Third Wave of Open Data


Paper (and site) by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Andrew Young, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Susan Ariel Aaronson, Ania Calderon, and Matt Gee on “How To Accelerate the Re-Use of Data for Public Interest Purposes While Ensuring Data Rights and Community Flourishing”: “The paper begins with a description of earlier waves of open data. Emerging from freedom of information laws adopted over the last half century, the First Wave of Open Data brought about newfound transparency, albeit one only available on request to an audience largely composed of journalists, lawyers, and activists. 

The Second Wave of Open Data, seeking to go beyond access to public records and inspired by the open source movement, called upon national governments to make their data open by default. Yet, this approach too had its limitations, leaving many data silos at the subnational level and in the private sector untouched..

The Third Wave of Open Data seeks to build on earlier successes and take into account lessons learned to help open data realize its transformative potential. Incorporating insights from various data experts, the paper describes the emergence of a Third Wave driven by the following goals:

  1. Publishing with Purpose by matching the supply of data with the demand for it, providing assets that match public interests;
  2. Fostering Partnerships and Data Collaboration by forging relationships with  community-based organizations, NGOs, small businesses, local governments, and others who understand how data can be translated into meaningful real-world action;
  3. Advancing Open Data at the Subnational Level by providing resources to cities, municipalities, states, and provinces to address the lack of subnational information in many regions.
  4. Prioritizing Data Responsibility and Data Rights by understanding the risks of using (and not using) data to promote and preserve the public’s general welfare.

Riding the Wave

Achieving these goals will not be an easy task and will require investments and interventions across the data ecosystem. The paper highlights eight actions that decision and policy makers can take to foster more equitable, impactful benefits… (More) (PDF) “

Announcing the New Data4COVID19 Repository


Blog by Andrew Zahuranec: “It’s been a long year. Back in March, The GovLab released a Call for Action to build the data infrastructure and ecosystem we need to tackle pandemics and other dynamic societal and environmental threats. As part of that work, we launched a Data4COVID19 repository to monitor progress and curate projects that reused data to address the pandemic. At the time, it was hard to say how long it would remain relevant. We did not know how long the pandemic would last nor how many organizations would publish dashboards, visualizations, mobile apps, user tools, and other resources directed at the crisis’s worst consequences.

Seven months later, the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us. Over one million people around the world are dead and many countries face ever-worsening social and economic costs. Though the frequency with which data reuse projects are announced has slowed since the crisis’s early days, they have not stopped. For months, The GovLab has posted dozens of additions to an increasingly unwieldy GoogleDoc.

Today, we are making a change. Given the pandemic’s continued urgency and relevance into 2021 and beyond, The GovLab is pleased to release the new Data4COVID19 Living Repository. The upgraded platform allows people to more easily find and understand projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic and data reuse.

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The Data4COVID19 Repository

On the platform, visitors will notice a few improvements that distinguish the repository from its earlier iteration. In addition to a main page with short descriptions of each example, we’ve added improved search and filtering functionality. Visitors can sort through any of the projects by:

  • Scope: the size of the target community;
  • Region: the geographic area in which the project takes place;
  • Topic: the aspect of the crisis the project seeks to address; and
  • Pandemic Phase: the stage of pandemic response the project aims to address….(More)”.

Using Collective Intelligence to Solve Public Problems


Report by The GovLab and the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design at Nesta: “…The experience, expertise and passion of a group of people is what we call collective intelligence. The practice of taking advantage of collective intelligence is sometimes called crowdsourcing, collaboration, co-creation or just engagement. But whatever the name, we shall explore the advantages created when institutions mobilise the information, knowledge, skills and capabilities of a distributed group to extend our problemsolving ability. Smartphone apps like PulsePoint in the United States and GoodSAM in the United Kingdom, for example, enable a network of volunteer first responders to augment the capacity of formal first responders and give
cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to a heart attack victim in the crucial, potentially lifesaving minutes before ambulance services can arrive. Deliberative ‘mini-publics’, where a small group of citizens work face to face or online to weigh up the pros and cons of alternative policy choices, have helped governments in Ireland and Australia achieve consensus on issues that previously divided both the public and politicians. In Helsinki, residents’ involvement in crafting the city’s budget and its sustainability plan is helping to strengthen the alignment between city policy and local priorities.

Despite these successes, too often leaders do not know how to engage with the public efficiently to solve problems. They may run the occasional
crowdsourcing exercise, citizens’ jury or prizebacked challenge, but they struggle to integrate collective intelligence in the regular course of business.

Citizen engagement is largely viewed as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have for efficient and effective problem-solving. Working more openly and collaboratively requires institutions to develop new capabilities, change
long-standing procedures, shift organisational cultures, foster conditions more conducive to external partnerships, alter laws and ensure collective intelligence inputs are transparently accounted for when making decisions. But knowing how to make these changes, and how to redesign the way public institutions make decisions, requires a much deeper and more nuanced understanding….(More)”.

AI Localism


Today, The GovLab is  excited to launch a new platform which seeks to monitor, analyze and guide how AI is being governed in cities around the world: AI Localism. 

AI Localism refers to the actions taken by local decision-makers to address the use of AI within a city or community.  AI Localism has often emerged because of gaps left by incomplete state, national or global governance frameworks.

“AI Localism offers both immediacy and proximity. Because it is managed within tightly defined geographic regions, it affords policymakers a better understanding of the tradeoffs involved. By calibrating algorithms and AI policies for local conditions, policymakers have a better chance of creating positive feedback loops that will result in greater effectiveness and accountability.”

The initial AI Localism projects include:

The Ethics and Practice of AI Localism at a Time of Covid-19 and Beyond – In collaboration with the TUM School of Governance and University of Melbourne The GovLab will conduct a comparative review of current practices worldwide to gain a better understanding of successful AI Localism in the context of COVID-19 as to inform and guide local leaders and city officials towards best practices.

Responsible AI at the Local Level – Together with the NYU Center Responsible AI, The GovLab will seek to develop an interactive repository and a set of training modules of Responsible AI approaches at the local level. 

Join us as we seek to understand and develop new forms of governance to guide local leaders towards responsible AI implementation or share any effort you are working on to establishing responsible AI at the local level by visiting: http://ailocalism.org

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)”.