Hollie Russon-Gilman in PS: Political Science & Politics – Civic Tech for Urban Collaborative Governance

In a new piece or the PS: Political Science & Politics, Hollie Russon-Gilman provides insight on "Civic Tech for Urban Collaborative Governance." With the piece, Russon-Gilman seeks to "initiate a research agenda to understand how policy makers can leverage civic tech to enable new channels for citizens to participate in the decision making process."

From the abstract: 

"This article aims to contribute to a burgeoning field of 'civic technology' to identify precise pathways through which multi-stakeholder partnerships can foster, embed, and encourage more collaborative governance, outlining a research agenda to guide next steps. Instead of looking at technology as a civic panacea or, at the other extreme, as an irrelevant force, this article takes seriously both the democratic potential and the political constraints of the use of technology for more collaborative governance. The article begins by delineating contours of a civic definition of technology focused on generating public good, provides case study examples of civic tech deployed in America’s cities, raises research questions to inform future multi-stakeholder partnerships, and concludes with implications for the public sector workforce and ecosystem."

Read more here



Karim Lakhani on HBR Ideacast: Blockchain — What You Need to Know

In a recent edition of Harvard Business Review's Ideacast podcast, Karim Lakhani discusses how blockchain works and its likely impact on industry and other sectors. The 20-minute podcast features Lakhani in conversation with HBR editor Sarah Green Carcmichael, and is available on Soundcloud, iTunes, among other outlets. 

In response to a question on blockchain currently being in its "dial-up modem" days, Lakhani predicts a rapid uptake of blockchain-enabled activities, and calls for greater experimentation to see what blockchain can achieve across a variety of use cases: 

"...[T]he uptake I predict will be faster than will be had in the last world wide web revolution, or even the mobile phone revolution.

What that means for managers then is that the time to experiment is now. What you want to do is make a bunch of bets, make some small investments so that you can learn. I bet you for senior executives that are listening, there’s a bubbling up of energy within their organizations amongst their IT groups, amongst their innovation groups, amongst the marketing groups.

Let’s do something with Blockchain. Let’s do something with Blockchain. You should help finance that. You should help fund that. Give them the space and the room to experiment and learn from that. So I think that’s the first thing you should do. And then as the prototypes get built, you might see, oh, this is promising. Let’s actually go after that.

As much as there is going to be a technological burden, there will also be an organizational burden. You’ll have to change your processes. You have to change your organizations to best adapt to what the technology offers you. There’s a lot of worry and anxiety about Blockchain. It’s viewed as this scary “woowoo” esoteric technology.

I’d encourage you to not be scared, to embrace it, to learn it. Start experimentation, encourage your staff to go after this and figure things out. Build up prototypes that will be applicable to the organization. I think that’s the key lesson for all of us around these kinds of technologies."

Listen and view the transcript here



Lee Rainie at the Aspen Ideas Festival: The Genetic Revolution, Unintended Consequences, and the Public Trust

This week, Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology at the Pew Research Center, presented findings about Americans’ trust in scientists at the Aspen Ideas Festival. In a session called, “The Genetic Revolution, Unintended Consequences, and the Public Trust,” he lead a discussion about public institutional trust in scientific work. Some of the key points Rainie presented include: 

  • 67% of Americans say science has an a mostly positive effect on society

  • Nearly half or more expect the following changes to be implemented within 50 years:

    • Routinely transplant artificially-made organs for humans

    • Cures for most forms of cancer

    • Computer chips routinely embedded into our bodies

    • Lab-grown custom organs

    • Computers that create art as well as humans do

  • A wide mix of factors influence public views on science-related issues:

    • Party affiliation and ideology

    • Education and/ or science knowledge

    • Age

    • Gender

    • Race/ ethnicity

    • Religion

  • Trust in climate scientists is low among conservative Republicans; considerably higher among liberal Democrats

The presentation also focused on American public opinion on potential human enhancements and briefly delved into the wide controversy of gene editing.

Read more here.



