Press Release: “Today the Governance Lab (The GovLab) launches The GovLab Academy at the Open Government Partnership Annual Meeting in London.
Available at www.thegovlabacademy.org, the Academy is a free online community for those wanting to teach and learn how to solve public problems and improve lives using innovations in governance. A partnership between The GovLab at New York University and MIT Media Lab’s Online Learning Initiative, the site launching today offers curated videos, podcasts, readings and activities designed to enable the purpose driven learner to deepen his or her practical knowledge at her own pace.
The GovLab Academy is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “The GovLab Academy addresses a growing need among policy makers at all levels – city, federal and global – to leverage advances in technology to govern differently,” says Carol Coletta, Vice President of Community and National Initiatives at the Knight Foundation. “By connecting the latest technological innovations to a community of willing mentors, the Academy has the potential to catalyze more experimentation in a sector that badly needs it.”
Initial topics include using data to improve policymaking and cover the role of big data, urban analytics, smart disclosure and open data in governance. A second track focuses on online engagement and includes practical strategies for using crowdsourcing to solicit ideas, organize distributed work and gather data. The site features both curated content drawn from a variety of sources and original interviews with innovators from government, civil society, the tech industry, the arts and academia talking about their work around the world implementing innovations in practice, what worked and what didn’t, to improve real people’s lives.
Beth Noveck, Founder and Director of The GovLab, describes its mission: “The Academy is an experiment in peer production where every teacher is a learner and every learner a teacher. Consistent with The GovLab’s commitment to measuring what works, we want to measure our success by the people contributing as well as consuming content. We invite everyone with ideas, stories, insights and practical wisdom to contribute to what we hope will be a thriving and diverse community for social change”.”
The White House Fact Sheet: “In September 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations in announcing the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance.
Two years later, OGP has grown to 60 countries that have made more than 1000 commitments to improve the governance of more than two billion people around the globe. OGP is now a global community of government reformers, civil society leaders, and business innovators working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms and advance good governance…
Today at the OGP summit in London, the United States announced a new U.S. Open Government National Action Plan that includes six ambitious new commitments that will advance these efforts even further. Those commitments include expanding open data, modernizing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), increasing fiscal transparency, increasing corporate transparency, advancing citizen engagement and empowerment, and more effectively managing public resources.
Expand Open Data: Open Data fuels innovation that grows the economy and advances government transparency and accountability. Government data has been used by journalists to uncover variations in hospital billings, by citizens to learn more about the social services provided by charities in their communities, and by entrepreneurs building new software tools to help farmers plan and manage their crops. Building upon the successful implementation of open data commitments in the first U.S. National Action Plan, the new Plan will include commitments to make government data more accessible and useful for the public, such as reforming how Federal agencies manage government data as a strategic asset, launching a new version of Data.gov, and expanding agriculture and nutrition data to help farmers and communities.
Modernize the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): The FOIA encourages accountability through transparency and represents a profound national commitment to open government principles. Improving FOIA administration is one of the most effective ways to make the U.S. Government more open and accountable. Today, the United States announced a series of commitments to further modernize FOIA processes, including launching a consolidated online FOIA service to improve customers’ experience and making training resources available to FOIA professionals and other Federal employees.
Increase Fiscal Transparency: The Administration will further increase the transparency of where Federal tax dollars are spent by making federal spending data more easily available on USASpending.gov; facilitating the publication of currently unavailable procurement contract information; and enabling Americans to more easily identify who is receiving tax dollars, where those entities or individuals are located, and how much they receive.
Increase Corporate Transparency: Preventing criminal organizations from concealing the true ownership and control of businesses they operate is a critical element in safeguarding U.S. and international financial markets, addressing tax avoidance, and combatting corruption in the United States and abroad. Today we committed to take further steps to enhance transparency of legal entities formed in the United States.
Advance Citizen Engagement and Empowerment: OGP was founded on the principle that an active and robust civil society is critical to open and accountable governance. In the next year, the Administration will intensify its efforts to roll back and prevent new restrictions on civil society around the world in partnership with other governments, multilateral institutions, the philanthropy community, the private sector, and civil society. This effort will focus on improving the legal and regulatory framework for civil society, promoting best practices for government-civil society collaboration, and conceiving of new and innovative ways to support civil society globally.
More Effectively Manage Public Resources: Two years ago, the Administration committed to ensuring that American taxpayers receive every dollar due for the extraction of the nation’s natural resources by committing to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). We continue to work toward achieving full EITI compliance in 2016. Additionally, the U.S. Government will disclose revenues on geothermal and renewable energy and discuss future disclosure of timber revenues.
For more information on OGP, please visit www.opengovpartnership.org or follow @opengovpart on Twitter.”
