Unleashing collective intelligence for public decision-making: the Data for Policy community

Paper by Zeynep Engin, Emily Gardner, Andrew Hyde, Stefaan Verhulst and Jon Crowcroft: “Since its establishment in 2014, Data for Policy (https://dataforpolicy.org) has emerged as a prominent global community promoting interdisciplinary research and cross-sector collaborations in the realm of data-driven innovation for governance and policymaking. This report presents an overview of the community’s evolution from 2014 to 2023 and introduces its six-area framework, which provides a comprehensive mapping of the data for policy research landscape. The framework is based on extensive consultations with key stakeholders involved in the international committees of the annual Data for Policy conference series and the open-access journal Data & Policy published by Cambridge University Press. By presenting this inclusive framework, along with the guiding principles and future outlook for the community, this report serves as a vital foundation for continued research and innovation in the field of data for policy...(More)”.oeoMMrMrM..Andrew Hyde,Stefaan Verhulst[Opens in a new window] and

The AI That Could Heal a Divided Internet

Article by Billy Perrigo: “In the 1990s and early 2000s, technologists made the world a grand promise: new communications technologies would strengthen democracy, undermine authoritarianism, and lead to a new era of human flourishing. But today, few people would agree that the internet has lived up to that lofty goal. 

Today, on social media platforms, content tends to be ranked by how much engagement it receives. Over the last two decades politics, the media, and culture have all been reshaped to meet a single, overriding incentive: posts that provoke an emotional response often rise to the top.

Efforts to improve the health of online spaces have long focused on content moderation, the practice of detecting and removing bad content. Tech companies hired workers and built AI to identify hate speech, incitement to violence, and harassment. That worked imperfectly, but it stopped the worst toxicity from flooding our feeds. 

There was one problem: while these AIs helped remove the bad, they didn’t elevate the good. “Do you see an internet that is working, where we are having conversations that are healthy or productive?” asks Yasmin Green, the CEO of Google’s Jigsaw unit, which was founded in 2010 with a remit to address threats to open societies. “No. You see an internet that is driving us further and further apart.”

What if there were another way? 

Jigsaw believes it has found one. On Monday, the Google subsidiary revealed a new set of AI tools, or classifiers, that can score posts based on the likelihood that they contain good content: Is a post nuanced? Does it contain evidence-based reasoning? Does it share a personal story, or foster human compassion? By returning a numerical score (from 0 to 1) representing the likelihood of a post containing each of those virtues and others, these new AI tools could allow the designers of online spaces to rank posts in a new way. Instead of posts that receive the most likes or comments rising to the top, platforms could—in an effort to foster a better community—choose to put the most nuanced comments, or the most compassionate ones, first…(More)”.

Mass Data Sharing in Smart Cities

Report by Berenika Drazewska and Mark Findlay: “There are at least two ways of understanding the importance of this Report and its implications. The essential research purpose was to examine the nature of mass data sharing between private and public agencies in the commerce and administration of certain smart cities. With this knowledge the research speculated on and selectively exposed the governance challenges posed by this sharing for stakeholders, citizen/residents in particular, in various data relationships and arrangements. Predicting that good data governance policy and practices can address these challenges, the Report proposes a model strategy that grows from commitments where stakeholders will employ trusted data spaces to create respectful and responsible data relationships, where the benefits of data sharing can also be achieved without compromising any stakeholder interests…(More)”.

Millions of gamers advance biomedical research

Article by McGill: “…4.5 million gamers around the world have advanced medical science by helping to reconstruct microbial evolutionary histories using a minigame included inside the critically and commercially successful video game, Borderlands 3. Their playing has led to a significantly refined estimate of the relationships of microbes in the human gut. The results of this collaboration will both substantially advance our knowledge of the microbiome and improve on the AI programs that will be used to carry out this work in future.