Henry Farrell on Economic Crisis and the Rise and Fall of Keynesianism in International Studies Quarterly

In a recent article for Oxford Academic’s International Studies Quarterly, Henry Farrell - together with John Quiggin – discusses the current economic crisis, and the rise and fall of Keynesianism in the modern political arena. In the piece, "Consensus, Dissensus, and Economic Ideas: Economic Crisis and the Rise and Fall of Keynesianism," Farrell and Quiggin debate whether or not sociological arguments about professions, in conjunction with those about spaces of political contention as ecologies, provide a better understanding of the puzzle of Keynesianism’s rise and decline by analyzing the different phases of the crisis, and the varying economists and political actors involved in each.

The authors identify macroeconomic policy as a “hinge” issue, and make several arguments about the influence of Keynesianism in the recent economic crisis:

  • “The rise and partial fall of a new Keynesian consensus is best explained through building on the work of sociologists of the profession

  • Social structures - specifically the community structures of the academic and policymaking worlds, and how they intersect – can have crucial consequences for the role of ideas

  • Relative plausibility of similar relationships exist in other areas where the ecologies of expertise and political decision-making intersect, such as human rights, economic development, military contracting/ military intervention, and financial regulation”

The paper also focuses on how to deal with demand shocks - whether that be through fiscal stimulus, conventional existing theories of the role of ideas in policy outcomes, or alternative methods - and makes the proposition that internal dynamics of prestige and status within the profession of economics intersects with policy arguments between states to contribute to a continuing economic dissensus.

Read more here.



Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young for the Inter-American Development Bank: Exchanging Data to Create Public Value Across Latin America and the Caribbean

In a new article for the Inter-American Development Bank’s Abierto al público blog, Network chief of research Stefaan Verhulst, Network coordinator Andrew Young, and Prianka Srinivasan discuss data collaboratives, a potential solution to leverage private data for public good. They argue that the cross-sector exchange of data can be particularly beneficial to “humanitarian and anti-poverty efforts, urban planning, natural resource stewardship, health, and disaster management.” 

The author start by outlining the types of societal benefits created by data collaboratives in Latin America and the Caribbean, along with examples examples of each:

  • "Situational Awareness and Response: For example, BBVA collaborated with UN Global Pulse to produce the Hurricane Odile research project which analyzes the anonymized financial data of BBVA’s clients to measure the resilience of communities following a natural disaster. This research can be used not only to support recovery services after a disaster strikes, but also for researching the adaptability of communities following a natural disaster.

  • Public Service Design and Delivery: For example, Waze’s Connected Citizen’s program uses crowdsourced traffic information to help governments design transportation based on an improved understanding of citizen behavior. During the presidential election, the City of Rio de Janeiro accessed Waze’s traffic reports to better allocate transit management personnel to areas with the most congestion.

  • Knowledge Creation and Transfer: For example, in a cross-sector partnership of public, non-profit and private organizations led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, the web-platform “Clima y Sector Agropecuario Colombiano (CSAC)” provides valuable meteorological data to farmers, along with data on the economics and agronomy of rice cultivation.

  • Prediction and Forecasting: For example, researchers from academic and public organizations in the UK and Brazil use crowdsourced geographic information from social media, combined with real-time environmental data and models, to monitor and create early flood and landslide warnings with a view to improve urban resilience.

  • Impact Assessment and Evaluation: For example, through a data sharing agreement with Facebook, UNICEF analyzes Facebook trends and status updates to track and monitor the impact of their public health campaigns like those launched to combat Zika in Brazilian cities."

They follow with a few words of caution regarding risks, saying:

“To be sure, data collaboratives do introduce some level of risk across the data lifecycle: gathering dirty data at the collection stage, failures to adequately secure data at the processing or sharing stage, the use of biased algorithms at the analyzing stage, and cumulative impacts at the using stage.  The responsible use of private-sector data requires targeted risk mitigation strategies. 

Our research suggests that such risks can be overcome through the development and implementation of a coherent data responsibility framework and the empowerment of data stewards in institutions tasked with ensuring responsible decision are made about data usages.

To learn more about how to create impactful cross-sector data sharing arrangements to create new public value, the GovLab developed the Designing a Data Collaborative Guide based on what is known in the practitioner and research community. The guide offers a step-by-step approach for unlocking the value of private-sector data, and is currently being tested with institutional partners like UNICEF.” 