See also White House Plans a Single FOIA Portal Across Government
Press Release by the Open Data Research Network: “New research by World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data Institute shows that 55% of countries surveyed have open data initiatives in place, yet less than 10% of key government datasets across the world are truly open to the public…the Open Data Barometer. This 77-country study, which considers the interlinked areas of policy, implementation and impact, ranks the UK at number one. The USA, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark and Norway (tied) make up the rest of the top five. Kenya is ranked as the most advanced developing country, outperforming richer countries such as Ireland, Italy and Belgium in global comparisons.
The Barometer reveals that:
55% of countries surveyed have formal open data policies in place.
Valuable but potentially controversial datasets – such as company registers and land registers – are among the least likely to be openly released. It is unclear whether this stems from reluctance to drop lucrative access charges, or from desire to keep a lid on politically sensitive information, or both. However, the net effect is to severely limit the accountability benefits of open data.
When they are released, government datasets are often issued in inaccessible formats. Across the nations surveyed, fewer that than 1 in 10 key datasets that could be used to hold governments to account, stimulate enterprise, and promote better social policy, are available and truly open for re-use.
The research also makes the case that:
Efforts should be made to empower civil society, entrepreneurs and members of the public to use government data made available, rather than simply publishing data online.
Business activity and innovation can be boosted by strong open data policies. In Denmark, for example, free of charge access to address data has had a significant economic impact. In 2010, an evaluation recorded an estimated financial benefit to society of EUR 62 million against costs of EUR 2million.”
New UK Policy Paper by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills: “In the information economy, the ability to handle and analyse data is essential for the UK’s competitive advantage and business transformation. The volume, velocity and variety of data being created and analysed globally is rising every day, and using data intelligently has the potential to transform public sector organisations, drive research and development, and enable market-changing products and services. The social and economic potential is significant, and the UK is well placed to compete in the global market for data analytics. Through this strategy, the government aims to place the UK at the forefront of this process by building our capability to exploit data for the benefit of citizens, business, and academia. This is our action plan for making the UK a data success story.
Working in partnership with business and academia, the government has developed a shared vision for the UK’s data capability, with the aim of making the UK a worldleader in extracting insight and value from data for the benefit of citizens and consumers, business and academia, the public and the private sectors. The Information Economy Council and the E-infrastructure Leadership Council will oversee delivery of the actions in this strategy, and continue to develop additional
plans to support this vision.
Data capability: This strategy focuses on three overarching aspects to data capability. The first is human capital – a skilled workforce, and data-confident citizens. The second covers the tools and infrastructure which are available to store and analyse data. The third is data itself as an enabler – data capability is underpinned by the ability of consumers, businesses and academia to access and share data appropriately…”
Springwise: “Finding a place in the city to collect your thoughts and enjoy some quietude is a rare thing. While startups such as Breather are set to open up private spaces for work and relaxation in several US cities, a new project called Stereopublic is hoping to map the ones already there, recruiting citizens to collect the sounds of those spaces.
Participants can download the free iOS app created by design studio Freerange Future, which enables them to become an ‘earwitness’. When they discover a tranquil spot in their city, they can use their GPS co-ordinates to record its exact location on the Stereopublic map, as well as record a 30-second sound clip and take a photo to give others a better idea of what it’s like. The team then works with sound experts to create quiet tours of each participating city, which currently includes Adelaide, London, LA, New York City, Singapore and 26 other global cities. The video below offers some more information about the project:
Sarah Rich in Government Technology: “Earlier this month, Philadelphia announced a new 12-week accelerator program called FastFWD that will soon select 10 entrepreneurs to develop innovative projects around public safety challenges. One end goal is that the city will award contracts to several of the projects developed during the program.
FastFWD comes on the heels of a newly launched innovation center by North Carolina that will let the state test technologies before purchasing them. Both initiatives are attempts to ease frustration with government procurement processes that tend to discourage innovation and limit flexibility.
The traditional government RFP process — with its long timelines, complex rules and tight guidelines around liability — tends to scare off some of the IT industry’s most innovative companies, said Dugan Petty, former Oregon CIO and procurement director…In addition, traditional RFPs can rob both vendors and customers of the ability to adjust projects as new needs are discovered. Jurisdictions may not fully understand their business requirements when an RFP is drawn up, Petty said, but contractors often can’t deviate from the scope of the RFP once the contract is awarded….
To help rethink some of these restrictions and find better ways to procure technology, North Carolina plans to test products before purchasing them in the state’s new innovation center… Philadelphia’s bid to improve procurement involves incubating startups through the city’s new accelerator program. Entrepreneurs and the city will work together upfront to identify community problems and then develop innovative solutions, according to Story Bellows, co-director of Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of New Urban Mechanics…
Petty, who now serves as a senior fellow for e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government, says both North Carolina and Philadelphia are developing more effective procurement practices. “The key thing here is this is now a new approach that is helping to evolve procurement technology in a way that keeps up with what’s out there on the industry side,” Petty said. “I think a lot of people should be evaluating these incubator move-to-contract scenarios because they minimize the risk of the project.”
