Long Live the Human Network Effect


Julia Hobsbawm at Strategy + Business: “Picture the scene. The eyes of the world are on the Tham Luang cave system in Thailand, near the border with Myanmar. Trapped on a rock ledge deep inside is the Wild Boars soccer team of 12 boys and their coach, who had ventured into the caves about two weeks earlier. It is monsoon season. Water is rising and oxygen levels are falling. Not all of the boys can even swim. Time is running out.

Elon Musk proposes building a “kid-sized submarine” to assist the rescue effort. Musk’s solution is politely declined by Thai authorities as “not practical.” In fact, by the time Musk’s sub arrives, most of the boys are already out, alive. One of the most audacious, moving, complex, and successful rescue operations in history relied not on a single technology or hero but on the collaboration of many people, working together in a spontaneous network.

This web of connections came together organically and quickly, unassisted by algorithms, in a unique collaboration led by humans. It was a stunning example of what physicist Albert-László Barabási calls “scale-free networks”: networks that reproduce exponentially by their very nature. The exact same network effects that can be lethal in spreading a virus can be productive — beautiful, even — in creating a web of diverse human skills quickly. Networks, as Barabási puts it, “are everywhere. You just have to look for them.”…

Networks that come together like this and use technology, community, and communications in a timely manner are an example of what the U.N. calls its “leave no one behind” strategy for achieving sustainable development goals. I consider it an example of social health in action: They are the kinds of collaborations that help us live full and productive lives. And in business, there is an exciting opportunity to harness social health and the power of networks to help solve problems.

This kind of social health network, perhaps unsurprisingly, is very visible in innovations in the healthcare sector. A digital health community called The Mighty, for example, is a forum to find information about rare illnesses and connect people facing similar challenges, so that they might learn from the experiences of others. It now has 90 million engagements on its website per month and a new member joins every 20 seconds….(More)”.

Using Mobile Network Data for Development: How it works


Blog by Derval Usher and Darren Hanniffy: “…We aim to equip decision makers with data tools so that they have access to the analysis on the fly. But to help this scale we need progress in three areas:

1. The framework to support Shared Value partnerships.

2. Shared understanding of The Proposition and the benefits for all parties.

3. Access to finance and a funding strategy, designing-in innovation.

1. Any Public-Private Partnership should be aligned to achieve impact centered on the SDGs through a Shared Value / Inclusive Business approach. Mobile network operators are consumed with the challenge of maintaining or upgrading their infrastructure, driving device sales and sustaining their agent networks to reach the last mile. Measuring impact against the SDGs has not been a priority. Mobile network operators tend not to seek out partnerships with traditional development donors or development implementers. But there is a growing realisation of the potential and the need to partner. It’s important to move from a service level transactional relationship to a strategic partnership approach.

Private sector partners have been fundamental to the success of UN Global Pulse as these companies are often the custodians of the big data sets from which we develop valuable development and humanitarian insights. Although in previous years our private sector partners were framed primarily as data philanthropists, we are beginning to see a shift in the relationship to one of shared value. Our work generates public value and also insights that can enhance business operations. This shared value model is attracting more private enterprises to engage and to explore their own data, and more broadly to investigate the value of their networks and data as part of the data innovation ecosystem, which the Global Pulse lab network will build on as we move forward.

2. Partners need to be more propositional and less charitable. They need to recognise the fact that earning profit may help ensure the sustainability of digital platforms and services that offer developmental impact. Through partnership we can attract innovative finance, deliver mobile for development programmes, measure impact and create affordable commercial solutions to development challenges that become sustainable by design. Pulse Lab Jakarta and Digicel have been flexible with one another which is important as this partnership has not always been a priority for either side all the time. But we believe in unlocking the power of mobile data for development and therefore continue to make progress.

3. Development and commercial strategies should be more aligned to create an enabling environment. Currently they are not. Private sector needs to become a strategic partner to development where multi-annual development funds align with commercial strategy. Mobile network operators continue to invest in their network particularly in developing countries and the digital platform is coming into being in the markets where Digicel operates. But the platform is new and experience is limited within governments, the development community and indeed even within mobile network operators.

We need to see donors actively engage during the development of multi-annual funding facilities….(More)”.

