How Integrated Data Can Support COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery


Blog by Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP): “…State and local leaders are called upon to respond to the immediate harms of COVID-19. Yet with a looming recession threatening to undo gains among marginalized groups — particularly the Black middle class — tools to understand and disrupt long-term impacts on economic mobility and well-being are also urgently needed.

Administrative data[3] — the information collected during the course of routine service delivery, program administration, and business operations — provide an essential tool to help policymakers, community leaders, and researchers understand short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic. Several jurisdictions now have the capacity to link administrative data across programs in order to better understand how individuals interact with multiple systems, study longitudinal outcomes, and identify vulnerable subpopulations. As the COVID-19 crisis reveals weaknesses in the U.S. social safety net, states and localities with integrated administrative data infrastructure can use their capacity to identify populations and needs otherwise overlooked. Youth who “age out” of the child welfare system or individuals experiencing chronic homelessness often remain invisible when using traditional methods, aggregate data, or administrative records from a single source.

This blogpost demonstrates how nimble state and local data integration efforts have leveraged their capacity to quickly respond to and understand the impacts of COVID-19, while also reflecting on what can be done to mitigate harm and shift thinking about social welfare and the safety net….(More)”.

Might social intelligence save Latin America from its governments in times of Covid-19?


Essay by Thamy Pogrebinschi: “…In such scenarios, it seems relevant to acknowledge the limits of the state to deal with huge and unpredictable challenges and thus the need to resort to civil society. State capacity cannot be built overnight, but social intelligence is an unlimited and permanently available resource. In recent years, digital technology has multiplied what has been long called social intelligence (Dewey) and is now more often known as collective intelligence (Lévy), the wisdom of crowds (Surowiecki), or democratic reason (Landemore).

Taken together, these concepts point to the most powerful tool available to governments facing hard problems and unprecedented challenges: the sourcing and sharing of knowledge, information, skills, resources, and data from citizens in order to address social and political problems.

The Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to test the potential of social intelligence as fuel for processes of creative collaboration that may aid governments to reinvent themselves and prepare for the challenges that will remain after the virus is gone. By creative collaboration, I mean a range of forms of communication, action, and connection among citizens themselves, between citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs), and between the latter two and their governments, all with the common aim of addressing problems that affect all and that the state for various reasons cannot (satisfactorily) respond to alone.

While several Latin American countries have been stuck in the Covid-19 crisis with governments unable or unwilling to contain it or to reduce its damages, a substantial number of digital democratic innovations have been advanced by civil society in the past few months. These comprise institutions, processes, and mechanisms that rely on digital citizen participation as a means to address social and political problems – and, more recently, also problems of a humanitarian nature….

Between March 16 and July 1 of this year, at least 400 digital democratic innovations were created across 18 countries in Latin America with the specific aim of handling the Covid-19 crisis and mitigating its impact, according to recent data from the LATINNO project. These innovations are essentially mechanisms and processes in which citizens, with the aid of digital tools, are enabled to address social, political, and humanitarian problems related to the pandemic.

Citizens engage in and contribute to three levels of responses, which are based on information, connection, and action. About one-fourth of these digital democratic innovations clearly rely on crowdsourcing social intelligence.

The great majority of those digital innovations have been developed by CSOs. Around 75% of them have no government involvement at all, which is striking in a region known for implementing state-driven citizen participation as a result of the democratization processes that took place in the late 20th century. Civil society has stepped in in most countries, particularly where government responses were absent (Brazil and Nicaragua), slow (Mexico), insufficient due to lack of economic resources (Argentina) or infrastructure (Peru), or simply inefficient (Chile).

