David Brooks in NYT: “Over the past few centuries, there have been many efforts to come up with methods to help predict human behavior — what Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic calls mathematizing the subjective. The current one is the effort to understand the world by using big data.
Other efforts to predict behavior were based on models of human nature. The people using big data don’t presume to peer deeply into people’s souls. They don’t try to explain why people are doing things. They just want to observe what they are doing. The theory of big data is to have no theory, at least about human nature. You just gather huge amounts of information, observe the patterns and estimate probabilities about how people will act in the future….
One of my take-aways is that big data is really good at telling you what to pay attention to. It can tell you what sort of student is likely to fall behind. But then to actually intervene to help that student, you have to get back in the world of causality, back into the world of responsibility, back in the world of advising someone to do x because it will cause y.”
“This report on Big Data is the first MeriTalk Beacon, a new series of reports designed to shed light and provide direction on far reaching issues in government and technology. Since Beacons are designed to tackle broad concepts, each Beacon report relies on insight from a small number of big thinkers in the topic area. Less data. More insight. Real knowledge…Mankind created 150 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data in 2005, and 1,800 exabytes in 20112; growth that only continues to accelerate. Every minute, users: Upload 48 hours of video to YouTube; Send 204 million emails; Spend $207,000 via the web; Create 571 new websites. Within the Federal government; U.S. drone aircraft sent back 24 years worth of video footage in just 2009. Every 24 hours, NASA’s Curiosity rover can send nearly three gigabytes of data, collecting in mere days the equivalent of all human knowledge through the death of Augustus Caesar – from Mars.”
Experian: “Insights from Experian, the global information services company, reveals that if the time spent on the Internet was distilled into an hour then a quarter of it would be spent on social networking and forums across UK, US and Australia. In the UK 13 minutes out of every hour online is spent on social networking and forums, nine minutes on entertainment sites and six minutes shopping.”
Geoff Mulgan: “The last few years have brought a cornucopia of innovation around data, with millions of data sets opened up, and big campaigns around transparency, all interacting with the results of a glut of hackathons, appathons and the like. Linked to this has been the explosion of creativity around digital tools for civic engagement and local government….
There are also big questions to ask about digital technologies and public services – and in particular why so few public services have been radically redesigned. This has been talked about for as long as I can remember – and it’s not hard to map out how a transformed health, welfare or transport system could work if you started afresh. But with a few exceptions (like tax) this isn’t happening in any of the big public services anywhere. I’ll be writing some blogs soon about how we might accelerate this kind of systemic change.
In the meantime there are some more pragmatic questions to ask about what is and isn’t working. A pattern is becoming clear which poses a challenge to the enthusiasts, and to funders like us. In essence it’s this: there has been brilliant progress on the supply side – opening up data, and multiplying tools and apps of all kinds. But there has been far less progress on the demand and use side. The result is that thousands of promising data sets, apps and sites remain unused; and a great deal of creativity and energy has gone to waste.
The reasons are fairly obvious when you think about it. This is a movement driven by enthusiasts who have tended to assume that supply will create its own demand (sometimes it does – but not often). Most of the practitioners are interested in the technical challenges of design, and a measure of their success is that for most applications there are readily accessible tools now available. Yet the much bigger challenges lie around use: how to develop attractive brands; how to promote and market; how to shape design to fit how people will actually use the services; how to build living communities.”
WIRED: “The investigation of Monday’s deadly twin bombings in Boston will rely to an extraordinary extent on crowdsourced surveillance, provided by Marathon spectators’ cellphone photos, Vine videos, and Instagram feeds….There are limits to the crowdsourcing. The data used in the investigation will be crowdsourced. The investigation will not be. A crowdsourced investigation runs a high risk of becoming a witchhunt, as we saw in the Newton shooting spree.”
The April issue of Governing magazine features Jen Pahlka of Code for America: “One of the things I love about Silicon Valley is the experimentation and willingness to play around,” says Pahlka. “That is wonderful, but sometimes becomes trivialization. As a society we can’t afford to have some of our brightest minds working on trivial things like, you know, Facebook apps.”…Pahlka’s vision for the group was essentially that by taking start-up values to government, “this thing that works” (Silicon Valley) would “fix this thing that doesn’t” (government). She quickly concluded that idea was wrong….What was broken, though, was the relationship between government and the citizenry. “That’s a problem on both sides,” Pahlka says.
Governing Magazine: “Inviting public comment early in the budget process, and doing so in multiple ways, is closely associated with better performance outcomes, according to a new study in The American Review of Public Administration.
State and local government meetings, from a state agency to a county board, are notoriously low in attendance. Some governments have reacted with experiments to spur better public involvement, especially in drafting budgets. … Despite this patchwork of efforts to involve citizens, public administrators still don’t know exactly when to seek public input and how it might affect the day-to-day work of governing. So Hai Guo and Milena Neshkova, both assistant professors in the Department of Public Administration at Florida International University, set out to study the relationship between citizen participation in budgeting and measurable performance outcomes. Their analysis relied on 2005 survey data on state transportation agencies and their civic engagement strategies (focus groups, for example) across four stages in the budget process.
Because their research focused solely on transportation agencies, they looked at transportation-related outcomes that governments value: fewer road-related fatalities and fewer poor-quality roads. They took into account external factors, such as level of funding, that might account for differences in fatality rates or road conditions. They found that not only is there an inverse relationship (more attempts at civic engagement mean fewer fatalities and low-quality roads), but that the relationship is statistically significant. In other words, the result isn’t due to chance.
More importantly, the association was strongest at the earliest stage in the process. “You need to engage them early. I think that’s the point we’re trying to make,” Prof. Guo said. Since the analysis was specific to state transportation departments, Prof. Guo says he’d like to see if the same pattern would emerge at other levels of government.”
BPC Press Release: “Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), Heritage Provider Network (HPN), and The Advisory Board Company launched the Care Transformation Prize Series, a national contest to address the most daunting data problems U.S. health care organizations face as they implement new delivery system and payment reforms.
The goal of this big data challenge is to help health care organizations more effectively use data to drive improvements in health care cost and quality. The series was announced at a BPC-hosted event today that featured a forward-thinking discussion on the strategies that providers, health plans, and states are using to harness data to help Americans lower their health care costs and improve care.”
Peter Vanham in the FT’s Beyond Brics blog: “Don’t let success stories like M-Pesa in Kenya fool you: the worldwide digital divide is still increasing and Africa remains the biggest victim.” So says Soumitra Dutta, Dean of Cornells’ Johnson School of Management, talking to beyondbrics at the launch of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013.
M-Pesa, the highly successful mobile payments service in Kenya, has attracted global attention. Used by the vast majority of Kenyans, M-Pesa is so successful that, according to Quartz, a massive 31 per cent of Kenya’s GDP is spent through mobile phones.
It was proof that technological progress could happen in low-income countries with poor infrastructure. It has been copied in other emerging markets, leading some to believe the so-called digital divide between the developed and the developing world was ready to fall.
But the opposite is true, says the Indian born Dutta, a founding author of the WEF’s IT report….
To support his claim, Dutta refers to the latest available data on access to different mobile technologies (see graph – click to enlarge).”:
Mapping of content production presented by Felix Salmon in CJR:
Jay Rosen asks, reasonably, that people start drawing useful distinctions between buzzy terms like content marketing, sponsored content, native advertising, and even brand journalism. Here’s my stab at it: