Reuse of open data in Quebec: from economic development to government transparency


Paper by

Reuse of open data in Quebec: from economic development to government transparency

Paper by Christian Boudreau: “Based on the history of open data in Quebec, this article discusses the reuse of these data by various actors within society, with the aim of securing desired economic, administrative and democratic benefits. Drawing on an analysis of government measures and community practices in the field of data reuse, the study shows that the benefits of open data appear to be inconclusive in terms of economic growth. On the other hand, their benefits seem promising from the point of view of government transparency in that it allows various civil society actors to monitor the integrity and performance of government activities. In the age of digital data and networks, the state must be seen not only as a platform conducive to innovation, but also as a rich field of study that is closely monitored by various actors driven by political and social goals….

Although the economic benefits of open data have been inconclusive so far, governments, at least in Quebec, must not stop investing in opening up their data. In terms of transparency, the results of the study suggest that the benefits of open data are sufficiently promising to continue releasing government data, if only to support the evaluation and planning activities of public programmes and services….(More)”.

People learn in different ways. The way we teach should reflect that


Article by Jason Williams-Bellamy and Beth Simone Noveck: “There’s never been more hybrid learning in the public sector than today…

There are pros and cons in online and in-person training. But some governments are combining both in a hybrid (also known as blended) learning program. According to the Online Learning Consortium, hybrid courses can be either:

  • A classroom course in which online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant portion, but not all face-to-face activity
  • An online course that is supplemented by required face-to-face instruction such as lectures, discussions, or labs.

A hybrid course can effectively combine the short-term activity of an in-person workshop with the longevity and scale of an online course.

The Digital Leaders program in Israel is a good example of hybrid training. Digital Leaders is a nine-month program designed to train two cohorts of 40 leaders each in digital innovation by means of a regular series of online courses, shared between Israel and a similar program in the UK, interspersed with live workshops. This style of blended learning makes optimal use of participants’ time while also establishing a digital environment and culture among the cohort not seen in traditional programs.

The State government in New Jersey, where I serve as the Chief Innovation Officer, offers a free and publicly accessible online introduction to innovation skills for public servants called the Innovation Skills Accelerator. Those who complete the course become eligible for face-to-face project coaching and we are launching our first skills “bootcamp,” blending online and the face-to-face in Q1 2020.

Blended classrooms have been linked to greater engagement and increased collaboration among participating students. Blended courses allow learners to customise their learning experience in a way that is uniquely best suited for them. One study even found that blended learning improves student engagement and learning even if they only take advantage of the traditional in-classroom resources. While the added complexity of designing for online and off may be off-putting to some, the benefits are clear.

The best way to teach public servants is to give them multiple ways to learn….(More)”.

Belgium’s experiment in permanent forms of deliberative democracy


Article by Min Reuchamps: In December 2019, the parliament of the Region of Brussels in Belgium amended its internal regulations to allow the formation of ‘deliberative committees’ composed of a mixture of members of the Regional Parliament and randomly selected citizens. This initiative follows innovative experiences in the German-speaking Community of Belgium, known as Ostbelgien, and the city of Madrid in establishing permanent forums of deliberative democracy earlier in 2019. Ostbelgien is now experiencing its first cycle of deliberations, whereas the Madrid forum has been short-lived after having been cancelled, after two meetings, by the new governing coalition of the city.

The experimentation in establishing permanent forums for direct citizen involvement constitutes an advance from hitherto deliberative processes which were one-off experiments, i.e. non-permanent procedures. The relatively large size of the Brussels Region, with over 1 200 000 inhabitants, means that the lessons will be key in understanding the opportunities and risks of ‘deliberative committees’ and their potential scalability….

Under the new rules, the Regional Parliament can setup a parliamentary committee composed of 15 (12 in the Cocof) parliamentarians and 45 (36 in the Cocof) citizens to draft recommendations on a given issue. Any inhabitant in Brussels who has attained 16 years of age has the chance to have a direct say in matters falling under the jurisdiction of the Brussels Regional Parliament and the Cocof. The citizen representatives will be drawn by lot in two steps:

  • A first draw among the whole population, so that every inhabitant has the same chance to be invited via a formal invitation letter from the Parliament;
  • A second draw among all the persons who have responded positively to the invitation by means of a sampling method following criteria to ensure a diverse and representative selection, at least in terms of gender, age, official languages of the Brussels-Capital Region, geographical distribution and level of education.

The participating parliamentarians will be the members of the standing parliamentary committee that covers the topic under deliberation. In the regional parliament, each standing committee is made up of 15 members (including both Dutch- and French-speakers), and in the Cocof Parliament, each standing committee is made of 12 members (only French-speakers)….(More)”.

The Future State CIO: How the Role will Drive Innovation


Report by Accenture/NASCIO: “…exploring the future role of the state CIO and how the state CIO will drive innovation.

The research included interviews and a survey of state CIOs to understand the role of state CIOs in promoting innovation in government.

  • The study explored how state IT organizations build the capacity to innovate and which best practices help in doing so.
  • We also examined how state CIOs embrace new and emerging technologies to create the best government outcomes.
  • Our report illuminates compelling opportunities, persistent obstacles, strategies for accelerating innovation and inspiring real-world case studies.
  • The report presents a set of practical recommendations for driving innovation…(More)”.

Collective Intelligence in City Design


Idea by Helena Rong and Juncheng Yang: “We propose an interactive design engagement platform which facilitates a continuous conversation between developers, designers and end users from pre-design and planning phases all the way to post-occupancy, adopting a citizen-centric and inclusive-oriented approach which would stimulate trust-building and invite active participation from end users from different age, ethnicity, social and economic background to participate in the design and development process. We aim to explore how collective intelligence through citizen engagement could be enabled by data to allow new collectives to emerge, confronting design as an iterative process involving scalable cooperation of different actors. As a result, design is a collaborative and conscious practice not born out of a single mastermind of the architect. Rather, its agency is reinforced by a cooperative ideal involving institutions, enterprises and single individuals alike enabled by data science….(More)”

Belgian experiment that Aristotle would have approved of


The Economist: “In a sleepy corner of Belgium, a democratic experiment is under way. On September 16th, 24 randomly chosen Germanophones from the country’s eastern fringe took their seats in a Citizens’ Council. They will have the power to tell elected officials which issues matter, and for each such issue to task a Citizens’ Assembly (also chosen at random) with brainstorming ideas on how to solve them. It’s an engaged citizen’s dream come true.

Belgium’s German-speakers are an often-overlooked minority next to their Francophone and Flemish countrymen. They are few in number—just 76,000 people out of a population of 11m—yet have a distinct identity, shaped by their proximity to Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Thanks to Belgium’s federal system the community is thought to be the smallest region of the EU with its own legislative powers: a parliament of 25 representatives and a government of four decides on policies related to issues including education, sport, training and child benefits.

This new system takes democracy one step further. Based on selection by lottery—which Aristotle regarded as real democracy, in contrast to election, which he described as “oligarchy”—it was trialled in 2017 and won enthusiastic reviews from participants, officials and locals.

Under the “Ostbelgien Model”, the Citizens’ Council and the assemblies it convenes will run in parallel to the existing parliament and will set its legislative agenda. Parliamentarians must consider every proposal that wins support from 80% of the council, and must publicly defend any decision to take a different path.

Some see the project as a tool that could counter political discontent by involving ordinary folk in decision-making. But for Alexander Miesen, a Belgian senator who initiated the project, the motivation is cosier. “People would like to share their ideas, and they also have a lot of experience in their lives which you can import into parliament. It’s a win-win,” he says.

Selecting decision-makers by lottery is unusual these days, but not unknown: Ireland randomly selected the members of the Citizens’ Assembly that succeeded in breaking the deadlock on abortion laws. Referendums are a common way of settling important matters in several countries. But in Eupen, the largest town in the German-speaking region, citizens themselves will come up with the topics and policies which parliamentarians then review, rather than expressing consent to ideas proposed by politicians. Traditional decision-makers still have the final say, but “citizens can be sure that their ideas are part of the process,” says Mr Miesen….(More)”.

Traffic Data Is Good for More than Just Streets, Sidewalks


Skip Descant at Government Technology: “The availability of highly detailed daily traffic data is clearly an invaluable resource for traffic planners, but it can also help officials overseeing natural lands or public works understand how to better manage those facilities.