Advancing Open Data for Open Governance in Asia


Paper by Michael P. Cañares: “The record of countries in the region in terms of transparency and accountability is dismal. In the latest Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International, more than half of the country in the region scored below 50, with at least a quarter of these are countries considered with systemic corruption problems. Nevertheless, there have been significant attempts of several countries to install transparency measures and project a commitment towards greater openness. At least a dozen of countries has right to information laws that provide citizens’ fundamental access to government information and several have installed open data policies and are implementing e-government programs or practices. But access of citizens to data and information to hold governments to account, demand for better services, and strengthen citizen participation in governance remain elusive.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP’s vision is that more governments become more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to their own citizens, with the goal of improving the quality of governance, as well as the quality of services that citizens receive. Since its inception in 2011, OGP today brings together 75 countries and 15 subnational governments with over 2,500 commitments to make their governments more open and accountable. In Asia, only the governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea are participating countries along with two subnational pilots, Seoul and Bojonegoro. These governments have launched initiatives to involve citizens in the planning and budgeting processes, proactively disclose budget and other public financial information, and engage citizens in monitoring of public service delivery. But these countries remain the exception rather than the norm….(More)”.

Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020


Bloomberg News: “China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.

The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.

The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan. Xinhua reported on the proposal Tuesday, while the report posted on the municipal government’s website is dated July 18.

China has long experimented with systems that grade its citizens, rewarding good behavior with streamlined services while punishing bad actions with restrictions and penalties. Critics say such moves are fraught with risks and could lead to systems that reduce humans to little more than a report card.

Ambitious Plan

Beijing’s efforts represent the most ambitious yet among more than a dozen cities that are moving ahead with similar programs.

Hangzhou rolled out its personal credit system earlier this year, rewarding “pro-social behaviors” such as volunteer work and blood donations while punishing those who violate traffic laws and charge under-the-table fees. By the end of May, people with bad credit in China have been blocked from booking more than 11 million flights and 4 million high-speed train trips, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.

According to the Beijing government’s plan, different agencies will link databases to get a more detailed picture of every resident’s interactions across a swathe of services….(More)”.

Blockchain systems are tracking food safety and origins


Nir Kshetri at The Conversation: “When a Chinese consumer buys a package labeled “Australian beef,” there’s only a 50-50 chance the meat inside is, in fact, Australian beef. It could just as easily contain rat, dog, horse or camel meat – or a mixture of them all. It’s gross and dangerous, but also costly.

Fraud in the global food industry is a multi-billion-dollar problem that has lingered for years, duping consumers and even making them ill. Food manufacturers around the world are concerned – as many as 39 percent of them are worried that their products could be easily counterfeited, and 40 percent say food fraud is hard to detect.

In researching blockchain for more than three years, I have become convinced that this technology’s potential to prevent fraud and strengthen security could fight agricultural fraud and improve food safety. Many companies agree, and are already running various tests, including tracking wine from grape to bottle and even following individual coffee beans through international trade.

Tracing food items

An early trial of a blockchain system to track food from farm to consumer was in 2016, when Walmart collected information about pork being raised in China, where consumers are rightly skeptical about sellers’ claims of what their food is and where it’s from. Employees at a pork farm scanned images of farm inspection reports and livestock health certificates, storing them in a secure online database where the records could not be deleted or modified – only added to.

As the animals moved from farm to slaughter to processing, packaging and then to stores, the drivers of the freight trucks played a key role. At each step, they would collect documents detailing the shipment, storage temperature and other inspections and safety reports, and official stamps as authorities reviewed them – just as they did normally. In Walmart’s test, however, the drivers would photograph those documents and upload them to the blockchain-based database. The company controlled the computers running the database, but government agencies’ systems could also be involved, to further ensure data integrity.

As the pork was packaged for sale, a sticker was put on each container, displaying a smartphone-readable code that would link to that meat’s record on the blockchain. Consumers could scan the code right in the store and assure themselves that they were buying exactly what they thought they were. More recent advances in the technology of the stickers themselves have made them more secure and counterfeitresistant.

