Smart Citizen Kit enables crowdsourced environmental monitoring
Emma Hutchings at PSFK: “The Smart Citizen Kit is a crowdsourced environmental monitoring platform. By scattering devices around the world, the creators hope to build a global network of sensors that report local environmental conditions like CO and NO2 levels, light, noise, temperature and humidity.
Organized by the Fab Lab at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, a team of scientists, architects, and engineers are paving the way to humanize environmental monitoring. The open-source platform consists of arduino-compatible hardware, data visualization web API and a mobile app. Users are invited to take part in the interactive global environmental database, visualizing their data and comparing it with others around the world.”
Checkbook NYC advances civic open source
Karl Fogel at OpenSource.com: “New York City Comptroller John Liu is about to do something we need to see more often in government. This week, his office is open sourcing the code behind Checkbook NYC, the citywide financial transparency site—but the open-sourcing itself is not what I’m referring to. After all, lots of governments open source code these days.
Rather, the release of the Checkbook NYC code, planned for this Thursday, is significant because of a larger initiative that accompanies it. Long before the code release, the Comptroller’s Office started a serious planning process to ensure that the code could be easily adopted by other municipalities, supported by other vendors, and eventually become a long-term multi-stakeholder project—in other words, the very model that advocates of civic open source always cheer for but only rarely see happen in practice.
I have no knowledge (and do not claim) that this is the first instance of a government agency doing such long-range planning for an open source release. But it will at least be an important instance: CheckbookNYC.com is the main financial transparency site for the largest city in the United States, a city with an annual budget of $70 billion. Giving other cities a chance to offer the same user interface and API support, at a fraction of what it would have cost to build it themselves, is already good news. But it’s even more important to show that the project is a safe long-term bet, both for those considering adoption and those considering participation in development.”
NESTA Policy Innovation Blog: “On 20 June 2013 we are hosting the launch of Randomise Me, a new website developed with Ben Goldacre, which will enable anyone to set up and run their own trial. What questions would you like to answer? For instance, ever wondered whether coffee gives you heart palpitations? Whether the reading app used in your classroom really does improve children’s attainment? Whether your new marketing campaign is increasing volunteer recruitment? If you want to know answers, then run a trial on Randomise Me and find out.
Randomised Control Trials may sound complex, but they simply involve taking a group, such as a group of patients, children, schools, or others, splitting them into groups at random, and then giving one intervention to one group, and another intervention to the other. The differences between each group are then observed to see if one intervention has achieved its supposed outcome. They are commonly used in medicine, but are much less common in other areas, such as children’s services, social care or education. Randomise Me is going to help remedy this.”
Don’t Reengineer. Reimagine.
Jeff Schumacher, Simon MacGibbon, and Sean Collins in Strategy + Business: “What does it mean to become digital? Companies in all industries are building online businesses, enabling new customer experiences, experimenting with “big data,” and seeking advantage in a digitally enabled business environment. They have tried reengineering their practices; they have set up new technological platforms for customer engagement and back-office efficiency. But these efforts have not yet had the impact that they should. Instead of reengineering, they need reimagining. They need to conceive of their business freshly, in line with the capabilities that digital and business technologies can give them, connecting to customers in ways that have not been possible before….
The third principle of digitization involves taking the long view, even as you build for today. You can no longer succeed with a digital strategy based only on today’s technology and competitive environment. Nor is it enough to merely ideate about future developments. Companies must take actions now that prepare them for the disruptive opportunities and evolving platforms of the next few years. What technologies might be available then? How will customers be using digital in their lives? Where will your industry be, for example, in terms of responsive use of data, digital fabrication (parts and devices made on the fly), cloud-based interoperability, or new forms of supply chain coordination? Do you have the capabilities now to make use of those technologies in creating new customer experiences? And what new capabilities will you need once those technologies become reality?…
The fourth principle recognizes that becoming digital isn’t just a matter of rearranging the lines and boxes on your org chart. It involves fostering a startup’s way of working through new structures and teams, and changing your incentives, rules, and decision rights accordingly. Just as important as these formal mechanisms are their informal counterparts—the personal networks, communities of interest, information flows, and behavioral norms—that link the people in your company who can imagine and build new digital capabilities.”
‘Digital natives’ tap into the wisdom of the crowd
Statistics seem to bear this out. More than 84 per cent of this group, aged between 15 and 30, own a smartphone, compared with 63 per cent of the total population, according to the 2013 Consumer Connection System study of 11,000 adults in 50 countries from Carat, the media researchers. More than 80 per cent have a Facebook profile and nearly 70 per cent regularly visit blogs. The 2012 Millennial impact report, which looked at how this generation connects with non-profit organisations, found 67 per cent interacted with charities on Facebook and 70 per cent made online donations….
