The Economics of Artificial Intelligence


Book edited by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb: “Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) highlight the potential of this technology to affect productivity, growth, inequality, market power, innovation, and employment. This volume seeks to set the agenda for economic research on the impact of AI.

It covers four broad themes: AI as a general purpose technology; the relationships between AI, growth, jobs, and inequality; regulatory responses to changes brought on by AI; and the effects of AI on the way economic research is conducted. It explores the economic influence of machine learning, the branch of computational statistics that has driven much of the recent excitement around AI, as well as the economic impact of robotics and automation and the potential economic consequences of a still-hypothetical artificial general intelligence. The volume provides frameworks for understanding the economic impact of AI and identifies a number of open research questions…. (More)”

Data gaps threaten achievement of development goals in Africa


Sara Jerving at Devex: “Data gaps across the African continent threaten to hinder the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s first governance report released on Tuesday.

The report, “Agendas 2063 & 2030: Is Africa On Track?“ based on an analysis of the foundation’s Ibrahim index of African governance, found that since the adoption of both of these agendas, the availability of public data in Africa has declined. With data focused on social outcomes, there has been a notable decline in education, population and vital statistics, such as birth and death records, which allow citizens to access public services.

The index, on which the report is based, is the most comprehensive dataset on African governance, drawing on ten years of data of all 54 African nations. An updated index is released every two years….

The main challenge in the production of quality, timely data, according to the report, is a lack of funding and lack of independence of the national statistical offices.

Only one country, Mauritius, had a perfect score in terms of independence of its national statistics office – meaning that its office can collect the data it chooses, publish without approval from other arms of the government, and is sufficiently funded. Fifteen African nations scored zero in terms of the independence of their offices….(More)”.

The Colombian Anti-Corruption Referendum: Why It Failed?


Paper by Michael Haman: “The objective of this article is to analyze the results of the anti-corruption referendum in Colombia in 2018. Colombia is a country with a significant corruption problem. More than 99% of the voters who came to the polls voted in favor of the proposals. However, the anti-corruption referendum nonetheless failed because not enough citizens were mobilized to participate. The article addresses the reasons why turnout was very low…

Conclusions: I find that the more transparent a municipality, the higher the percentage of the municipal electorate that voted for proposals in the anti-corruption referendum. Moreover, I find that in municipalities where support for Sergio Fajardo in the presidential election was higher and support for Iván Duque was lower, support for the referendum proposals was higher. Also, turnout was lower in municipalities with higher poverty rates and higher homicide rates…(More)”.

Data Power: tactics, access and shaping


Introduction to the Data Power Special Issue of Online Information Review by Ysabel Gerrard and Jo Bates : “…The Data Power Conference 2017, and by extension the seven papers in this Special Issue, addressed three questions:

  1. How can we reclaim some form of data-based power and autonomy, and advance data-based technological citizenship, while living in regimes of data power?
  2. Is it possible to regain agency and mobilise data for the common good? To do so, which theories help to interrogate and make sense of the operations of data power?
  3. What kind of design frameworks are needed to build and deploy data-based technologies with values and ethics that are equitable and fair? How can big data be mobilised to improve how we live, beyond notions of efficiency and innovation?

These questions broadly emphasise the reclamation of power, retention of agency and ethics of data-based technologies, and they reflect a broader moment in recent data studies scholarship. While early critical research on “big data” – a term that captures the technologies, analytics and mythologies of increasingly large data sets (Boyd and Crawford, 2012) – could only hypothesise the inequalities and deepened forms discrimination that might emerge as data sets grew in volume, many of those predictions have now become real. The articles in this Special Issue ask pressing questions about data power at a time when we have learned that data are too frequently handled in a way that deepens social inequalities and injustices (amongst others, Eubanks, 2018Noble, 2018).

The papers in this Special Issue approach discussions of inequality and injustice through three broad lenses: the tactics people use to confront unequal distributions of (data) power; the access to data that are most relevant and essential for particular social groups, coupled with the changing and uncertain legalities of data access; and the shaping of social relations by and through data, whether through the demands placed on app users to disclose more personal information, the use of data to construct cultures of compliance or through the very methodologies commonly used to organise and label information. While these three themes do not exhaustively capture the range of topics addressed in this Special Issue, at the Data Power Conferences, or within the field at large, they represent an emphasis within data studies scholarship on shedding light on the most pressing issues confronting our increasingly datafied world…(More)”.

Contracting for Personal Data


Paper by Kevin E. Davis and Florencia Marotta-Wurgler: “Is contracting for the collection, use, and transfer of data like contracting for the sale of a horse or a car or licensing a piece of software? Many are concerned that conventional principles of contract law are inadequate when some consumers may not know or misperceive the full consequences of their transactions. Such concerns have led to proposals for reform that deviate significantly from general rules of contract law. However, the merits of these proposals rest in part on testable empirical claims.

We explore some of these claims using a hand-collected data set of privacy policies that dictate the terms of the collection, use, transfer, and security of personal data. We explore the extent to which those terms differ across markets before and after the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We find that compliance with the GDPR varies across markets in intuitive ways, indicating that firms take advantage of the flexibility offered by a contractual approach even when they must also comply with mandatory rules. We also compare terms offered to more and less sophisticated subjects to see whether firms may exploit information barriers by offering less favorable terms to more vulnerable subjects….(More)”.