The Natural Communities Coalition, a conservation nonprofit in southern California, began working with the traffic analysis firm StreetLight Data in early 2018 to study the impacts from the thousands of annual visitors to 22 parks and natural lands. StreetLight Data’s use of de-identified cellphone data held promise for the project, which will continue into early 2020.

“You start to see these increases,” Milan Mitrovich, science director for the Natural Communities Coalition, said of the uptick in visitor activity the data showed. “So being able to have this information, and share it with our executive committee… these folks, they’re seeing it for the first time.”…

Officials with the Natural Communities Coalition were able to use the StreetLight data to gain insights into patterns of use not only per day, but at different times of the day. The data also told researchers where visitors were traveling from, a detail park officials found “jaw-dropping.”

“What we were able to see is, these resources, these natural areas, cast an incredible net across southern California,” said Mitrovich, noting visitors come from not only Orange County, but Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties as well, a region of more than 20 million residents.

The data also allows officials to predict traffic levels during certain parts of the week, times of day or even holidays….(More)”.

Community Colleges Boost STEM Student Success Through Behavioral Nudging


Press Release: “JFF, a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, and Persistence Plus, which pairs behavioral insights with intelligent text messaging to improve student success, today released the findings from an analysis that examined the effects of personalized nudging on nearly 10,000 community college students. The study, conducted over two years at four community colleges, found that behavioral nudging had a significant impact on student persistence rates—with strong improvements among students of color and older adult learners, who are often underrepresented among graduates of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.

“These results offer powerful evidence on the potential, and imperative, of using technology to support students during the most in-demand, and often most challenging, courses and majors,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF. “With millions of STEM jobs going unfilled, closing the gap in STEM achievement has profound economic—and equity—implications.” 

In a multiyear initiative called “Nudging to STEM Success, which was funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, JFF and Persistence Plus selected four colleges to implement the nudging initiative campuswide:Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio; Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio; Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio; and John Tyler Community College in Chester, Virginia.

A randomized control trial in the summer of 2017 showed that the nudges increased first-to-second-year persistence for STEM students by 10 percentage points. The results of that trial will be presented in an upcoming peer-reviewed paper titled “A Summer Nudge Campaign to Motivate Community College STEM Students to Reenroll.” The paper will be published in AERA Open, an open-access journal published by the American Educational Research Association. 

Following the 2017 trial, the four colleges scaled the support to nearly 10,000 students, and over the next two years, JFF and Persistence Plus found that the nudging support had a particularly strong impact on students of color and students over the age of 25—two groups that have historically had lower persistence rates than other students….(More)”.

How Tulsa is Preserving Privacy and Sharing Data for Social Good


Data across Sectors for Health: “Data sharing between organizations addressing social risk factors has the potential to amplify impact by increasing direct service capacity and efficiency. Unfortunately, the risks of and restrictions on sharing personal data often limit this potential, and adherence to regulations such as HIPAA and FERPA can make data sharing a significant challenge.

DASH CIC-START awardee Restore Hope Ministries worked with Asemio to utilize technology that allows for the analysis of personally identifiable information while preserving clients’ privacy. The collaboration shared their findings in a new white paper that describes the process of using multi-party computation technology to answer questions that can aid service providers in exploring the barriers that underserved populations may be facing. The first question they asked: what is the overlap of populations served by two distinct organizations? The results of the overlap analysis confirmed that a significant opportunity exists to increase access to services for a subset of individuals through better outreach…(More)”

Reimagining Administrative Justice: Human Rights in Small Places


Book by Margaret Doyle and Nick O’Brien: “This book reconnects everyday justice with social rights. It rediscovers human rights in the ‘small places’ of housing, education, health and social care, where administrative justice touches the citizen every day, and in doing so it re-imagines administrative justice and expands its democratic reach. The institutions of everyday justice – ombuds, tribunals and mediation – rarely herald their role in human rights frameworks, and never very loudly. For the most part, human rights and administrative justice are ships that pass in the night. Drawing on design theory, the book proposes to remedy this alienation by replacing current orthodoxies, not least that of ‘user focus’, with more promising design principles of community, network and openness. Thus re-imagined, the future of both administrative justice and social rights is demosprudential, firmly rooted in making response to citizen grievance more democratic and embedding legal change in the broader culture….(More)”.