massively different (and sometimes odd) changes in behaviour that a global pandemic has brought. 

Similarly, weather prediction is taking a hit as it can usually rely on data picked up from constant air traffic. Without all this extra data, it's getting harder to see the weather patterns and therefore harder to tell what will happen next. 

But it's not all bad news for our robot friends. Last week, an Australian band won a socially-distant-AI-driven version of Eurovision. Uncanny Valley's piece 'Beautiful The World' used samples of Australian fauna to give an uptempo-house-with-barely-intelligible-lyrics**** message of hope. 

Photosensitive (and weird fashion) warning if you've got a condition triggered by it (or even a mild headache), but the song's surprisingly catchy

Which is pretty bang-on for Eurovision. Have a good week.

Connections

Innovation Month

Innovation Month is back this July and it’ll be totally online for the first time ever - very experimental!

This year’s theme is ‘delivering differently’, reflecting the changing approaches and practices of the public sector.

Want to host an event? Check the deets and get in touch with the us - the Public Sector Innovation Network.

Biosecurity innovation

Come up with the next new idea to help future proof Australian biosecurity and you could receive up to $50,000 in funding through the Biosecurity Innovation Program and a 12-week incubation program to make it happen!

The Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s Biosecurity Innovation Program Team has partnered with Canberra Innovation Network to deliver the 2020 Biosecurity Industry Innovation Challenge . 

Register and attend a free 3-hour workshop on May 26 with the challenge sponsors.

 

Top job in Top End

Do you want to use your skills to drive innovation and efficiency in the delivery of government services?

The Program Evaluation Unit in the Department of Treasury and Finance in the Northern Territory Government is looking for a Principal Analyst to do just that.

Further details here

*Philosopher, big on the impermanent nature of the universe, word play, took issue with Pythagoras (we can relate on all three).

Imagine Yoda, but Greek instead of green. Probably taller.

Also the original author of the line 'you can never step into the same river twice' that Disney later gave to their version of Pocahontas. It's unknown if the real Pocahontas shared Heraclitus' world view, but she had excellent taste in hats

**David Jones, also known as David Bowie. Imagine Yoda, but an androgynous rock star, actor, art collector, painter, and apparently briefly an internet-service-provider instead of green. Definitely taller.

***We are editorialising here slightly, and we wish our Italian friends all the best in what's been very difficult time recently.

And, also, to be clear, Neapolitan pizza is DELICIOUS, but so are many other things, and if people hadn't brought tomatoes to Naples from the Americas, or if there had been an AVPN in the 1600s insisting on tradition, we wouldn't have, to be very clear, DELICIOUS Neapolitan pizza now, or any of the subsequent innovations. 

(Also this week's photo was by Kimiya Oveisi on Unsplash

****We're not saying only a robot could write the lyric 'ding-a-dong sweet song, ding-a-dong', we're just saying the robot's not quite at Bowie-level. Yet.

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