Digital Strategy: Delivering Better Results for the Public

The White House Blog: “Today marks one year since we released the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5), as part of the President’s directive to build a 21st Century Government that delivers better services to the American people.
The Strategy is built on the proposition that all Americans should be able to access information from their Government anywhere, anytime, and on any device; that open government data – data that are publicly accessible in easy-to-use formats – can fuel innovation and economic growth; and that technology can make government more transparent, more efficient, and more effective.
A year later, there’s a lot to be proud of:
Information Centric
In twelve months, the Federal Government has significantly shifted how it thinks about digital information – treating data as a valuable national asset that should be open and available to the public, to entrepreneurs, and others, instead of keeping it trapped in government systems. …
Shared Platform
The Federal Government and the American people cannot afford to have each agency build isolated and duplicative technology solutions. Instead, we must use modern platforms for digital services that can be shared across agencies….
Citizens shouldn’t have to struggle to access the information they need. To ensure that the American people can easily find government services, we implemented a government-wide Digital Analytics Program across all Federal websites….
Security and Privacy
Throughout all of these efforts, maintaining cyber security and protecting privacy have been paramount….
In the end, the digital strategy is all about connecting people to government resources in useful ways. And by “connecting” we mean a two-way street….
Learn more at: and”


CrowdingINA crowdfunding directory by UK’s Nesta…: “Crowdfunding, the method of sourcing funds from large numbers of people, has been growing quickly worldwide in recent years and has the potential to revolutionise the world of finance, creating new opportunities to fund everything from new products and businesses to community projects. As the market grows, so too does the number of sites (or ‘platforms’) that facilitate the exchange between the crowd of funders and those seeking finance. To help you find the platform most suited to your financing needs, this directory lists information on those platforms currently open to fundraising from individuals and businesses in the UK.”

Deepbills project

Cato Institute: “The Deepbills project takes the raw XML of Congressional bills (available at FDsys and Thomas) and adds additional semantic information to them in inside the text.

You can download the continuously-updated data at

Congress already produces machine-readable XML of almost every bill it proposes, but that XML is designed primarily for formatting a paper copy, not for extracting information. For example, it’s not currently possible to find every mention of an Agency, every legal reference, or even every spending authorization in a bill without having a human being read it….
Currently the following information is tagged:

  • Legal citations…
  • Budget Authorities (both Authorizations of Appropriations and Appropriations)…
  • Agencies, bureaus, and subunits of the federal government.
  • Congressional committees
  • Federal elective officeholders (Congressmen)”

How We Imagined the Internet Before the Internet Even Existed

Matt Novak in Paleofuture : “In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face. Sounds obvious today. But in 1968, a full year before ARPANET made its first connection? It was downright clairvoyant…
The paper was written by J.C.R. Licklider and Robert Taylor, illustrated by Rowland B. Wilson, and appeared in the April 1968 issue of Science and Technology. The article includes some of the most amazingly accurate predictions for what networked computing would eventually allow….

The article rather boldly predicts that the computerized networks of the future will be even more important for communication than the “printing press and the picture tube”—another idea not taken for granted in 1968:

Creative, interactive communication requires a plastic or moldable medium that can be modeled, a dynamic medium in which premises will flow into consequences, and above all a common medium that can be contributed to and experimented with by all.
Such a medium is at hand—the programmed digital computer. Its presence can change the nature and value of communication even more profoundly than did the printing press and the picture tube, for, as we shall show, a well-programmed computer can provide direct access both to informational resources and to the processes for making use of the resources.

The paper predicts that the person-to-person interaction that a networked computer system allows for will not only build relationships between individuals, but will build communities.

What will on-line interactive communities be like? In most fields they will consist of geographically separated members, sometimes grouped in small clusters and sometimes working individually. They will be communities not of common location, but of common interest. In each field, the overall community of interest will be large enough to support a comprehensive system of field-oriented programs and data.

…In the end, Licklider and Taylor predict that all of this interconnectedness will make us happier and even make unemployment a thing of the past. Their vision of everyone sitting at a console, working “through the network” is stunningly accurate for an information-driven society that fifty years ago would’ve looked far less tech-obsessed.

When people do their informational work “at the console” and “through the network,” telecommunication will be as natural an extension of individual work as face-to-face communication is now. The impact of that fact, and of the marked facilitation of the communicative process, will be very great—both on the individual and on society.
First, life will be happier for the on-line individual because the people with whom one interacts most strongly will be selected more by commonality of interests and goals than by accidents of proximity. Second, communication will be more effective and productive, and therefore more enjoyable. Third, much communication and interaction will be with programs and programmed models, which will be (a) highly responsive, (b) supplementary to one’s own capabilities, rather than competitive, and (c) capable of representing progressively more complex ideas without necessarily displaying all the levels of their structure at the same time-and which will therefore be both challenging and rewarding. And, fourth, there will be plenty of opportunity for everyone (who can afford a console) to find his calling, for the whole world of information, with all its fields and disciplines, will be open to him—with programs ready to guide him or to help him explore.

