Foundations of Digital Government


New book by Daniel Veit and Jan Huntgeburth: “Digital government consists in the purposeful use of information and communication technologies (ICT), in particular the internet, to transform the relationship between government and society in a positive manner. This book focuses on the current status, prospects and foundations of digital government. Integrating examples and cases from administrative practice, it covers all important aspects of digital government management. Learning outcomes include

  • Understanding the implications of the internet for government and society
  • Gaining deeper insights into the concept and opportunities of digital democracy
  • Understanding the challenges of moving public services online

Table of Contents: Preface.- 1 Introduction to Digital Government.- 2 Impact of Digital Government.- 3 The Digital Divide.- 4 Legal Aspects of Digital Service Delivery.- 5 Online One-Stop Government.- 6 Open Government.- 7 E-Procurement.- 8 E-Voting.- 9 E-Participation.- 10 Lesson Learned and Outlook.”

A Manifesto for Smart Citizens


Frank Kresin from the Waag Society: “We, citizens of all cities, take the fate of the places we live in into our own hands. We care about the familiar buildings and the parks, the shops, the schools, the roads and the trees, but far more about the quality of the life we live in them. About the casual interactions, uncalled for encounters, the craze and the booze and the love we lost and found. We know that our lives are interconnected, and what we do here will impact the outcomes over there. While we can never predict the eventual effect of our actions, we take full responsibility to make this world a better place.
Therefore, we will refuse to be consumers, client and informants only, and reclaim agency towards the processes, algorithms and systems that shape our world. We need to know how decisions are made, we need to have the information that is at hand; we need to have direct access to the people in power, and be involved in the crafting of laws and procedures that we grapple with everyday.
Fortunately, we are not alone. We are well educated and have appropriated the tools to connect at the touch of a button, organize ourselves, make our voices heard. We have the tools to measure ourselves and our environment, to visualize and analyse the data, to come to conclusions and take action. We have continuous access to the best of learning in the world, to powerful phones and laptops and software, and to home-grown labs that help us make the things that others won’t. Furthermore we were inspired by such diverse examples as the 1% club, Avaaz, Kickstarter, Couchsurfing, Change by Us, and many, many more.
We are ready. But government is not. It was shaped in the 18th century, but increasingly struggles with 21st century problems it cannot solve. It lost touch with its citizens and is less and less equipped to provide the services and security it had pledged to offer. While it tries to build ‘smart cities’ that reinforce or strengthen the status quo – that was responsible for the problems in the first place – it loses sight of the most valuable resource it can tap into: the smart citizen.
Smart Citizens:

  • Will take responsibility for the place they live, work and love in;
  • Value access over ownership, contribution over power;
  • Will ask forgiveness, not permission;
  • Know where they can get the tools, knowledge and support they need;
  • Value empathy, dialogue and trust;
  • Appropriate technology, rather than accept it as is;
  • Will help the people that struggle with smart stuff;
  • Ask questions, then more questions, before they come up with answers;
  • Actively take part in design efforts to come up with better solutions;
  • Work agile, prototype early, test quickly and know when to start over;
  • Will not stop in the face of seemingly huge boundariesbarriers;
  • Unremittingly share their knowledge and their learning, because they know this is where true value comes from.

All over the world, smart citizens take action. We self-organise, form cooperations, share resources and take back full responsibility for the care of our children and elderly. We pop up restaurants, harvest renewable energy, maintain urban gardens, build temporary structures and nurture compassion and trust. We kickstart the products and services we care about, repair and upcycle, or learn how to manufacture things ourselves. We even coined new currencies in response to events that recently shook our comfortable world, but were never solved by the powers that be.
Until now, we have mostly worked next to governments, sometimes against them, but hardly ever with them. As a result, many of the initiatives so far have been one-offs, inspiring but not game changing. We have put lots of energy into small-scale interventions that briefly flared and then returned to business as usual. Just imagine what will happen if our energy, passion and knowledge are teamed up by governments that know how to implement and scale up. Governments that take full responsibility for participating in the open dialogue that is needed to radically rethink the systems that were built decades ago.
One day we will wake up and realise WE ARE OUR GOVERNMENT. Without us, there is nobody there. As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a people to craft a society. We know it can be done; it was done before. And with the help of new technologies it is easier than ever. So let’s actively set out to build truly smart cities, with smart citizens at their helms, and together become the change that we want to see in this world.”

Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide? Navigating the Evolving Information Environment


IFLA Trend Report: “In the global information environment, time moves quickly and there’s an abundance of commentators trying to keep up. With each new technological development, a new report emerges assessing its impact on different sectors of society. The IFLA Trend Report takes a broader approach and identifies five high level trends shaping the information society, spanning access to education, privacy, civic engagement and transformation. Its findings reflect a year’s consultation with a range of experts and stakeholders from different disciplines to map broader societal changes occurring, or likely to occur in the information environment.
The IFLA Trend Report is more than a single document – it is a selection of resources to help you understand where libraries fit into a changing society.
From Five Key Trends Which Will Change Our Information Environment:
Trend 1:
New Technologies Will Both Expand and Limit Who Has Access to Information…
Trend 2:
Online Education Will Democratise and Disrupt Global Learning…
Trend 3:
The Boundaries of Privacy and Data Protection Will Be Redefined…
Trend 4:
Hyper-Connected Societies Will Listen to and Empower New Voices and Groups…In hyper-connected societies more opportunities for collective action are being realised – enabling the rise of new voices and promoting the growth of single-issue movements at the expense of traditional political parties. Open government initiatives and access to public sector data are leading to more transparency and citizen-focused public services.
Trend 5:
The Global Information Economy Will Be Transformed by New Technologies…”

A Theory of Creepy: Technology, Privacy and Shifting Social Norms


Omer Tene and Jules Polonetsky in Yale Journal of Law & Technology:  “The rapid evolution of digital technologies has hurled to the forefront of public and legal discourse dense social and ethical dilemmas that we have hardly begun to map and understand. In the near past, general community norms helped guide a clear sense of ethical boundaries with respect to privacy. One does not peek into the window of a house even if it is left open. One does not hire a private detective to investigate a casual date or the social life of a prospective employee. Yet with technological innovation rapidly driving new models for business and inviting new types of personal socialization, we often have nothing more than a fleeting intuition as to what is right or wrong. Our intuition may suggest that it is responsible to investigate the driving record of the nanny who drives our child to school, since such tools are now readily available. But is it also acceptable to seek out the records of other parents in our child’s car pool or of a date who picks us up by car? Alas, intuitions and perceptions of “creepiness” are highly subjective and difficult to generalize as social norms are being strained by new technologies and capabilities. And businesses that seek to create revenue opportunities by leveraging newly available data sources face huge challenges trying to operationalize such subjective notions into coherent business and policy strategies.
This article presents a set of social and legal considerations to help individuals, engineers, businesses and policymakers navigate a world of new technologies and evolving social norms. These considerations revolve around concepts that we have explored in prior work, including enhanced transparency; accessibility to information in usable format; and the elusive principle of context.”

Three Paradoxes of Big Data


New Paper by Neil M. Richards and Jonathan H. King in the Stanford Law Review Online:Big data is all the rage. Its proponents tout the use of sophisticated analytics to mine large data sets for insight as the solution to many of our society’s problems. These big data evangelists insist that data-driven decisionmaking can now give us better predictions in areas ranging from college admissions to dating to hiring to medicine to national security and crime prevention. But much of the rhetoric of big data contains no meaningful analysis of its potential perils, only the promise. We don’t deny that big data holds substantial potential for the future, and that large dataset analysis has important uses today. But we would like to sound a cautionary note and pause to consider big data’s potential more critically. In particular, we want to highlight three paradoxes in the current rhetoric about big data to help move us toward a more complete understanding of the big data picture. First, while big data pervasively collects all manner of private information, the operations of big data itself are almost entirely shrouded in legal and commercial secrecy. We call this the Transparency Paradox. Second, though big data evangelists talk in terms of miraculous outcomes, this rhetoric ignores the fact that big data seeks to identify at the expense of individual and collective identity. We call this the Identity Paradox. And third, the rhetoric of big data is characterized by its power to transform society, but big data has power effects of its own, which privilege large government and corporate entities at the expense of ordinary individuals. We call this the Power Paradox. Recognizing the paradoxes of big data, which show its perils alongside its potential, will help us to better understand this revolution. It may also allow us to craft solutions to produce a revolution that will be as good as its evangelists predict.”

The US Constitution version 2.0


Luis Ibanez : “After ‘version 1.0’ of the US Constitution was released to the public on Sept 17, 1787 there was remaining discontent among several states regarding the powers assigned to the new Federal government and a lack of protections for fundamental individual freedoms and civil rights.

To fix this bug, the First Continental Congress voted on twelve Constitutional Amendments in September of 1789. Two of them failed to gain enough support and the remaining ten, collectively known as The Bill of Rights, were included in ‘version 2.0’ of the US Constitution, released in 1791.
This refactoring process was open source-minded on multiple levels.
First, the voice of the people (the community) was heard when expressing concern about defects (bugs) in the Constitution. In this case, the bugs related to the lack of sufficient protection for individual civil rights. There was no presumption of perfection or completeness in the US Constitution, and there was a will to improve it and make it better through an open political process.
Second, changes were proposed, discussed, and finally implemented. The discussion of these amendments is equivalent to code reviews that a typical open source software project will go through when adopting substantial changes. Note: the amendements were adopted without having to “fork” the project (the country), though later the country was deeply divided, resulting in the American Civil War in 1861…
As code and law, and community and society, come closer together, taking a fresh look at the history that led us here, sheds a bright light on how we can continue to work together, and how open source principles can continue to change the world for the better.”