Based on these data from 18 Latin American countries, one can observe that digital democratic innovations address challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak in five main ways: first, generating verified information and reliable data; second, geolocating problems, needs, and demands; third, mobilizing resources, skills, and knowledge to address those problems, needs, and demands; fourth, connecting demand (individuals and organizations in need) and supply (individuals and organizations willing to provide whatever is needed); and fifth and finally, implementing and monitoring public policies and actions. In some countries, there is a sixth use that cuts across the other five: assisting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants….(More)”

20’s the limit: How to encourage speed reductions


Report by The Wales Centre for Public Policy: “This report has been prepared to support the Welsh Government’s plan to introduce a 20mph national default speed limit in 2022. It aims to address two main questions: 1) What specific behavioural interventions might be implemented to promote driver compliance with 20mph speed limits in residential areas; and 2) are there particular demographics, community characteristics or other features that should form the basis of a segmentation approach?

The reasons for speeding are complex, but many behaviour change
techniques have been successfully applied to road safety, including some which use behavioural insights or “nudges”.
Drivers can be segmented into three types: defiers (a small minority),
conformers (the majority) and champions (a minority). Conformers are law abiding citizens who respect social norms – getting this group to comply can achieve a tipping point.
Other sectors have shown that providing information is only effective if part of a wider package of measures and that people are most open to
change at times of disruption or learning (e.g. learner drivers)….(More)”.

Scraping Court Records Data to Find Dirty Cops


Article by Lawsuit.org: “In the 2002 dystopian sci-fi film “Minority Report,” law enforcement can manage crime by “predicting” illegal behavior before it happens. While fiction, the plot is intriguing and contributes to the conversation on advanced crime-fighting technology. However, today’s world may not be far off.

Data’s role in our lives and more accessibility to artificial intelligence is changing the way we approach topics such as research, real estate, and law enforcement. In fact, recent investigative reporting has shown that “dozens of [American] cities” are now experimenting with predictive policing technology.

Despite the current controversy surrounding predictive policing, it seems to be a growing trend that has been met with little real resistance. We may be closer to policing that mirrors the frightening depictions in “Minority Report” than we ever thought possible. 

Fighting Fire With Fire

In its current state, predictive policing is defined as:

“The usage of mathematical, predictive analytics, and other analytical techniques in law enforcement to identify potential criminal activity. Predictive policing methods fall into four general categories: methods for predicting crimes, methods for predicting offenders, methods for predicting perpetrators’ identities, and methods for predicting victims of crime.”

While it might not be possible to prevent predictive policing from being employed by the criminal justice system, perhaps there are ways we can create a more level playing field: One where the powers of big data analysis aren’t just used to predict crime, but also are used to police law enforcement themselves.

Below, we’ve provided a detailed breakdown of what this potential reality could look like when applied to one South Florida county’s public databases, along with information on how citizens and communities can use public data to better understand the behaviors of local law enforcement and even individual police officers….(More)”.

From Idea to Reality: Why We Need an Open Data Policy Lab


Stefaan G. Verhulst at Open Data Policy Lab: “The belief that we are living in a data age — one characterized by unprecedented amounts of data, with unprecedented potential — has become mainstream. We regularly read phrases such as “data is the most valuable commodity in the global economy” or that data provides decision-makers with an “ever-swelling flood of information.”

Without a doubt, there is truth in such statements. But they also leave out a major shortcoming — the fact that much of the most useful data continue to remain inaccessible, hidden in silos, behind digital walls, and in untapped “treasuries.”

For close to a decade, the technology and public interest community have pushed the idea of open data. At its core, open data represents a new paradigm of data availability and access. The movement borrows from the language of open source and is rooted in notions of a “knowledge commons”, a concept developed, among others, by scholars like Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom.

Milestones and Limitations in Open Data

Significant milestones have been achieved in the short history of the open data movement. Around the world, an ever-increasing number of governments at the local, state and national levels now release large datasets for the public’s benefit. For example, New York City requires that all public data be published on a single web portal. The current portal site contains thousands of datasets that fuel projects on topics as diverse as school bullying, sanitation, and police conduct. In California, the Forest Practice Watershed Mapper allows users to track the impact of timber harvesting on aquatic life through the use of the state’s open data. Similarly, Denmark’s Building and Dwelling Register releases address data to the public free of charge, improving transparent property assessment for all interested parties.