Read more here



Anita McGahan in Harvard Business Review: Expanding the Reach of Primary Care in Developing Countries

In a new piece for Harvard Business Review, Network member Anita McGahan, Kathryn Mossman, Onil Bhattacharyya, MD, and Will Mitchell explore new mechanisms for "Expanding the Reach of Primary Care in Developing Countries." The piece reports findings from a research project undertaken by the authors in partnership with the Rapid Routes to Scale group aimed at identifying "key drivers of scaling private sector primary care services" in developing countries. 

Through "site visits, interviews, document review, and statistical analysis," the authors identified four categories of business skills that tend to play a role in successful efforts to scale primary care:

1. Market Focus: "Programs need to create strong relationships with patients who typically do not value primary care and either go to specialists directly or do not seek care at all, as well as those who simply lack access to care. To successfully scale, programs are focusing on the patient experience, investing in effective branding and marketing, and engaging in health education campaigns to promote services."

2. Financial Tools: "Programs need effective financial strategies to help patients access services and to generate income where resources are limited. This can involve providing alternative payment mechanisms such as micro-insurance, health plans, and membership fees, as well as generating complementary revenue to support the main offerings."

3. Partnership Skills: "Partnering with public and private sector organizations helps obtain financial support, medical supplies, and health care staff. Successfully scaled programs often pursue creative partnerships through social franchising, which involves contracting a network of private providers to deliver services under the same brand, while forging partnerships with organizations that provide access to a customer base."

4. Management and Leadership Skills: "Efficient, high-quality, scalable primary care operations require strong management and leadership skills. A key leadership task is to standardize both clinical and non-clinical operations, including care delivery, IT, clinic design, marketing, and human resources." 

Read more here.



Sonal Shah: Moving from Social Innovation to Scaling Impact

In a new letter, Beeck Center executive director and Network member Sonal Shah looked back on achievements from the first three years of the Beeck Center's existence at Georgetown University, and plotted out next steps for social impact work at Beeck and beyond.

Beeck's work over the years – including courses, partnerships with organizations and policymakers, and research – has uncovered a number of lessons on how to scale social impact. Shah writes:  

"Innovative solutions alone are not enough, and scaling organizations will only get us so far in addressing the social challenges that we face as a global society. We need to unlock social impact at scale. And so now we are asking, what will it take to move the social impact movement from innovation to scale?

A key understanding, which we have discussed in our research, is that achieving impact at scale requires a systems view of change. Our theory is that scale requires an approach to change that leverages and works across a set of interdependent systems and forces:

  • Financing: via new financial mechanisms and changing the market conditions;
  • Technology: to enable more effective ways to provide better services and create feedback loops for end users;
  • Data: as a tool for decision making to reveal useful information, develop better analytical capabilities, and identify new solutions;
  • Policy: helping decision makers and citizens recognize when policy can be used as an instrument to effect broad change and when it can hinder change; and
  • People: taking a human-centered approach to solutions, investing in people throughout the system who have the skills to reinforce change, and ensuring that communities have a voice in the process.

Each of these factors is critical at different times to get to the tipping point for scale."  

Read more here.



Henry Farrell in Foreign Affairs: Trump's No Hypocrite

This week, Network member Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore shared a new piece in Foreign Affairs on whether or not President Trump's inconsistencies in word and action should be classified as hypocrisy. Farrell and Finnemore argue that while there are no shortage of past tweets and other public statements that contradict more recent statements and actions from the president, in many ways, Trump has dispensed with the type of traditional diplomatic hypocrisy that steadies the liberal world order:

"The problem is that hypocrisy is as crucial to international politics as to personal relations. Blunt pursuit of self-interest is rarely appealing to others. American leaders used to push the self-serving myth that U.S. interests and the world’s interests were mostly the same, and that America was the one indispensable nation. Now, Trump has driven a highly visible wedge between American interests and the world’s. Making America Great Again might be an attractive slogan to a large minority of American voters, but it is unlikely to attract non-Americans, who fear that Trump wants to make America and himself great at their expense, something that, in turn, will make greatness harder to achieve.