Walmart did similar tests on mangoes imported to the U.S. from Latin America. The company found that it took only 2.2 seconds for consumers to find out an individual fruit’s weight, variety, growing location, time it was harvested, date it passed through U.S. customs, when and where it was sliced, which cold-storage facility the sliced mango was held in and for how long it waited before being delivered to a store….(More)”.

The Janus Face of the Liberal Information Order


Paper by Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman: “…Domestically, policy-makers and scholars argued that information openness, like economic openness, would go hand-in-glove with political liberalization and the spread of democratic values. This was perhaps, in part an accident of timing: the Internet – which seemed to many to be inherently resistant to censorship – burgeoned shortly after the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Politicians celebrated the dawn of a new era of open communication, while scholars began to argue that the spread of the Internet would lead to the spread of democracy (Diamond 2010;Shirky 2008).

A second wave of literature suggested that Internet-based social media had played a crucial role in spreading freedom in the Arab Spring (Howard 2010; Hussain and Howard 2013). There were some skeptics who highlighted the vexed relationship between open networks and the closed national politics of autocracies (Goldsmith and Wu 2006), or who pointed out that the Internet was nowhere near as censorship-resistant as early optimists had supposed (Deibert et al. 2008). Even these pessimists seemed to believe that the Internet could bolster liberalism in healthy democracies, although it would by no means necessarily prevail over tyranny.

The international liberal order for information, however, finds itself increasingly on shaky ground. Non-democratic regimes ranging from China to Saudi Arabia have created domestic technological infrastructures, which undermine and provide an alternative to the core principles of the regime (Boas 2006; Deibert 2008).

The European Union, while still generally supportive of open communication and free speech, has grown skeptical of the regime’s focus on unfettered economic access and has used privacy and anti-trust policy to challenge its most neo-liberal elements (Newman 2008). Non-state actors like Wikileaks have relied on information openness as a channel of disruption and perhaps manipulation. 

More troubling are the arguments of a new literature – that open information flows are less a harbinger of democracy than a vector of attack…

How can IR scholars make sense of this Janus-face quality of information? In this brief memo, we argue that much of the existing work on information technology and information flows suffers from two key deficiencies.

First – there has been an unhelpful separation between two important debates about information flows and liberalism. One – primarily focused on the international level – concerned global governance of information networks, examining how states (especially the US) arrived at and justified their policy stances, and how power dynamics shaped the battles between liberal and illiberal states over what the relevant governance arrangements should be (Klein 2002; Singh 2008; Mueller 2009). …

This leads to the second problem – that research has failed to appreciate the dynamics of contestation over time…(More)”

Governments fail to capitalise on swaths of open data


Valentina Romei in the Financial Times: “…Behind the push for open data is a desire to make governments more transparent, accountable and efficient — but also to allow businesses to create products and services that spark economic development. The global annual opportunity cost of failing to do this effectively is about $5tn, according to one estimate from McKinsey, the consultancy.

The UK is not the only country falling short, says the Open Data Barometer, which monitors the status of government data across the world. Among the 30 leading governments — those that have championed the open data movement and have made progress over five years — “less than a quarter of the data with the biggest potential for social and economic impact” is truly open. This goal of transparency, it seems, has not proved sufficient for “creating value” — the movement’s latest focus. In 2015, nearly a decade after advocates first discussed the principles of open government data, 62 countries adopted the six Open Data Charter principles — which called for data to be open by default, usable and comparable….

The use of open data has already bore fruit for some countries. In 2015, Japan’s ministry of land, infrastructure and transport set up an open data site aimed at disabled and elderly people. The 7,000 data points published are downloadable and the service can be used to generate a map that shows which passenger terminals on train, bus and ferry networksprovide barrier-free access.

In the US, The Climate Corporation, a digital agriculture company, combined 30 years of weather data and 60 years of crop yield data to help farmers increase their productivity. And in the UK, subscription service Land Insight merges different sources of land data to help individuals and developers compare property information, forecast selling prices, contact land owners and track planning applications…
Open Data 500, an international network of organisations that studies the use and impact of open data, reveals that private companies in South Korea are using government agency data, with technology, advertising and business services among the biggest users. It shows, for example, that Archidraw, a four-year-old Seoul-based company that provides 3D visualisation tools for interior design and property remodelling, has used mapping data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport…(More)”.