(You can read the entire paper online [pdf]. )”

Technologies Of Choice?

New MIT book by Dorothea Kleine:  “Information and communication technologies (ICTs)–especially the Internet and the mobile phone–have changed the lives of people all over the world. These changes affect not just the affluent populations of income-rich countries but also disadvantaged people in both global North and South, who may use free Internet access in telecenters and public libraries, chat in cybercafes with distant family members, and receive information by text message or email on their mobile phones. Drawing on Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach to development–which shifts the focus from economic growth to a more holistic, freedom-based idea of human development–Dorothea Kleine in Technologies of Choice? examines the relationship between ICTs, choice, and development.
Kleine proposes a conceptual framework, the Choice Framework, that can be used to analyze the role of technologies in development processes. She applies the Choice Framework to a case study of microentrepreneurs in a rural community in Chile. Kleine combines ethnographic research at the local level with interviews with national policy makers, to contrast the high ambitions of Chile’s pioneering ICT policies with the country’s complex social and economic realities. She examines three key policies of Chile’s groundbreaking Agenda Digital: public access, digital literacy, and an online procurement system. The policy lesson we can learn from Chile’s experience, Kleine concludes, is the necessity of measuring ICT policies against a people-centered understanding of development that has individual and collective choice at its heart.” launches new platform to map the world

in CNET: “ wants to bring geospatial data to the masses, beyond where Google Earth has gone. The company, which launched Wednesday at the Future in Review conference here, is built around a geospatial visualizer, with more than 2 million data layers that can be overlaid on maps, and a broad set of collaboration tools.
“We want to harness the collective knowledge of the online global community, sharing expertise and enthusiasm,” said company CEO Kevin Montgomery. “We are providing worldwide geospatial infrastructure to empower people.” grew out of Intelesense, a company headed by Montgomery that provides monitoring products for wireless sensor networks and a spatial data exchange. is built around World Wind, an open-source, spatial visualization platform developed by NASA. Google Earth doesn’t allow for the global community to contribute data or modify the code… is currently in private beta. The company will offer the service in a “freemium” model, Montgomery said. Users can upload data for free as long as it is publicly available. The company will charge fees for storing private data. In addition, Montgomery said will generate revenue from consulting and possibly from custom data services. Versions of for mobile devices also are in development.”

Introducing: Project Open Data

White House Blog: “Technology evolves rapidly, and it can be challenging for policy and its implementation to evolve at the same pace.  Last week, President Obama launched the Administration’s new Open Data Policy and Executive Order aimed at ensuring that data released by the government will be as accessible and useful as possible.  To make sure this tech-focused policy can keep up with the speed of innovation, we created Project Open Data.
Project Open Data is an online, public repository intended to foster collaboration and promote the continual improvement of the Open Data Policy. We wanted to foster a culture change in government where we embrace collaboration and where anyone can help us make open data work better. The project is published on GitHub, an open source platform that allows communities of developers to collaboratively share and enhance code.  The resources and plug-and-play tools in Project Open Data can help accelerate the adoption of open data practices.  For example, one tool instantly converts spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers.  The idea is that anyone, from Federal agencies to state and local governments to private citizens, can freely use and adapt these open source tools—and that’s exactly what’s happening.
Within the first 24 hours after Project Open Data was published, more than two dozen contributions (or “pull requests” in GitHub speak) were submitted by the public. The submissions included everything from fixing broken links, to providing policy suggestions, to contributing new code and tools. One pull request even included new code that translates geographic data from locked formats into open data that is freely available for use by anyone…”