...[A]rtful hypocrisy has been one of the United States’ most important tools for building an international liberal order centered on the values of rule of law, free markets, free speech, and democracy. When America’s behavior deviates from the liberal values that it suggests everyone else should follow, hypocrisy has provided the lubricant that prevents the gears of this order from seizing up. Pretense and convenience on both sides has allowed the United States to continue pretending that it is behaving well, and the country’s allies to pretend that they do not notice its bad behavior. 

Trump’s mixture of crude rhetoric and political incompetence threatens to upset both sides of this implicit bargain. In contrast to the earlier administrations that supported the brutal actions of Latin American juntas or blocked the reappointment of a WTO judge who made inconvenient rulings, the Trump administration does not even pay lip service to the global liberal order. The George W. Bush administration at least nodded toward human rights norms when it made contorted legal arguments that waterboarding is not torture. And when the Barack Obama administration declined to intervene in Syria and relied on drone strikes as a tool of counterterrorism policy, international criticism was muted because it seemed at least plausible that Obama was doing his best to make difficult ethical and security tradeoffs."

Read more here



Beth Simone Noveck Launches GovLab Smarter Crowdsourcing Against Corruption Initiative

This week, Network chair Beth Simone Noveck launched a new initiative from the GovLab, Mexico’s Secretaría de la Función Pública (Secretariat of the Civil Service) and the Inter-American Development Bank aimed at "identify[ing] and implement[ing] innovative approaches for fighting corruption." The Smarter Crowdsourcing Against Corruption initiative "will convene global experts from a variety of fields, including public administration, data analytics, technology, law enforcement, and business" to the end of surfacing innovative, actionable approaches for addressing corruption in Mexico (and beyond).

In a piece shared on Medium, Noveck introduces the new initiative, looks back on lessons learned from previous Smarter Crowdsourcing projects aimed at helping Quito prepare for the eruption of volcano Cotopaxi and giving four Latin American governments new ideas for addressing the Zika epidemic, respectively. She also describes the Smarter Crowdsourcing methodology that will be put into action to help Mexico fight corruption:

  • "First, we break a big problem down into a set of specific, core challenges that need to be addressed.
  • Second, we work with our government partners to conduct background research on each challenges and ensure that we understand its root causes and, particularly, how those manifest themselves in each context.
  • Third, we solicit the participation of leading experts to address these core challenges. We both put out an open call for volunteers and hand-select the list of guests who can contribute most to helping governments to identify practical solutions.
  • Next, we hold online conferences on each challenge to identify potential innovative approaches to solving them.
  • Finally, in order to enable implementation of what is learned during the conferences, we complement the online dialogues with research and write up detailed implementation roadmaps in order that our partners can put the best ideas into action quickly."

The online conferences will address the following six challenges:

  • Measuring Corruption and its Costs (June 6)
  • Countering Judicial Corruption (June 20)
  • Facilitating Citizen Participation in Policymaking (June 27)
  • Ensuring Whistleblower Support and Protection (July 11)
  • Increasing the Effectiveness of Prosecution ( July 18)
  • Tracking and Analyzing Money Flows (July 25)

The partnering organizations are currently soliciting recommendations for expert participants able to provide useful input:

"These six online dialogues will take place during June and July of 2017, with each two-hour dialogue focusing on a specific challenge that stands in the way of improved public integrity. We are soliciting the advice and participation of experts from around the world.

To express your interest or to refer others who may be able to help, please follow this link or email"

Read more here.



Henry Farrell on NSA Secrets and the Global Ransomware Attack

Last week in the The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, Henry Farrell examined the role of NSA secrets and software 'patches' in enabling the ransomware attack affecting businesses, hospitals, and governments around the world. Farrell notes that the attack was made possible by a 'zero-day exploit' – "a previously unknown flaw in Windows software that makes it easy to take control of vulnerable systems." The exploit was made known last month as part of a leak of National Security Agency data by the Shadow Brokers hacking group. 

In the post, Farrell describes how zero-day exploits create a difficult choice for the NSA, which has the dual role of both acting upon such exploits to improve intelligence gathering efforts and ensuring that citizens and businesses in the United States are protected from cyber attacks. As a result, the NSA must choose whether to inform firms that an exploit is present, enabling them to release software patches to address the vulnerability, or to keep the details of the exploit secret.