By playing Borderlands Science, a mini-game within the looter-shooter video game Borderlands 3, these players have helped trace the evolutionary relationships of more than a million different kinds of bacteria that live in the human gut, some of which play a crucial role in our health. This information represents an exponential increase in what we have discovered about the microbiome up till now. By aligning rows of tiles which represent the genetic building blocks of different microbes, humans have been able to take on tasks that even the best existing computer algorithms have been unable to solve yet…(More) (and More)”.

United against algorithms: a primer on disability-led struggles against algorithmic injustice

Report by Georgia van Toorn: “Algorithmic decision-making (ADM) poses urgent concerns regarding the rights and entitlements of people with disability from all walks of life. As ADM systems become increasingly embedded in government decision-making processes, there is a heightened risk of harm, such as unjust denial of benefits or inadequate support, accentuated by the expanding reach of state surveillance.

ADM systems have far reaching impacts on disabled lives and life chances. Despite this, they are often designed without the input of people with lived experience of disability, for purposes that do not align with the goals of full rights, participation, and justice for disabled people.

This primer explores how people with disability are collectively responding to the threats posed by algorithmic, data-driven systems – specifically their public sector applications. It provides an introductory overview of the topic, exploring the approaches, obstacles, and actions taken by people with disability in their ‘algoactivist’ struggles…(More)”.

The CFPB wants to rein in data brokers

Article by Gaby Del Valle: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to propose new regulations that would require data brokers to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In a speech at the White House earlier this month, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said the agency is looking into policies to “ensure greater accountability” for companies that buy and sell consumer data, in keeping with an executive order President Joe Biden issued in late February.

Chopra said the agency is considering proposals that would define data brokers that sell certain types of data as “consumer reporting agencies,” thereby requiring those companies to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The statute bans sharing certain kinds of data (e.g., your credit report) with entities unless they serve a specific purpose outlined in the law (e.g., if the report is used for employment purposes or to extend a line of credit to someone).

The CFBP views the buying and selling of consumer data as a national security issue, not just a matter of privacy. Chopra mentioned three massive data breaches — the 2015 Anthem leak, the 2017 Equifax hack, and the 2018 Marriott breach — as examples of foreign adversaries illicitly obtaining Americans’ personal data. “When Americans’ health information, financial information, and even their travel whereabouts can be assembled into detailed dossiers, it’s no surprise that this raises risks when it comes to safety and security,” Chopra said. But the focus on high-profile hacks obscures a more pervasive, totally legal phenomenon: data brokers’ ability to sell detailed personal information to anyone who’s willing to pay for it…(More)”.

Measuring the mobile body

Article by Laura Jung: “…While nation states have been collecting data on citizens for the purposes of taxation and military recruitment for centuries, its indexing, organization in databases and classification for particular governmental purposes – such as controlling the mobility of ‘undesirable’ populations – is a nineteenth-century invention. The French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault describes how, in the context of growing urbanization and industrialization, states became increasingly preoccupied with the question of ‘circulation’. Persons and goods, as well as pathogens, circulated further than they had in the early modern period. While states didn’t seek to suppress or control these movements entirely, they sought means to increase what was seen as ‘positive’ circulation and minimize ‘negative’ circulation. They deployed the novel tools of a positivist social science for this purpose: statistical approaches were used in the field of demography to track and regulate phenomena such as births, accidents, illness and deaths. The emerging managerial nation state addressed the problem of circulation by developing a very particular toolkit amassing detailed information about the population and developing standardized methods of storage and analysis.

One particularly vexing problem was the circulation of known criminals. In the nineteenth century, it was widely believed that if a person offended once, they would offend again. However, the systems available for criminal identification were woefully inadequate to the task.

As criminologist Simon Cole explains, identifying an unknown person requires a ‘truly unique body mark’. Yet before the advent of modern systems of identification, there were only two ways to do this: branding or personal recognition. While branding had been widely used in Europe and North America on convicts, prisoners and enslaved people, evolving ideas around criminality and punishment largely led to the abolition of physical marking in the early nineteenth century. The criminal record was established in its place: a written document cataloguing the convict’s name and a written description of their person, including identifying marks and scars…(More)”.