Measuring the Internet Economy


New OECD Report: “The Internet began as a way of linking different computers over the phone network, but it now connects billions of users worldwide from wherever they happen to be via portable or fixed devices. The Internet began as an important tool for improving communication but has transformed into a universal technology supporting all virtually sectors across the economy, just like electricity or steam engine did in the past. Given the growing importance of the Internet as a policy tool, the question about the value of the Internet economy becomes particularly relevant.
There is a high level of interest, therefore, in being able to measure the size of the Internet economy as a way to understand the effects of various investment strategies, regulatory rulings and policy decisions. The existing OECD research presented in this report and in the Internet Economy Outlook illustrates the importance of establishing an international definition and the need to develop related policies. According to one of the approaches, at least 3.2% and up to 13.8% of business sector value added in the United States in 2011 could be attributed to Internet-related activities depending on the scope of the definition. It needs to be highlighted that the respective figures for 2010 were 3% and up to 13%. This indicates that the Internet economy has reported a steady growth rate since 2010.”

Participatory Budgeting Around the World


Jay Colburn, from the International Budget Partnership:  “Public participation in budget decision making can occur in many different forms. Participatory budgeting (PB) is an increasingly popular process in which the public is involved directly in making budgetary decisions, most often at the local level. The involvement of community members usually includes identifying and prioritizing the community’s needs and then voting on spending for specific projects.
PB was first developed in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 as an innovative reform to address the city’s severe inequality. Since then it has spread around the world. Though the specifics of how the PB process works varies depending on the context in which it is implemented, most PB processes have four basic similarities: 1) community members identify spending ideas; 2) delegates are selected to develop spending proposals based on those ideas; 3) residents vote on which proposals to fund; and 4) the government implements the chosen proposals.
During the 1990s PB spread throughout Brazil and across Latin America. Examples of participatory budgeting can now be found in every region of the world, including Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. As the use of PB has expanded, it has been adapted in many ways. One example is to incorporate new information and communication technologies as a way to broaden opportunities for participation (see Using Technology to Improve Transparency and Citizen Engagement in this newsletter for more on this topic.)…
There are also a number of different models of PB that have been developed, each with slightly different rules and processes. Using the different models and methods has expanded our knowledge on the potential impacts of PB. In addition to having demonstrable and measurable results on mobilizing public funds for services for the poor, participatory budgeting has also been linked to greater tax compliance, increased demands for transparency, and greater access to budget information and oversight.
However, not all instances of PB are equally successful; there are many variables to consider when weighing the impact of different cases. These can include the level and mechanisms of participation, information accessibility, knowledge of opportunities to participate, political context, and prevailing socioeconomic factors. There is a large and growing literature on the benefits and challenges of PB. The IBP Open Budgets Blog recently featured posts on participatory budgeting initiatives in Peru, Kyrgyzstan, and Kenya. While there are still many lessons to be learned about how PB can be used in different contexts, it is certainly a positive step toward increased citizen engagement in the budget process and influence over how public funds are spent.
For more information and resources on PB, visit the participatory budgeting Facebook group”

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better


New book by Clive Thompson: “It’s undeniable—technology is changing the way we think. But is it for the better? Amid a chorus of doomsayers, Clive Thompson delivers a resounding “yes.” The Internet age has produced a radical new style of human intelligence, worthy of both celebration and analysis. We learn more and retain it longer, write and think with global audiences, and even gain an ESP-like awareness of the world around us. Modern technology is making us smarter, better connected, and often deeper—both as individuals and as a society.
In Smarter Than You Think Thompson shows that every technological innovation—from the written word to the printing press to the telegraph—has provoked the very same anxieties that plague us today. We panic that life will never be the same, that our attentions are eroding, that culture is being trivialized. But as in the past, we adapt—learning to use the new and retaining what’s good of the old.”

Cyberpsychology and New Media


A thematic reader, edited by Andrew Power, Grainne Kirwan:Cyberpsychology is the study of human interactions with the internet, mobile computing and telephony, games consoles, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and other contemporary electronic technologies. The field has grown substantially over the past few years and this book surveys how researchers are tackling the impact of new technology on human behaviour and how people interact with this technology.

Examining topics as diverse as online dating, social networking, online communications, artificial intelligence, health-information seeking behaviour, education online, online therapies and cybercrime, Cyberpsychology and New Media book provides an in-depth overview of this burgeoning field, and allows those with little previous knowledge to gain an appreciation of the diversity of the research being undertaken in the area.”