Civic Duty Days: One Way Employers Can Strengthen Democracy


Blog by Erin Barnes: “As an employer, I’m always looking for structural ways to support my team in their health and wellbeing. We know that individual health is so often tied to community health: strong communities mean, among other things, better health outcomes, reduced crime, and better education for our children, so making space for my team to be able to be active participants in their neighborhoods gives them and their families better health outcomes. So, from my perspective, allowing time to give back to the community is just as important as providing sick days.

When my cofounder Brandon Whitney and I started ioby — a nonprofit focused on building civic leadership in our neighborhoods — we wanted our internal organizational values to reflect our mission. For example, we’ve always given Election Day off, and Brandon created ioby’s Whole Person Policy inspired by the work of Parker Palmer. And a few years ago, after a series of high-profile killings of people of color by police made it difficult for many of our staff to feel fully present at work while also showing up for those in their community who were struggling with pain and grief, we decided to add an additional 5 days of Paid Time Off (PTO) for civic duty.

At ioby, a Civic Duty Day is not the same as jury duty. Civic Duty Days are designed to give ioby staff the time to do what we need to do to be active participants involved in everyday democracy. Activities can include neighborhood volunteering, get-out-the-vote volunteering, fundraising, self-care and community-care to respond to local and national emergencies, writing letters, meeting with local elected officials, making calls, going to a healing workshop, and personal health to recover from civic duty activities that fall on weekends.

A couple weeks ago, at a retreat with other nonprofit leaders, we were discussing structural ways to increase civic participation in the United States. Given that nearly 15% of Americans cite lack of time as their reason for not voting, and 75% of Americans cite it as their reason for not volunteering, employers can make a big difference in how Americans show up in public life.

I asked my team what sorts of things they’ve used Civic Duty Days for. In addition to the typical answers about park cleanups, phone banking, door knocking and canvassing, postcard writing, attending demonstrations like the Women’s March and the Climate Strike, I heard some interesting stories.

  • One ioby staff person used her Civic Duty Days to attend Reverse Ride Alongs where she acts as a guide with cadets for the entire day. This program allows cadets to see the community they will be serving and for the community to have a voice in how they see policing and what ways best to be approached by new police officers.
  • An ioby staff person used Civic Duty Days to attend trial for an activist who was arrested for protesting; this would have been impossible to attend otherwise since trials are often during the day.
  • Another ioby staff person used his days to stay home with his kids while his wife attended demonstrations….(More)”

A Strong Democracy Is a Digital Democracy


 Audrey Tang in the New York Times: “Democracy improves as more people participate. And digital technology remains one of the best ways to improve participation — as long as the focus is on finding common ground and creating consensus, not division.

These are lessons Taiwan has taken to heart in recent years, with the government and the tech community partnering to create online platforms and other digital initiatives that allow everyday citizens to propose and express their opinion on policy reforms. Today, Taiwan is crowdsourcing democracy to create a more responsive government.

Fittingly, this movement, which today aims to increase government transparency, was born in a moment of national outrage over a lack of openness and accountability in politics.

On March 18, 2014, hundreds of young activists, most of them college students, occupied Taiwan’s legislature to express their profound opposition to a new trade pact with Beijing then under consideration, as well as the secretive manner in which it was being pushed through Parliament by the Kuomintang, the ruling party.

Catalyzing what came to be known as the Sunflower Movement, the protesters demanded that the pact be scrapped and that the government institute a more transparent ratification process.

The occupation, which drew widespread public support, ended a little more than three weeks later, after the government promised greater legislative oversight of the trade pact. (To this day, the pact has yet to be approved by Taiwan’s legislature.) A poll released after the occupation, however, showed that 76 percent of the nation remained dissatisfied with the Kuomintang government, illustrating the crisis of trust caused by the trade deal dispute.

To heal this rift and communicate better with everyday citizens, the administration reached out to a group of civic-minded hackers and coders, known as g0v (pronounced “gov-zero”), who had been seeking to improve government transparency through the creation of open-source tools. The organization had come to the attention of the government during the Sunflower occupation, when g0v hackers had worked closely with the protesters.

In December 2014, Jaclyn Tsai, a government minister focused on digital technology, attended a g0v-sponsored hackathon and proposed the establishment of a neutral platform where various online communities could exchange policy ideas.

Several contributors from g0v responded by partnering with the government to start the vTaiwan platform in 2015. VTaiwan (which stands for “virtual Taiwan”) brings together representatives from the public, private and social sectors to debate policy solutions to problems primarily related to the digital economy. Since it began, vTaiwan has tackled 30 issues, relying on a mix of online debate and face-to-face discussions with stakeholders. Though the government is not obligated to follow vTaiwan’s recommendations (a policy that may soon change), the group’s work often leads to concrete action….(More)”.