Ms Long says that while older generations are “search first”, millennials are “social first”. The tendency for constant online peer group consulting is most extreme at the younger end of the age group. “Millennials are the first generation that are purely about recommendations. They ‘crowd source’ everything. Even if they are walking down the street looking for a cup of coffee, they won’t go in somewhere if they see on a site that it has had a bad review,” she says.”
UK: Public engagement in policy-making
House of Commons, Public Administration Committee Report: ” In its plan for Civil Service reform, published in June 2012, the Government introduced “open policy-making”. This means engaging the public and experts from beyond the “Westminster village” in debates about policy and in the policy-making process itself, and establishing a new relationship with the citizen who becomes a valued partner to identify problems, discover new thinking and to propose solutions. It is a departure from more traditional approaches to public engagement, which have usually only occurred after the Government has already determined a course of action.
To govern is to choose. Open policy-making should take debate outside Whitehall and into the community as a whole, but ultimate responsibility and accountability for leadership must remain with Ministers and senior civil servants. Once again, we emphasise the importance of leadership in Government; of effective strategic thinking, which involves choosing between different arguments, reconciling conflicting opinions and arbitrating between different groups and interests; and of effective governance of departments and their agencies. A process of engagement, which can reach beyond the “Westminster village” and the “usual suspects”, will itself be an act of leadership, but there can be no abdication of that leadership.
There is great potential for open and contested policy-making to deliver genuine public engagement. There is also a risk of disappointment and scepticism amongst the public about the impact of their participation, and that Government listens only to the media, lobbying and “the usual suspects”. Ministers must commit sufficient time for public engagement to reach beyond Westminster. Digital technology and new media have a huge role to play. In time, the Government should be able to demonstrate that the citizen is able to contribute opinion, ideas and suggestions on an ongoing basis, if it is to be seen as moving away from old processes and embracing a new relationship with the citizen.”
First, they gave us targeted ads. Now, data scientists think they can change the world
Derrick Harris in Gigaom: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads … That sucks.” – Jeff Hammerbacher, co-founder and chief scientist, Cloudera
Well, something has to pay the bills. Thankfully, there’s also a sweeping trend in the data science world right now around bringing those skills to bear on some really meaningful problems, …
We’ve already covered some of these efforts, including the SumAll Foundation’s work on modern-day slavery and future work on child pornography. Closely related is the effort — led by Google.org’s deep pockets — to create an international hotline network for reporting human trafficking and collecting data. Microsoft, in particular Microsoft Research’s danah boyd, has been active in helping fight child exploitation using technology.
This week, I came across two new efforts on different ends of the spectrum. One is ActivityInfo, which describes itself on its website as “an online humanitarian project monitoring tool” — developed by Unicef and a consulting firm called BeDataDriven — that “helps humanitarian organizations to collect, manage, map and analyze indicators….
The other effort I came across is DataKind, specifically its work helping the New York City Department of Parks and Recreations, or NYC Parks, quantify the benefits of a strategic tree-pruning program. Founded by renowned data scientists Drew Conway and Jake Porway (who’s also the host of the National Geographic channel’s The Numbers Game), DataKind exists for the sole purpose of helping non-profit organizations and small government agencies solve their most-pressing data problems.”
Filling Power Vacuums in the New Global Legal Order
Paper by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the latest issue of Boston College Law Review: “In her Keynote Address at the October, 12, 2012 Symposium, Filling Power Vacuums in the New Global Legal Order, Anne-Marie Slaughter describes the concepts of “power over” and “power with” in the global world of law. Power over is the ability to achieve the outcomes you want by commanding or manipulating others. Power with is the ability to mobilize people to do things. In the globalized world, power operates much more through power with than through power over. In contrast to the hierarchical power of national governments, globally it is more important to be central in the horizontal system of multiple sovereigns. This Address illustrates different examples of power over and power with. It concludes that in this globalized world, lawyers are ideally trained and positioned to exercise power.”
How legislatures work – and should work – as public space
Paper by John Parkinson in latest issue of Democratization: “In a democracy, legislatures are not only stages for performances by elected representatives; they are also stages for performances by other players in the public sphere. This article argues that while many legislatures are designed and built as spaces for the public to engage with politics, and while democratic norms require some degree of access, increasingly what are termed “purposive publics” are being superseded by groups who are only publics in an aggregative, accidental sense. The article begins with a conceptual analysis of the ways in which legislatures can be thought of as public spaces, and the in-principle access requirements that follow from them. It then draws on interviews and observational fieldwork in eleven capital cities to discover whether the theoretical requirements are met in practice, revealing further tensions. The conclusions are that accessibility is important; is being downgraded in important ways; but also that access norms stand in tension with the requirement that legislatures function as working buildings if they are to retain their symbolic value. The article ends with two “modest proposals”, one concerning the design of the plazas in front of legislatures, the other concerning a role for the wider public in legislative procedure.”