Mexico City Open Database Improves Transit Efficiency, Helps Commuters

The World Bank: “Mexico City residents make 32 million vehicle trips a day, of which over 20 million are via public transport. These use 12 subway lines, four rapid transit lines, eight trolleybus and light rail lines, a suburban rail line, a hundred formal bus routes and over 1,400 “colectivo” minibus routes, along 260 public bike stations. Since the 1970s, five separate agencies have supervised this network, grouped under SETRAVI, Mexico City’s public transit authority. And although each agency has made attempts to collect and store data on passenger counts, route licenses, travel times, and stop locations, these data have never been assembled in one place….

In November 2012, the Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Transport Unit—with support from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP)—began providing SETRAVI with technical assistance to develop a new digital platform to collect and manage urban transport data.  This new system is built to the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), the de facto standard for cities in recording transit data.
GTFS, created in 2005 by Google and the US city of Portland, Oregon., is an open standard that can be shared and used by anyone. It enables the collection, storage, publication and updating of information on transit routes, times, stops and other important public transport data.
Representatives from each transit agency were enrolled by SETRAVI to crisscross the capital, using TransitWand, an open-source app on their mobile phones, to collect real-time data such as routes, speed, location of bus stops and frequency of train departures.  The data collected were then fed into a data management portal and converted into GTFS.
Despite its simplicity and ease of use, there was one major hurdle to adapting GTFS for Mexico City. The standard was too rigid to incorporate data related to non-scheduled services such as the thousands of colectivo minibuses traversing the city.  As such, another objective of the World Bank scheme was to pilot a “GTFS-Lite” specification that could measure forms of transport that operated with flexible routes and stopping points.
With “GTFS-lite”, Mexico City’s urban planners have access to comparable data on minibuses. This helps them visualize route configurations to determine where best to add or eliminate services, how to plan for integration with more structured transit services, regulate and improve service, and plan for the longer-term future.
Mexico City’s GTFS data have been made public, so that third party software developers can use them to innovate and create applications—such as trip planners and timetable publishers—that can be used on smartphones and other devices.
The GTFS feed for Mexico City will also help the city’s transit agencies develop practical open tools. For example, a real-time tracking tool that informs users of disruptions in the system and provides route change options has already been developed with World Bank assistance…”

Scientific Expertise and Open Government in the Digital Era

New paper by Alessandro Spina: “This paper presents some reflections on how the collaborative and crowdsourcing practices of Open Government could be integrated in the activities of EFSA and other EU agencies. First, it highlights the informational capabilities of EU Agencies, and it examines the institutional models adopted to obtain technical and scientific expertise in their decision-making processes. The paper moves on to describe the main features of Open Government, in particular the transparent and collective peer-production mechanism used in new digital products such as the open-source software or Wikipedia. Finally, the paper presents a series of arguments highlighting the benefits of the Open Government paradigm for expert regulatory bodies in the EU. It argues that Open Government could provide a concrete application to the principle set in Article 298 TFEU of “open, efficient and independent” EU public administrations.”

Talent Wants to Be Free. Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free Riding

New book by Orly Lobel (Yale University Press): “This timely book challenges conventional business wisdom about competition, secrecy, motivation, and creativity. Orly Lobel, an internationally acclaimed expert in the law and economics of human capital, warns that a set of counterproductive mentalities are stifling innovation in many regions and companies. Lobel asks how innovators, entrepreneurs, research teams, and every one of us who experiences the occasional spark of creativity can triumph in today’s innovation ecosystems.   In every industry and every market, battles to recruit, retain, train, energize, and motivate the best people are fierce. From Facebook to Google, Coca-Cola to Intel, JetBlue to Mattel, Lobel uncovers specific factors that produce winners or losers in the talent wars. Combining original behavioral experiments with sharp observations of contemporary battles over ideas, secrets, and skill, Lobel identifies motivation, relationships, and mobility as the most important ingredients for successful innovation. Yet many companies embrace a control mentality—relying more on patents, copyright, branding, espionage, and aggressive restrictions of their own talent and secrets than on creative energies that are waiting to be unleashed. Lobel presents a set of positive changes in corporate strategies, industry norms, regional policies, and national laws that will incentivize talent flow, creativity, and growth. This vital and exciting reading reveals why everyone wins when talent is set free.”