Farrell argues that the issue at hand is not whether the NSA should have informed Microsoft of the zero-day exploit present in the Windows system, but the lack of a clear, coordinated system for governing this realm:

"The bigger problem is that no one is in charge. Responsible software producers will issue patches to protect against vulnerabilities (although they may not be obliged to under the law), but there is no way to ensure that everyone implements them. Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse rather than better over time. As Bruce Schneier points out, many of the devices on the Internet these days are not computers or phones. They are DVD players, TVs, webcams and, maybe soon, even salt shakers. The companies building such devices are not always careful about looking for or keeping track of vulnerabilities, so that hackers can target huge numbers of poorly secured devices (and use these devices to attack other Internet users). While experts have identified the importance of the problem, it isn’t clear that there is any plausible solution without radical changes to the ways we build technologies and shape incentives for businesses and users to keep these technologies secure."

Read more here.



Henry Farrell and Crooked Timber Launch Seminar on Cory Doctorow's Latest Book

This week, Crooked Timber launched a new seminar on Cory Doctorow's latest book, Walkaway. The seminar features 12 authors (listed below) exploring different aspects of Doctorow's new novel. Network member Henry Farrell's contribution is titled "No Exit" and analyzes Walkaway in comparison to William Gibson's The Peripheral, which "covers many of the same themes that Walkaway does. The rise of extreme inequality described by Piketty and others, as the super-rich become so different from everyone else as nearly to be a distinct species. Accelerating technological change so that there are no jobs, or only very bad ones, for most people. A post-industrial landscape, in which the wreckage of the industrial era provides valuable resources for those in the new era."

Farrell argues: 

"Walkaway is quite unashamedly a didactic book in the way that earlier books such as Homeland were didactic – he has a very clear message to get across. In conversations with Steve Berlin Johnson years ago, I came up with the term BoingBoing Socialism to refer to a specific set of ideas associated with Doctorow and the people around him – that free exchange of ideas unimpeded by intellectual property law and the like, together with transformative technologies of manufacture, could open up a path towards a radically egalitarian future. Unless I’m seriously mistaken (in which case I’m sure that Doctorow will tell me), Walkaway wants to do two things – to argue for why such a future might be attractive, and to suggest that something like this future could be feasible. Doctorow is very clearly picking up on a tradition of socialism present in Fourier, and (despite his animadversions against Fourier), Marx. The motivating notions of “maker culture” – that people find a profound satisfaction making things, and solving problems for their own sake, are not all that far from the young Marx’s arguments about labour and alienation."

Read Henry Farrell's "No Exit" post here

Full list of seminar contributors: 

  • Henry Farrell blogs at Crooked Timber. No Exit.

Access the full seminar here.



Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the Future of the Internet, 'Fake News,' and Why Net Neutrality Is So Important

In an interview for Business Insider, Sir Tim Berners-Lee spoke with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner about "on the future of the internet, fake news, net neutrality, and the rising tide of censorship in countries across the world."

Sir Tim discussed net neutrality as part of a broader discussion about questions on the role of the free market and the impact of monopolies in the digital realm:

"I think the antitrust system is really important. The market works while there’s a mix of people, while there’s a mix of big players and small players all in the same market. The moment that mix is gone, then the market’s not functioning anymore...

I think one of the nice things about the digital world is the fact that the Internet was net neutral. The net was built as a neutral space without attitude. That’s why it has 'permissionless'. That’s why I could build the WWW product on top of it.

So the markets for the websites, the markets for content, the wide markets for whatever you build on top of the Web have been independent of the market for connectivity.

So you could choose to get fiber at your house from a competing market without that affecting which movies you can watch tonight, so different from the American paid cable system, which the net replaced.

So net neutrality has been a really, really important part of these new markets, but you can’t join them together. You shouldn’t bundle together the content."

Responding to a question about what the Web will look like 50 years from now, Sir Tim discussed the challenge of making the Web accessible to all:

"Well, we’re at an interesting time now. The World Wide Web has been increasing exponentially, but now it’s got to 50 percent of the world. It’s pretty amazing that this proportion of the world is using it at all.

We set up the Web Foundation a decade ago when the concern was that only 10% of t the world was using the Web. The challenge was the other 90%.   Now as we have got to 50% and people are getting online faster than ever, and soon the issues will change as they online world becomes the majority.  Then different things become a concern when most of sub-Saharan Africa villages are online, when 3G, 4G, 5G cell towers will be ubiquitous.