Big data analytics to identify illegal construction waste dumping: A Hong Kong study


WeishengLu at Resources, Conservation and Recycling: “Illegal dumping, referring to the intentional and criminal abandonment of waste in unauthorized areas, has long plagued governments and environmental agencies worldwide. Despite the tremendous resources spent to combat it, the surreptitious nature of illegal dumping indicates the extreme difficulty in its identification. In 2006, the Construction Waste Disposal Charging Scheme (CWDCS) was implemented, regulating that all construction waste must be disposed of at government waste facilities if not otherwise properly reused or recycled.

While the CWDCS has significantly improved construction waste management in Hong Kong, it has also triggered illegal dumping problems. Inspired by the success of big data in combating urban crime, this paper aims to identify illegal dumping cases by mining a publicly available data set containing more than 9 million waste disposal records from 2011 to 2017. Using behavioral indicators and up-to-date big data analytics, possible drivers for illegal dumping (e.g., long queuing times) were identified. The analytical results also produced a list of 546 waste hauling trucks suspected of involvement in illegal dumping. This paper contributes to the understanding of illegal dumping behavior and joins the global research community in exploring the value of big data, particularly for combating urban crime. It also presents a three-step big data-enabled urban crime identification methodology comprising ‘Behavior characterization’, ‘Big data analytical model development’, and ‘Model training, calibration, and evaluation’….(More)”.

Governments fail to capitalise on swaths of open data


Valentina Romei in the Financial Times: “…Behind the push for open data is a desire to make governments more transparent, accountable and efficient — but also to allow businesses to create products and services that spark economic development. The global annual opportunity cost of failing to do this effectively is about $5tn, according to one estimate from McKinsey, the consultancy.

The UK is not the only country falling short, says the Open Data Barometer, which monitors the status of government data across the world. Among the 30 leading governments — those that have championed the open data movement and have made progress over five years — “less than a quarter of the data with the biggest potential for social and economic impact” is truly open. This goal of transparency, it seems, has not proved sufficient for “creating value” — the movement’s latest focus. In 2015, nearly a decade after advocates first discussed the principles of open government data, 62 countries adopted the six Open Data Charter principles — which called for data to be open by default, usable and comparable….

The use of open data has already bore fruit for some countries. In 2015, Japan’s ministry of land, infrastructure and transport set up an open data site aimed at disabled and elderly people. The 7,000 data points published are downloadable and the service can be used to generate a map that shows which passenger terminals on train, bus and ferry networksprovide barrier-free access.

In the US, The Climate Corporation, a digital agriculture company, combined 30 years of weather data and 60 years of crop yield data to help farmers increase their productivity. And in the UK, subscription service Land Insight merges different sources of land data to help individuals and developers compare property information, forecast selling prices, contact land owners and track planning applications…
Open Data 500, an international network of organisations that studies the use and impact of open data, reveals that private companies in South Korea are using government agency data, with technology, advertising and business services among the biggest users. It shows, for example, that Archidraw, a four-year-old Seoul-based company that provides 3D visualisation tools for interior design and property remodelling, has used mapping data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport…(More)”.

Creating Smart Cities


Book edited by Claudio Coletta, Leighton Evans, Liam Heaphy, and Rob Kitchin: “In cities around the world, digital technologies are utilized to manage city services and infrastructures, to govern urban life, to solve urban issues and to drive local and regional economies. While “smart city” advocates are keen to promote the benefits of smart urbanism – increased efficiency, sustainability, resilience, competitiveness, safety and security – critics point to the negative effects, such as the production of technocratic governance, the corporatization of urban services, technological lock-ins, privacy harms and vulnerability to cyberattack.

This book, through a range of international case studies, suggests social, political and practical interventions that would enable more equitable and just smart cities, reaping the benefits of smart city initiatives while minimizing some of their perils.

Included are case studies from Ireland, the United States of America, Colombia, the Netherlands, Singapore, India and the United Kingdom. These chapters discuss a range of issues including political economy, citizenship, standards, testbedding, urban regeneration, ethics, surveillance, privacy and cybersecurity. This book will be of interest to urban policymakers, as well as researchers in Regional Studies and Urban Planning…(More)”.