Candy Crush-style game helps scientists fight tree disease

Springwise: “The Sainsbury Laboratory has turned genome research into a game called Fraxinus, which could help find a cure for the Chalara ash dieback disease. Crowdsourcing science research isn’t a new thing — we’ve already seen Cancer Research UK enable anyone to help out by identifying cells through its ClicktoCure site. Now the Sainsbury Laboratory has turned genome research into a game called Fraxinus, which could help find a cure for the Chalara ash dieback disease.
Developed as a Facebook app, the game presents players with a number of colored, diamond-shaped blocks that represent the nucleotides that make up the DNA of ash trees. In each round, they have to try to match a particular string of nucleotides as best they can. Users with the nearest match get to ‘claim’ that pattern, but it can be stolen by others with a better sequence. Each sequence gives scientists insight into which genes may be immune from the disease and gives them a better shot at replenishing ash woodland.
According to the creators, Fraxinus has proved an addictive hit with young players, who are helping a good cause while playing. Are there other ways to gamify crowdsourced science research? Website:

Organizational Innovation in Public Services: Forms and Governance

New edited book by Pekka Valkama, Stephen James Bailey, Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko: “Reforming public services has become an integral part of instituting austerity measures as governments around the world struggle to balance the books in the wake of the financial crisis. Vital public services and government departments have been given the seemingly impossible task of delivering better services to the public while receiving less funding. This excellent and highly original collection brings together contributors from across the globe to explore and analyse innovational methods aimed at helping overburdened and under-funded public services cope with the demands of austerity and continue to deliver high quality services to the public. In the process this book develops new theoretical models and analyses case studies to provide an important and timely insight into how to reform public services across the globe…
Table of Contents:
1. Contexts and Challenges of Organisational Innovation in Public Services
2. Supporting Organisational Innovation in the Public Sector: Creative Councils in England
3. Analysis Organisational Innovation in Public Services: Conceptual and Theoretical Issues
4. Agentifcation Processes and Agency Governance: Organisational Innovation at a Global Scale?
5. Corporatisation as Organisational Innovation
6. Mutulatisation and Public Services
7. Organisational Innovation in Public Procurement in Scotland: The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT)
8. Outsourcing Public Services: Process Innovation in Dutch Municipalities
9. Governance of Public Service Companies: Australian Cases and Examples
10. Governance of Social Enterprises as Producers of Public Services
11. Championing and Governing UK Public Service Mutuals
12. Improving Governance Arrangements for Academic Entrepreneurships
13. Governance and Accountability of Joint Ventures: A Swedish Case Study
14. Contractual Governance: A Social Learning Perspective
15. Lessons for the Governance of Organisational Innovations”

Regulatory Democracy Reconsidered: The Policy Impact of Public Participation Requirements

Paper by Neal D. Woods in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory :  “A broad range of procedural mechanisms designed to promote public involvement in regulatory decision making have been instituted at all levels of government. Depending upon the literature one consults, one could conclude that these procedures (1) enhance regulatory stringency by fostering access by previously underrepresented groups, (2) reduce regulatory stringency by institutionalizing access by regulated industries, (3) could either increase or decrease stringency depending on the relative strength of organized interests in the agency’s external environment, or (4) have no effect. This study investigates whether mechanisms designed to promote public involvement in administrative rulemaking affect the stringency of US state environmental regulation. The results suggest that requirements to provide public notice of agency rulemaking do not have a significant effect on the regulatory compliance costs imposed on industry, but mechanisms that provide direct access to rulemaking processes serve to decrease these costs. This effect is evident for access both to the agencies promulgating environmental regulations and to external entities reviewing these regulations. For promulgating agencies, the effect does not appear to be conditional on the relative power of societal interests. The results provide some evidence, however, that political officials respond to the strength of environmental and industry groups when reviewing agency regulations.”

E-Government and Its Limitations: Assessing the True Demand Curve for Citizen Public Participation

Paper by David Karpf:  “Many e-government initiatives start with promise, but end up either as digital “ghost towns” or as a venue exploited by organized interests.  The problem with these initiatives is rooted in a set of common misunderstandings about the structure of citizen interest in public participation – simply put, the Internet does not create public interest, it reveals public interest.  Public interest can be high or low, and governmental initiatives can be polarized or non-polarized.  The paper discusses two common pitfalls (“the Field of Dreams Fallacy” and “Blessed are the Organized”) that demand alternate design choices and modified expectations.  By treating public interest and public polarization as variables, the paper develops a typology of appropriate e-government initiatives that can help identify the boundary conditions for transformative digital engagement….


Figure 1: Typology of Appropriate E-government Projects”

What future do you want? Commission invites votes on what Europe could look like in 2050 to help steer future policy and research planning

European Commission – MEMO: “Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, is inviting people to join a voting and ranking process on 11 visions of what the world could look like in 20-40 years. The Commission is seeking views on living and learning, leisure and working in Europe in 2050, to steer long-term policy or research planning.
The visions have been gathered over the past year through the Futurium, an online debate platform that allows policymakers to not only consult citizens, but to collaborate and “co-create” with them, and at events throughout Europe. Thousands of thinkers – from high school students, to the Erasmus Students Network; from entrepreneurs and internet pioneers to philosophers and university professors, have engaged in a collective inquiry – a means of crowd-sourcing what our future world could look like.
Eleven over-arching themes have been drawn together from more than 200 ideas for the future. From today, everyone is invited to join the debate and offer their rating and rankings of the various ideas. The results of the feedback will help the European Commission make better decisions about how to fund projects and ideas that both shape the future and get Europe ready for that future….
The Futurium is a foresight project run by DG CONNECT, based on an open source approach. It develops visions of society, technologies, attitudes and trends in 2040-2050 and use these, for example as potential blueprints for future policy choices or EU research and innovation funding priorities.
It is an online platform developed to capture emerging trends and enable interested citizens to co-create compelling visions of the futures that matter to them.