The open parliament in the age of the internet

Worldbank’s Tiago Peixoto reviewing Cristiano Faria’s book on Open Parliaments : “There are many reasons to read Cristiano’s piece, one of them being the scarcity of literature dealing with the usage of ICT by the legislative branch. I was honoured to be invited to write the preface to this book, in which I list a few other reasons why I think this book is very worthwhile reading. I have reproduced the preface below, with the addition of some hyperlinks.
Towards the end of the 18th Century, not long after the French Revolution, engineer Claude Chappe invented the optical telegraph. Also known as the Napoleonic Telegraph, this technological innovation enabled the transmission of messages over great distances at unprecedented speeds for its time. This novelty did not go unnoticed by the intellectuals of the period: the possibility of establishing a telegraph network that could connect individuals at high speed and lowered costs was seen as a unique opportunity for direct democracy to flourish.
The difficulties associated with direct democracy, so eloquently expressed by Rousseau just a few years earlier, no longer seemed relevant: simply opening the code used by the telegraph operators would suffice for a whirlpool of ideas to flow between citizens and government, bringing a new era of participatory decision-making. Events, however, took a different turn, and as time went by the enthusiasm for a democratic renewal faded away.
In the course of the centuries that followed, similar stories abounded. The emergence of each new ICT gave rise to a period of enthusiasm surrounding a renewal in politics and government, only to be followed by bitter disillusionment. While the causes of these historical experiences are multiple, it is safe to say that the failure of these technologies to deliver their much-heralded potential is underscored by a lack of understanding of the role of political institutions. These institutions are, inexorably, sources of obstacles and challenges that go beyond the reach of technological solutions.
Indeed, one could argue that despite the historical evidence, even today a certain amount of ingenuity permeates the majority of academic works in the domain of electronic democracy and open government, overestimating technological innovation and neglecting the role of institutions, actors, and their respective strategies.
Not falling prey to the techno-determinist temptation but rather carrying out an analysis grounded in institutions, organizational processes and actors’ strategies, is one of the many strengths of Cristiano Faria’s work…”

What Our Words Tell Us

David Brooks in the New York Times: “About two years ago, the folks at Google released a database of 5.2 million books published between 1500 and 2008. You can type a search word into the database and find out how frequently different words were used at different epochs….

I’d like to tell a story about the last half-century, based on studies done with this search engine. The first element in this story is rising individualism. A study by Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell and Brittany Gentile found that between 1960 and 2008 individualistic words and phrases increasingly overshadowed communal words and phrases. That is to say, over those 48 years, words and phrases like “personalized,” “self,” “standout,” “unique,” “I come first” and “I can do it myself” were used more frequently. Communal words and phrases like “community,” “collective,” “tribe,” “share,” “united,” “band together” and “common good” receded.

The second element of the story is demoralization. A study by Pelin Kesebir and Selin Kesebir found that general moral terms like “virtue,” “decency” and “conscience” were used less frequently over the course of the 20th century. Words associated with moral excellence, like “honesty,” “patience” and “compassion” were used much less frequently. The Kesebirs identified 50 words associated with moral virtue and found that 74 percent were used less frequently as the century progressed. Certain types of virtues were especially hard hit. Usage of courage words like “bravery” and “fortitude” fell by 66 percent. Usage of gratitude words like “thankfulness” and “appreciation” dropped by 49 percent. Usage of humility words like “modesty” and “humbleness” dropped by 52 percent. Usage of compassion words like “kindness” and “helpfulness” dropped by 56 percent. Meanwhile, usage of words associated with the ability to deliver, like “discipline” and “dependability” rose over the century, as did the usage of words associated with fairness. The Kesebirs point out that these sorts of virtues are most relevant to economic production and exchange.

Daniel Klein of George Mason University has conducted one of the broadest studies with the Google search engine. He found further evidence of the two elements I’ve mentioned. On the subject of individualization, he found that the word “preferences” was barely used until about 1930, but usage has surged since. On the general subject of demoralization, he finds a long decline of usage in terms like “faith,” “wisdom,” “ought,” “evil” and “prudence,” and a sharp rise in what you might call social science terms like “subjectivity,” “normative,” “psychology” and “information.” Klein adds the third element to our story, which he calls “governmentalization.” Words having to do with experts have shown a steady rise. So have phrases like “run the country,” “economic justice,” “nationalism,” “priorities,” “right-wing” and “left-wing.” The implication is that politics and government have become more prevalent.

So the story I’d like to tell is this: Over the past half-century, society has become more individualistic. As it has become more individualistic, it has also become less morally aware, because social and moral fabrics are inextricably linked. The atomization and demoralization of society have led to certain forms of social breakdown, which government has tried to address, sometimes successfully and often impotently.”

"ambient accountability"

New blog by dieter zinnbauer: “what is ambient accountability?
big words for a simple idea: how to systematically use the built environment and physical space to help people right at the place and time when they need it most to:

  1. understand their rights and entitlements (the what is supposed to happen)
  2. monitor the performance of public officials and service providers (the what is actually happening)
  3. figure out who is responsible and offer easy ways to take action if things go wrong and 1) does not match up with 2)

Ambient accountability is a very elastic concept. It ranges from the very simple (stickers, placards, billboards) to the artistic nifty (murals, projections) and the very futuristic (urban screens, augmented reality). It can include the official advisory, the NGO poster, as well as the bottom-up urban intervention…
For more see blog entries with a quick overview, and the historical backdrop and this working paper with lots of visual examples and a more in-depth account of why ambient accountability has a lot of potential to complement the existing anti-corruption repertoire and at the same time offer a interesting area of application for all those urban computing or open government initiatives.”