The False Choice Between Digital Regulation and Innovation

Paper by Anu Bradford: “This Article challenges the common view that more stringent regulation of the digital economy inevitably compromises innovation and undermines technological progress. This view, vigorously advocated by the tech industry, has shaped the public discourse in the United States, where the country’s thriving tech economy is often associated with a staunch commitment to free markets. US lawmakers have also traditionally embraced this perspective, which explains their hesitancy to regulate the tech industry to date. The European Union has chosen another path, regulating the digital economy with stringent data privacy, antitrust, content moderation, and other digital regulations designed to shape the evolution of the tech economy towards European values around digital rights and fairness. According to the EU’s critics, this far-reaching tech regulation has come at the cost of innovation, explaining the EU’s inability to nurture tech companies and compete with the US and China in the tech race. However, this Article argues that the association between digital regulation and technological progress is considerably more complex than what the public conversation, US lawmakers, tech companies, and several scholars have suggested to date. For this reason, the existing technological gap between the US and the EU should not be attributed to the laxity of American laws and the stringency of European digital regulation. Instead, this Article shows there are more foundational features of the American legal and technological ecosystem that have paved the way for US tech companies’ rise to global prominence—features that the EU has not been able to replicate to date. By severing tech regulation from its allegedly adverse effect on innovation, this Article seeks to advance a more productive scholarly conversation on the costs and benefits of digital regulation. It also directs governments deliberating tech policy away from a false choice between regulation and innovation while drawing their attention to a broader set of legal and institutional reforms that are necessary for tech companies to innovate and for digital economies and societies to thrive…(More)”.

Strategies, missions and the challenge of whole of government action

Paper by Geoff Mulgan: “Every government is, in reality, a flotilla of many departments, agencies, tiers rather than a single thing.  But all aspire to greater coherence. ‘Whole of government’ approaches – that mobilise and align many ministries and agencies around a common challenge – have a long history: during major wars, and around attempts to digitize societies, to cut energy use, to reduce poverty and to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These have been described using different terms – national plans, priorities, strategies and missions – but the issues are similar.

This paper, linked to a European Commission programme on ‘whole of government innovation’ (launching on 16 April in Brussels) looks at the lessons of history and options for the future.  Its primary focus is on innovation, but the issues apply more widely. The paper outlines the tools governments can use to achieve cross-cutting goals, from strategic roles to matrix models, cross-cutting budgets, teams, targets and processes, to options for linking law, regulation and procurement. It looks at partnerships and other structures for organising collaboration with business, universities and civil society; and at the role of public engagement…(More)”.

The generation of public value through e-participation initiatives: A synthesis of the extant literature

Paper by Naci Karkin and Asunur Cezar: “The number of studies evaluating e-participation levels in e-government services has recently increased. These studies primarily examine stakeholders’ acceptance and adoption of e-government initiatives. However, it is equally important to understand whether and how value is generated through e-participation, regardless of whether the focus is on government efforts or user adoption/acceptance levels. There is a need in the literature for a synthesis focusing on e- participation’s connection with public value creation using a systematic and comprehensive approach. This study employs a systematic literature review to collect, examine, and synthesize prior findings, aiming to investigate public value creation through e-participation initiatives, including their facilitators and barriers. By reviewing sixty-four peer-reviewed studies indexed by Web of Science and Scopus, this research demonstrates that e-participation initiatives and efforts can generate public value. Nevertheless, several factors are pivotal for the success and sustainability of these initiatives. The study’s findings could guide researchers and practitioners in comprehending the determinants and barriers influencing the success and sustainability of e-participation initiatives in the public value creation process while highlighting potential future research opportunities in this domain…(More)”.