People who can’t get online at that point will need a different sort of technology. There will be low earth orbit satellites, for example or something or balloons, but there has to be a new push to get them online. That push may have to be subsidized because those people will be in remote areas. But the problem will be that the discrimination against them will be much more intense because it’ll be so efficient for any company to assume their customers are online."

Read more here.



Beth Simone Noveck, Zeynep Tufekci and Tim Wu discuss Free Speech in the Networked World at Knight First Amendment Institute Conference

This week, Network chair Beth Simone Noveck moderated a panel on "Free Speech in the Networked World" at the Knight First Amendment Institute's DISRUPTED: Speech and Democracy in the Digital Age conference. Noveck was joined by University of North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci and Colombia Law School professor Tim Wu. Noveck, Tufekci and Wu discussed the "First Amendment, free speech and the democratic implications of new technologies."

Video of the full discussion is available below: 



New Report from Lee Rainie on the Future of Jobs and Job Training

Today Network member Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson released a new Pew Research Center report on the Future of Jobs and Job Training. The report, developed as a partnership between Pew and Elon's Imagining the Internet Center, is based on input provided by over 1000 expert "technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and education leaders." It seeks to gain. Given the (quickly accelerating) proliferation of robots, automation and artificial intelligence, the report seeks to increase our understand of two central questions: Will well-prepared workers be able to keep up in the race with AI tools? And will market capitalism survive?"

The canvassing of diverse experts from across sectors identified five central themes related to the future of jobs and job training:

  • The training ecosystem will evolve, with a mix of innovation in all education formats
    • More learning systems will migrate online. Some will be self-directed and some offered or required by employers; others will be hybrid online/real-world classes. Workers will be expected to learn continuously
    • Online courses will get a big boost from advances in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI)
    • Universities still have special roles to play in preparing people for life, but some are likely to diversify and differentiate
  • Learners must cultivate 21st‑century skills, capabilities and attributes
    • Tough-to-teach intangible skills, capabilities and attributes such as emotional intelligence, curiosity, creativity, adaptability, resilience and critical thinking will be most highly valued
    • Practical experiential learning via apprenticeships and mentoring will advance
  • New credentialing systems will arise as self-directed learning expands
    • While the traditional college degree will still hold sway in 2026, more employers may accept alternate credentialing systems, as learning options and their measures evolve
    • The proof of competency may be in the real-world work portfolios
  • Training and learning systems will not meet 21st‑century needs by 2026
    • Within the next decade, education systems will not be up to the task of adapting to train or retrain people for the skills likely to be most prized in the future
    • Show me the money: Many doubts hinge upon lack of political will and necessary funding
    • Some people are incapable of or uninterested in self-directed learning
  • Jobs? What jobs? Technological forces will fundamentally change work and the economic landscape
    • There will be many millions more people and millions fewer jobs in the future
    • Capitalism itself is in real trouble

Other common areas of interest include: 

"A diversifying education and credentialing ecosystem: Most of these experts expect the education marketplace – especially online learning platforms – to continue to change in an effort to accommodate the widespread needs.  Some predict employers will step up their own efforts to train and retrain workers. Many foresee a significant number of self-teachingefforts by jobholders themselves as they take advantage of proliferating online opportunities."

"A focus on nurturing unique human skills that artificial intelligence (AI) and machines seem unable to replicate: Many of these experts discussed in their responses the human talents they believe machines and automation may not be able to duplicate, noting that these should be the skills developed and nurtured by education and training programs to prepare people to work successfully alongside AI. These respondents suggest that workers of the future will learn to deeply cultivate and exploit creativity, collaborative activity, abstract and systems thinking, complex communication, and the ability to thrive in diverse environments."

Read more here



Stefaan Verhulst for the Conversation: How social media data can improve people’s lives - if used responsibly

Last week, The Conversation published a new piece from Network chief of research Stefaan Verhulst on the growing use of social media data to improve people's lives around the world. Verhulst begins the article by describing a data collaborative launched in Malawi where the Red Cross improved its aid and relief distribution thanks to a mapping effort built on Facebook's population density data.