Merging the ‘Social’ and the ‘Public’: How Social Media Platforms Could Be a New Public Forum


Paper by Amélie Pia Heldt: “When Facebook and other social media sites announced in August 2018 they would ban extremist speakers such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for violating their rules against hate speech, reactions were strong. Either they would criticize that such measures were only a drop in the bucket with regards to toxic and harmful speech online, or they would despise Facebook & Co. for penalizing only right-wing speakers, hence censoring political opinions and joining some type of anti-conservative media conglomerate. This anecdote foremost begged the question: Should someone like Alex Jones be excluded from Facebook? And the question “should” includes the one of “may Facebook exclude users for publishing political opinions?”.

As social media platforms take up more and more space in our daily lives, enabling not only individual and mass communication, but also offering payment and other services, there is still a need for a common understanding with regards to the social and communicative space they create in cyberspace. By common I mean on a global scale since this is the way most social media platforms operate or aim for (see Facebook’s mission statement: “bring the world closer together”). While in social science a new digital sphere was proclaimed and social media platforms can be categorized as “personal publics”, there is no such denomination in legal scholarship that is globally agreed upon. Public space can be defined as a free room between the state and society, as a space for freedom. Generally, it is where individuals are protected by their fundamental rights while operating in the public sphere. However, terms like forum, space, and sphere may not be used as synonyms in this discussion. Under the First Amendment, the public forum doctrine mainly serves the purposes of democracy and truth and could be perpetuated in communication services that promote direct dialogue between the state and citizens. But where and by whom is the public forum guaranteed in cyberspace? The notion of the public space in cyberspace is central and it constantly evolves as platforms become broader in their services, hence it needs to be examined more closely. When looking at social media platforms we need to take into account how they moderate speech and subsequently how they influence social processes. If representative democracies are built on the grounds of deliberation, it is essential to safeguard the room for public discourse to actually happen. Are constitutional concepts for the analog space transferable into the digital? Should private actors such as social media platforms be bound by freedom of speech without being considered state actors? And, accordingly, create a new type of public forum?

The goal of this article is to provide answers to the questions mentioned….(More)”.

Future Government 2030+: Policy Implications and Recommendations


European Commission: “This report provides follow-up insights into the policy implications and offers a set of 57 recommendations, organised in nine policy areas. These stem from a process based on interviews with 20 stakeholders. The recommendations include a series of policy options and actions that could be implemented at different levels of governance systems.

The Future of Government project started in autumn 2017 as a research project of the Joint Research Centre in collaboration with Directorate General Communication Network and Technologies. It explored how we can rethink the social contract according to the needs of today’s society, what elements need to be adjusted to deliver value and good to people and society, what values we need to improve society, and how we can obtain a new sense of responsibility.

Following the “The Future of Government 2030+: A Citizen-Centric Perspective on New Government Models report“, published on 6 March, the present follow-up report provides follow-up insights into the policy implications and offers a set of 54 recommendations, organised in nine policy areas.

The recommendations of this report include a series of policy options and actions that could be implemented at different levels of governance systems. Most importantly, they include essential elements to help us build our future actions on digital government and address foundational governance challenges of the modern online world (i.e regulation of AI ) in the following 9 axes:

  1. Democracy and power relations: creating clear strategies towards full adoption of open government
  2. Participatory culture and deliberation: skilled and equipped public administration and allocation of resources to include citizens in decision-making
  3. Political trust: new participatory governance mechanisms to raise citizens’ trust
  4. Regulation: regulation on technology should follow discussion on values with full observance of fundamental rights
  5. Public-Private relationship: better synergies between public and private sectors, collaboration with young social entrepreneurs to face forthcoming challenges
  6. Public services: modular and adaptable public services, support Member States in ensuring equal access to technology
  7. Education and literacy: increase digital data literacy, critical thinking and education reforms in accordance to the needs of job markets
  8. Big data and artificial intelligence: ensure ethical use of technology, focus on technologies’ public value, explore ways to use technology for more efficient policy-making
  9. Redesign and new skills for public administration: constant re-evaluation of public servants’ skills, foresight development, modernisation of recruitment processes, more agile forms of working.

As these recommendations have shown, collaboration is needed across different policy fields and they should be acted upon as integrated package. The majority of recommendations is intended for the EU policymakers but their implementation could be more effective if done through lower levels of governance, eg. local, regional or even national. (Read full text)… (More).

Human Rights in the Age of Platforms


Book edited by Rikke Frank Jørgensen: “Today such companies as Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter play an increasingly important role in how users form and express opinions, encounter information, debate, disagree, mobilize, and maintain their privacy. What are the human rights implications of an online domain managed by privately owned platforms? According to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the UN Human Right Council in 2011, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights and to carry out human rights due diligence. But this goal is dependent on the willingness of states to encode such norms into business regulations and of companies to comply. In this volume, contributors from across law and internet and media studies examine the state of human rights in today’s platform society.

The contributors consider the “datafication” of society, including the economic model of data extraction and the conceptualization of privacy. They examine online advertising, content moderation, corporate storytelling around human rights, and other platform practices. Finally, they discuss the relationship between human rights law and private actors, addressing such issues as private companies’ human rights responsibilities and content regulation…(More)”.