A growing number of private companies have also initiated or engaged in “Data Collaborative”projects to leverage their private data toward the public interest. For example, Valassis, a direct-mail marketing company, shared its massive address database with community groups in New Orleans to visualize and track block-by-block repopulation rates after Hurricane Katrina. A wide number of data collaboratives are also currently being launched to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through its COVID-19 Data Collaborative Program, the location-intelligence company Cuebiq is providing researchers access to the company’s data to study, for instance, the impacts of social distancing policies in Italy and New York City. The health technology company Kinsa Health’s US Health Weather initiative is likewise visualizing the rate of fever across the United States using data from its network of Smart Thermometers, thereby providing early indications regarding the location of likely COVID-19 outbreaks.

Yet despite such initiatives, many open data projects (and data collaboratives) remain fledgling — especially those at the state and local level.

Among other issues, the field has trouble scaling projects beyond initial pilots, and many potential stakeholders — private sector and government “owners” of data, as well as public beneficiaries — remain skeptical of open data’s value. In addition, terabytes of potentially transformative data remain inaccessible for re-use. It is absolutely imperative that we continue to make the case to all stakeholders regarding the importance of open data, and of moving it from an interesting idea to an impactful reality. In order to do this, we need a new resource — one that can inform the public and data owners, and that would guide decision-makers on how to achieve open data in a responsible manner, without undermining privacy and other rights.

Purpose of the Open Data Policy Lab

Today, with support from Microsoft and under the counsel of a global advisory board of open data leaders, The GovLab is launching an initiative designed precisely to build such a resource.

Our Open Data Policy Lab will draw on lessons and experiences from around the world to conduct analysis, provide guidance, build community, and take action to accelerate the responsible re-use and opening of data for the benefit of society and the equitable spread of economic opportunity…(More)”.

Transparency Deserts


Paper by Christina Koningisor: “Few contest the importance of a robust transparency regime in a democratic system of government. In the United States, the “crown jewel” of this regime is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Yet despite widespread agreement about the importance of transparency in government, few are satisfied with FOIA. Since its enactment, the statute has engendered criticism from transparency advocates and critics alike for insufficiently serving the needs of both the public and the government. Legal scholars have widely documented these flaws in the federal public records law.

In contrast, scholars have paid comparatively little attention to transparency laws at the state and local level. This is surprising. The role of state and local government in the everyday lives of citizens has increased in recent decades, and many critical government functions are fulfilled by state and local entities today. Moreover, crucial sectors of the public namely, media and advocacy organizations—rely as heavily on state public records laws as they do on FOIA to hold the government to account. Yet these state laws and their effects remain largely overlooked, creating gaps in both local government law and transparency law scholarship.

This Article attempts to fill these gaps by surveying the state and local transparency regime, focusing on public records laws in particular. Drawing on hundreds of public records datasets, along with qualitative interviews, the Article demonstrates that in contrast with federal law, state transparency law introduces comparatively greater barriers to disclosure and comparatively higher burdens upon government. Further, the Article highlights the existence of “transparency deserts,” or localities in which a combination of poorly drafted transparency laws, hostile government actors, and weak local media and civil society impedes effective public oversight of government.

The Article serves as a corrective to the scholarship’s current, myopic focus on federal transparency law…(More)”.

Federalism and Polycentric Government in a Pandemic


Paper by Victoria Perez and Justin M. Ross: “Networks of overlapping local governments are the front line of governmental responses to pandemics. Local governments, both general purpose (municipalities, counties, etc.) and special districts (school, fire, police, hospital, etc.), implement state and federal directives while acting as a producer and as a third-party payer in the healthcare system. They possess local information necessary in determining the best use of finite resources and available assets. Furthermore, a liberal society requires voluntary cooperation of citizens skeptical of opportunistic authoritarianism. Therefore, successful local governance instills a reassuring division of political power.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created two significant challenges for local governments in their efforts to respond effectively to the crisis: public finance and intergovernmental collaboration. This brief recommends practical solutions to meet these challenges….(More)”.

CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance


The Global Indigenous Data Alliance: “The current movement toward open data and open science does not fully engage with Indigenous Peoples rights and interests. Existing principles within the open data movement (e.g. FAIR: findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) primarily focus on characteristics of data that will facilitate increased data sharing among entities while ignoring power differentials and historical contexts. The emphasis on greater data sharing alone creates a tension for Indigenous Peoples who are also asserting greater control over the application and use of Indigenous data and Indigenous Knowledge for collective benefit.

This includes the right to create value from Indigenous data in ways that are grounded in Indigenous worldviews and realise opportunities within the knowledge economy. The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance are people and purpose-oriented, reflecting the crucial role of data in advancing Indigenous innovation and self-determination. These principles complement the existing FAIR principles encouraging open and other data movements to consider both people and purpose in their advocacy and pursuits….(More)”.

How Singapore sends daily Whatsapp updates on coronavirus


Medha Basu at GovInsider: “How do you communicate with citizens as a pandemic stirs fear and spreads false news? Singapore has trialled WhatsApp to give daily updates on the Covid-19 virus.

The World Health Organisation’s chief praised Singapore’s reaction to the outbreak. “We are very impressed with the efforts they are making to find every case, follow up with contacts, and stop transmission,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Since late January, the government has been providing two to three daily updates on cases via the messaging app. “Fake news is typically propagated through Whatsapp, so messaging with the same interface can help stem this flow,” Sarah Espaldon, Operations Marketing Manager from Singapore’s Open Government Products unit told GovInsider….

The niche system became newly vital as Covid-19 arrived, with fake news and fear following quickly in a nation that still remembers the fatal SARS outbreak of 2003. The tech had to be upgraded to ensure it could cope with new demand, and get information out rapidly before misinformation could sow discord.

The Open Government Products team used three tools to adapt Whatsapp and create a rapid information sharing system.

1. AI Translation

Singapore has four official languages – Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. Government used an AI tool to rapidly translate the material from English, so that every community receives the information as quickly as possible.

An algorithm produces the initial draft of the translation, which is then vetted by civil servants before being sent out on WhatsApp. The AI was trained using text from local government communications so is able to translate references and names of Singapore government schemes. This project was built by the Ministry of Communication and Information and Agency for Science, Technology and Research in collaboration with GovTech.

2. Make it easy to sign up

People specify their desired language through an easy sign up form. Singapore used Form.Sg, a tool that allows officials to launch a new mailing list in 30 minutes and connect to other government systems. A government-built form ensures that data is end-to-end encrypted and connected to the government cloud.

3. Fast updates

The updates were initially too slow in reaching people. It took four hours to add new subscribers to the recipient list and the system could send only 10 messages per second. “With 500,000 subscribers, it would take almost 14 hours for the last person to get the message,” Espaldon says….(More)”.

Urban Poverty Alleviation Endeavor Through E-Warong Program: Smart City (Smart People) Concept Initiative in Yogyakarta


Paper by Djaka Marwasta and Farid Suprianto: “In the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0, technology became a factor that could contribute significantly to improving the quality of life and welfare of the people of a nation. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) penetration through Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) which are disruptively, has led to fundamental advances in civilization. The expansion of Industrial Revolution 4.0 has also changed the pattern of government and citizen relations which has implications for the needs of policy governance and internal government transformation. One of them is a change in social welfare development policies, where government officials are required to be responsive to social dynamics that have consequences for increasing demands for public accountability and transparency.

This paper aims to elaborate on the e-Warong program as one of the breakthroughs to reduce poverty by utilizing digital technology. E-Warong (electronic mutual cooperation shop) is an Indonesian government program based on the empowerment of the poor Grass Root Innovation (GRI) with an approach to building group awareness in encouraging the independence of the poor to develop joint ventures through mutual cooperation with utilizing ICT advantages. This program is an implementation of the Smart City concept, especially Smart Economy, within the Sustainable Development Goals framework….(More)”.