He goes on to describe the broader opportunity space created by the use of social media data to solve public problems: 

"The Malawi partnership is just one manifestation of the concept of data collaboratives. We have defined this as a new form of collaboration beyond the public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors  —  including private companies, research institutions, and government agencies  —  can exchange data to help solve public problems.

While such collaboratives are emerging in a number of sectors and areas, the Malawi case is an example of a particular kind of collaborative. It’s what we might call a social media data collaborative.

While much attention has been paid to the impact of social media on politics, much value can be generated from social media data for governing as well, but only when done responsibly.

Users of social media are today disclosing and sharing an unprecedented amount of data. Facebook alone collects 98 unique personal data points from its users, and Twitter processes about 6,000 tweets every second.

With an estimated 2.51 billion social media users across the world, a staggering amount of information is being gleaned about individuals and their interactions from social networking platforms.

There is little doubt that much of the data stored by social media companies could, if made available in a responsible manner, provide groups working for the public interest with new insights and avenues for action. Unfortunately, at present such groups have only limited access to data, and their data science expertise remains similarly limited.

Data collaboratives like the Missing Maps project represent a new, contemporary model of corporate social responsibility."

 Read more here



Hollie Russon-Gilman in Stanford Social Innovation Review: The Moment for Participatory Democracy

This week, associate Network member Hollie Russon-Gilman shared "three civic engagement models that can help bring the voices of everyday citizens into public life" in a piece for Stanford Social Innovation Review. The article, "The Moment for Participatory Democracy," explores examples of 1) giving citizens government data (e.g., What Works Cities); 2) giving citizens a direct line to their representatives (e.g., Crown Townhall); and giving citizens a seat at the table: 

"There are also several promising models for citizens to serve as co-producers of policy. Participatory budgeting, for example, lets community residents allocate a portion of taxpayer dollars to public projects. New York City—supported by the Participatory Budgeting Project, and Community Voices Heard—is home to the largest participatory budgeting effort to date and recently enabled online voting for projects.

Another promising model is the Citizens’ Jury method, pioneered by the Jefferson Center. Three counties in rural Minnesota are using this method as a foundation for Rural Climate Dialogues—regular gatherings where local residents hear from rural experts, work directly with their neighbors to design actionable community and policy recommendations, and share their feedback with public officials at a statewide meeting of rural Minnesota citizens, state agency representatives, and nonprofit organizations. Participants also pledge to fulfill local action to mitigate climate change. One participant says, 'Before I was a part of these events, I really didn’t think there was anything I could do about [climate change]. I was always just one of those who thought, "It’s too big of an issue. It’s happening. My hands are tied." [By participating in] these events, I realize that there are things we can do, even me personally, my community.'”

Read more here



Sir Tim Berners-Lee Wins 2017 Turing Award

Last week, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announced that Sir Tim Berners-Lee is this year's recipient of the Turing Award – the so-called Nobel Prize of of computing. ACM chose Sir Tim as the Turing Award winner in its 50th anniversary year for “inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the web to scale.” Sir Tim will also receive a $1 million prize provided by Google. 

In response to the announcement, Sir Tim said:

“I’m humbled to receive the namesake award of a computing pioneer who showed that what a programmer could do with a computer is limited only by the programmer themselves. It is an honor to receive an award like the Turing that has been bestowed to some of the most brilliant minds in the world.”

Sir Tim will officially receive his award at the ACM annual banquet in San Francisco on June 24th. 

Read more here



Karim Lakhani Shares the Truth About Blockchain in Harvard Business Review

In the January-February issue of Harvard Business Review, Network member Karim Lakhani and fellow Harvard Business School professor Marco Iansiti explore the potential impacts of the emergent "foundational" technology. While bullish on blockchain's ability to fundamentally alter (and improve) a wide array of private and public sector processes, including but not limited to financial ones:

"With blockchain, we can imagine a world in which contracts are embedded in digital code and stored in transparent, shared databases, where they are protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organizations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction. This is the immense potential of blockchain."