This crowd-sourcing approach provides useful insights on:

  1. vision: where people want to go, how desirable and likely are the visions posted on the platform;
  2. policy ideas: what should ideally be done to realise the futures; the possible impacts and plausibility of policy ideas;
  3. evidence: scientific and other evidence to support the visions and policy ideas.

Connecting policy making to people: in an increasingly connected society, online outreach and engagement is an essential response to the growing demand for participation, helping to capture new ideas and to broaden the legitimacy of the policy making process (IP/10/1296). The Futurium is an early prototype of a more general policy-making model described in the paper “The Futurium—a Foresight Platform for Evidence-Based and Participatory Policymaking“.

The Futurium was developed to lay the groundwork for future policy proposals which could be considered by the European Parliament and the European Commission under their new mandates as of 2014. But the Futurium’s open, flexible architecture makes it easily adaptable to any policy-making context, where thinking ahead, stakeholder participation and scientific evidence are needed.”

Kansas City Measures Performance through Online Dashboard

GovTech: “To follow through on its commitment to provide more visibility into city performance, Kansas City, Mo., launched KCStat Dashboard on Oct. 22, an online tool that displays progress on city goals and objectives.
Developed by government data company Socrata, the dashboard is the city’s way of offering residents more information about government performance with real-time data, said Julie Steenson, a performance analyst for the city. Upon full implementation, the dashboard will display various statistics, from citizen satisfaction percentages to progress on maintenance and repair tasks.
“It’s been a real evolutionary project,” Steenson said. “We never had a way for the citizens or even the elected officials to see our data at a glance.”
Kansas City’s KCStat program began in December 2011 as a data collection effort that focused on service areas that drew a significant number of public complaints: street maintenance, water line maintenance, water billing, customer service, code enforcement and animal control.
In January, the city council updated its 24 major priorities (developed with public input) into six key areas — public infrastructure, economic development, public safety, healthy communities, neighborhood livability and governance — and sought a way to make their ambitions both measurable and publicly available.
Answering this call, Socrata offered the city a platform called GovStat, a program it announced in March as a way for government leaders to integrate data to decision-making while engaging citizens at the same time.
Key features of the platform, according to Socrata’s March product announcement, include an easy-to-use interface (without the need for user licenses), and real-time dashboards that can be shared through a simple drag-and-drop system.
Mayor Sly James praised the tool for its benefits related to transparency.
“The KCStat Dashboard is the city’s way of helping residents see how we’re doing at our job of serving them,” said James in a city release. “Our residents deserve nothing less than a city government based on data-driven results, and KCStat is a great tool for benchmarking our results.”

New Report: Federal Ideation Program: Challenges and Best Practices

New Report by Professor Gwanhoo Lee for the IBM Center for The Business of Government: “Ideation is the process of generating new ideas or solutions using crowdsourcing technologies, and it is changing the way federal government agencies innovate and solve problems. Ideation tools use online brainstorming or social voting platforms to submit new ideas, search previously submitted ideas, post questions and challenges, discuss and expand on ideas, vote them up or down and flag them.
This report examines the current status, challenges, and best practices of federal internal ide­ation programs made available exclusively to employees. Initial experiences from a variety of agencies show that these ideation tools hold great promise in engaging employees and stake­holders in problem-solving.
While ideation programs offer promising benefits, making innovation an aspect of everyone’s job is very hard to achieve. Given that these ideation tools and programs are still relatively new, agencies have not yet figured out the best practices and often do not know what to expect during the implementation process. This report seeks to fill this gap.
Based on field research and a literature review, the report describes four federal internal ideation programs, including IdeaHub (Department of Transportation), the Sounding Board (the Department of State), IdeaFactory (Department of Homeland Security), and CDC IdeaLab (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services).
Four important challenges are associated with the adoption and implementation of federal internal ideation programs. These are: managing the ideation process and technology; managing cultural change; managing privacy, security and transparency; and managing use of the ideation tool.
Federal government agencies have been moving in the right direction by embracing these tools and launching ideation programs in boosting employee-driven innovation. However, many daunting challenges and issues remain to be addressed. For a federal agency to sustain its internal ideation program, it should note the following:
Recommendation One: Treat the ideation program not as a management fad but as a vehicle to reinvent the agency.
Recommendation Two: Institutionalize the ideation program.
Recommendation Three: Make the ideation team a permanent organizational unit.
Recommendation Four: Document ideas that are implemented.Quantify their impact and demonstrate the return on investment.Share the return with the employees through meaningful rewards.
Recommendation Five: Assimilate and integrate the ideation program into the mission-critical administrative processes.
Recommendation Six: Develop an easy-to-use mobile app for the ideation system.
Recommendation Seven: Keep learning from other agencies and even from commercial organizations.”