Special Report on Big Data by Volta – A newsletter on Science, Technology and Society in Europe: “Locating crime spots, or the next outbreak of a contagious disease, Big Data promises benefits for society as well as business. But more means messier. Do policy-makers know how to use this scale of data-driven decision-making in an effective way for their citizens and ensure their privacy?90% of the world’s data have been created in the last two years. Every minute, more than 100 million new emails are created, 72 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube and Google processes more than 2 million searches. Nowadays, almost everyone walks around with a small computer in their pocket, uses the internet on a daily basis and shares photos and information with their friends, family and networks. The digital exhaust we leave behind every day contributes to an enormous amount of data produced, and at the same time leaves electronic traces that contain a great deal of personal information….
Until recently, traditional technology and analysis techniques have not been able to handle this quantity and type of data. But recent technological developments have enabled us to collect, store and process data in new ways. There seems to be no limitations, either to the volume of data or technology for storing and analyzing them. Big Data can map a driver’s sitting position to identify a car thief, it can use Google searches to predict outbreaks of the H1N1 flu virus, it can data-mine Twitter to predict the price of rice or use mobile phone top-ups to describe unemployment in Asia.
The word ‘data’ means ‘given’ in Latin. It commonly refers to a description of something that can be recorded and analyzed. While there is no clear definition of the concept of ‘Big Data’, it usually refers to the processing of huge amounts and new types of data that have not been possible with traditional tools.
‘The new development is not necessarily that there are so much more data. It’s rather that data is available to us in a new way.’
The notion of Big Data is kind of misleading, argues Robindra Prabhu, a project manager at the Norwegian Board of Technology. “The new development is not necessarily that there are so much more data. It’s rather that data is available to us in a new way. The digitalization of society gives us access to both ‘traditional’, structured data – like the content of a database or register – and unstructured data, for example the content in a text, pictures and videos. Information designed to be read by humans is now also readable by machines. And this development makes a whole new world of data gathering and analysis available. Big Data is exciting not just because of the amount and variety of data out there, but that we can process data about so much more than before.”
New report by McKinsey Global Institute:“Open data—machine-readable information, particularly government data, that’s made available to others—has generated a great deal of excitement around the world for its potential to empower citizens, change how government works, and improve the delivery of public services. It may also generate significant economic value, according to a new McKinsey report.1 Our research suggests that seven sectors alone could generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value as a result of open data, which is already giving rise to hundreds of entrepreneurial businesses and helping established companies to segment markets, define new products and services, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.
Although the open-data phenomenon is in its early days, we see a clear potential to unlock significant economic value by applying advanced analytics to both open and proprietary knowledge. Open data can become an instrument for breaking down information gaps across industries, allowing companies to share benchmarks and spread best practices that raise productivity. Blended with proprietary data sets, it can propel innovation and help organizations replace traditional and intuitive decision-making approaches with data-driven ones. Open-data analytics can also help uncover consumer preferences, allowing companies to improve new products and to uncover anomalies and needless variations. That can lead to leaner, more reliable processes.
However, investments in technology and expertise are required to use the data effectively. And there is much work to be done by governments, companies, and consumers to craft policies that protect privacy and intellectual property, as well as establish standards to speed the flow of data that is not only open but also “liquid.” After all, consumers have serious privacy concerns, and companies are reluctant to share proprietary information—even when anonymity is assured—for fear of losing competitive advantage…
See also Executive Summary and Full Report”
Ted Talk by Mariana Mazzucato: “Why doesn’t the government just get out of the way and let the private sector — the “real revolutionaries” — innovate? It’s rhetoric you hear everywhere, and Mariana Mazzucato wants to dispel it. In an energetic talk, she shows how the state — which many see as a slow, hunkering behemoth — is really one of our most exciting risk-takers and market-shapers.”
FutureEverything: “This publication aims to shift the debate on the future of cities towards the central place of citizens, and of decentralised, open urban infrastructures. It provides a global perspective on how cities can create the policies, structures and tools to engender a more innovative and participatory society. The publication contains a series of 23 short essays representing some of the key voices developing an emerging discourse around Smart Citizens. Contributors include:
- Dan Hill, Smart Citizens pioneer and CEO of communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio Fabrica on why Smart Citizens Make Smart Cities.
- Anthony Townsend, urban planner, forecaster and author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia on the tensions between place-making and city-making on the role of mobile technologies in changing the way that people interact with their surroundings.
- Paul Maltby, Director of the Government Innovation Group and of the Open Data and Transparency in the UK Cabinet Office on how government can support a smarter society.
- Aditya Dev Sood, Founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies, presents polarised hypothetical futures for India in 2025 that argues for the use of technology to bridge gaps in social inequality.
- Adam Greenfield, New York City-based writer and urbanist, on Recuperating the Smart City.
Editors: Drew Hemment, Anthony Townsend