Lakhani and Iansiti are also clear-eyed in their assessment of the hype surrounding blockchain, and caution that its most transformative impacts are likely years away. They argue:

"True blockchain-led transformation of business and government, we believe, is still many years away. That’s because blockchain is not a 'disruptive' technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly. Blockchain is a foundational technology: It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems. But while the impact will be enormous, it will take decades for blockchain to seep into our economic and social infrastructure. The process of adoption will be gradual and steady, not sudden, as waves of technological and institutional change gain momentum."

In seeking to understand how blockchain is likely to evolve and impact society, Lakhani and Iasanti consider other foundational technologies, like TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/internet protocol), the technical infrastructure that makes the Internet possible. Based on their analysis, they find that two dimensions will primarily affect how blockchain use cases are likely to evolve:  

"The first is novelty—the degree to which an application is new to the world. The more novel it is, the more effort will be required to ensure that users understand what problems it solves. The second dimension is complexity, represented by the level of ecosystem coordination involved—the number and diversity of parties that need to work together to produce value with the technology. For example, a social network with just one member is of little use; a social network is worthwhile only when many of your own connections have signed on to it. Other users of the application must be brought on board to generate value for all participants. The same will be true for many blockchain applications. And, as the scale and impact of those applications increase, their adoption will require significant institutional change."

Read more here.



New Paper from Stefaan Verhulst: Data Collaboratives as “Bazaars”? A Review of Coordination Problems and Mechanisms to Match Demand for Data with Supply

In the latest issue of Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Network Chief of Research Stefaan Verhulst, Iryna Susha of Örebro University and Marijn Janssen from the Delft University of Technology explore challenges and coordination mechanisms to advance the field of data collaboratives. Data collaboratives are a new form of collaboration, beyond the public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors — in particular companies – exchange their data to create public value. 


In “data collaboratives” private and public organizations coordinate their activities to leverage data to address a societal challenge. This paper focuses on analyzing challenges and coordination mechanisms of data collaboratives.

This study uses coordination theory to identify and discuss the coordination problems and coordination mechanisms associated with data collaboratives. We also use a taxonomy of data collaborative forms from a previous empirical study to discuss how different forms of data collaboratives may require different coordination mechanisms.

The study analyzed data collaboratives from the perspective of organizational and task levels. At the organizational level we argue that data collaboratives present an example of the bazaar form of coordination. At the task level we identified five coordination problems and discussed potential coordination mechanisms to address them, such as coordination by negotiation, by third party, by standardization, to name a few.

Research limitations/implications
This study is one of the first few to systematically analyze the phenomenon of “data collaboratives”.

Practical implications
This study can help practitioners understand better the coordination challenges they may face when initiating a data collaborative and to develop successful data collaboratives by using coordination mechanisms to mitigate these challenges.

Data collaboratives is a novel form of data-driven initiatives which have seen rapid experimentation lately. This study draws attention to this concept in academic literature and highlights some of the complexities of organizing them in practice.

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Letter from Sir Tim Berners-Lee: Three Challenges for the Web, According to Its Inventor

Sunday marked the 28th anniversary of the World Wide Web. To mark the anniversary, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Web's inventor and a member of the Research Network, shared a letter on the World Wide Web Foundation website focusing especially on three new trends believes "we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity."

First, "We’ve lost control of our personal data: 'The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data. Many of us agree to this – albeit often by accepting long and confusing terms and conditions documents – but fundamentally we do not mind some information being collected in exchange for free services. But, we’re missing a trick. As our data is then held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realise if we had direct control over this data, and chose when and with whom to share it. What’s more, we often do not have any way of feeding back to companies what data we’d rather not share – especially with third parties – the T&Cs are all or nothing."

Second, "It’s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web: "Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us. And, they choose what to show us based on algorithms which learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting. The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on – meaning that misinformation, or ‘fake news’, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire. And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain."

Third, "Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding: Political advertising online has rapidly become a sophisticated industry. The fact that most people get their information from just a few platforms and the increasing sophistication of algorithms drawing upon rich pools of personal data, means that political campaigns are now building individual adverts targeted directly at users. One source suggests that in the 2016 US election, as many as 50,000 variations of adverts were being served every single day on Facebook, a near-impossible situation to monitor. And there are suggestions that some political adverts – in the US and around the world – are being used in unethical ways – to point voters to fake news sites, for instance, or to keep others away from the polls. Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?"

Read more here.