Disfactory Project: How to Detect Illegal Factories by Open Source Technology and Crowdsourcing

Article by Peii Lai: “…building illegal factories on farmlands is still a profitable business, because the factory owners thus obtain the means of production at a lower price and can easily get away with penalties by simply ignoring their legal responsibility. Such conduct simply shifts the cost of production onto the environment in an irresponsible way. As we can imagine, such violations has been increasing year by year. On average, Taiwan loses 1,500 hectares of farmland each year due to illegal use, which demonstrates that illegal factories are an ongoing and escalating problem that people cannot ignore.

It’s clearly that the problem of illegal factories are caused by dysfunction of the previous land management regulations. In response to that, Citizens of Earth Taiwan (CET) started seeking solutions to tackle the illegal factories. CET soon realized that the biggest obstacle they faced was that no one saw the violations as a big deal. Local governments avoided standing on the opposite side of the illegal factories. For local governments, imposing penalties is an arduous and thankless task…

Through the collaboration of CET and g0v-zero, the Disfactory project combines the knowledge they have accumulated through advocacy and the diverse techniques brought by the passionate civic contributors. In 2020, the Disfactory project team delivered its first product: disfactory.tw. They built a website with geographic information that whistle blowers can operate on the ground by themselves. Through a few simple steps: identifying the location of the target illegal factory, taking a picture of it, uploading the photos, any citizen can easily register the information on Disfactory’s website….(More)”

‘Positive deviance’ and the power of outliers

Bloomberg Cities Network: “Groundbreaking solutions in cities are often the result of visionary mayoral leadership. But sometimes certain communities achieve significantly better outcomes than their similarly resourced neighbors—and the underlying reasons may not be immediately obvious to local leaders. Ravi Gurumurthy, CEO of the global innovation foundation Nesta, believes that this variation in quality of life at a hyper-local level is something worth paying a lot more attention to. 

“The fastest way for us to improve people’s lives will be to mine that variation and really understand what is going on,” he says.    

This concept, known as “positive deviance,” describes individuals or communities that achieve remarkable success or exhibit highly effective behaviors despite facing the same constraints as their peers. With a long history of use in international development, positive deviance is now gaining traction among city leaders as a source of solutions to stubborn urban challenges.  

Here’s a closer look at what it’s about, and how it’s already being used to uplift promising approaches in cities. 

What is positive deviance? 

Positive deviance first gained widespread attention because of a remarkable success story in 1990s Vietnam. Much of the country was suffering from a malnutrition crisis, and efforts to design and implement new solutions were coming up short. But aid workers landed on a breakthrough by paying closer attention to children who already appeared larger and healthier than their peers.  

It turned out these children were being fed different diets—leaning more heavily on shrimp and crab, for example, which were widely accessible but less often fed to young people. These children also were being fed more frequently, in smaller meals, throughout the day—an intervention that, again, did not require parents to have more resources so much as to differently use what was universally available.  

When these practices—feeding kids shellfish and making meals smaller and more frequent—were replicated, malnutrition plummeted…(More)”

Mass Data Sharing in Smart Cities

Report by Berenika Drazewska and Mark Findlay: “There are at least two ways of understanding the importance of this Report and its implications. The essential research purpose was to examine the nature of mass data sharing between private and public agencies in the commerce and administration of certain smart cities. With this knowledge the research speculated on and selectively exposed the governance challenges posed by this sharing for stakeholders, citizen/residents in particular, in various data relationships and arrangements. Predicting that good data governance policy and practices can address these challenges, the Report proposes a model strategy that grows from commitments where stakeholders will employ trusted data spaces to create respectful and responsible data relationships, where the benefits of data sharing can also be achieved without compromising any stakeholder interests…(More)”.

This Chatbot Democratizes Data to Empower India’s Farmers

Article by Abha Malpani Naismith: “…The lack of access to market price information and reliance on intermediaries to sell on their behalf leaves farmers vulnerable to price exploitation and uncertain returns on their investments.

To solve this, Gramhal is building a data cooperative in India where farmers contribute their information to a data ecosystem, which all farmers can leverage for better informed decision-making…

The social enterprise started the project to democratize data first by using the Indian government’s collected data sets from markets and crops across the country. It then built a chatbot (called Bolbhav) and plugged in that data. Soon about 300,000 farmers were accessing this data set via the chatbot on their mobile phones. 

“We spent no money on marketing — this was all just from word of mouth!” Kaleem said. 

gramhal chatbot provides market data for small farmers in India
Gramhal’s Bolbhav chatbot provides farmers with market data so they know how to fairly price their crops. 

However, Gramhal started getting feedback from farmers that the chatbot was giving them prices three days old and what they wanted was real-time, reliable data. “That is when we realized that we need to work with the power of community and think about a societal network framework where every farmer who is selling can contribute to the data and have access to it,” Kaleem explained. “We needed to find a way where the farmer can send price information about what they are selling by uploading their receipts, and we can aggregate that data across markets and share it with them.”

The solution was an upgraded version of the chatbot called Bolbhav Plus, which Gramhal launched in April 2023…(More)”

Open Government Products (OGP)

About: “We are an experimental development team that builds technology for the public good. This includes everything from building better apps for citizens to automating the internal operations of public agencies. Our role is to accelerate the digital transformation of the Singapore Government by being a space where it can experiment with new tech practices, including new technologies, management techniques, corporate systems, and even cultural norms. Our end goal is that through our work, Singapore becomes a model of how governments can use technology to improve the public good…(More)”.

Riders in the smog

Article by Zuha Siddiqui, Samriddhi Sakuna and Faisal Mahmud: “…To better understand air quality exposure among gig workers in South Asia, Rest of World gave three gig workers — one each in Lahore, New Delhi, and Dhaka — air quality monitors to wear throughout a regular shift in January. The Atmotube Pro monitors continually tracked their exposure to carcinogenic pollutants — specifically PM1, PM2.5, and PM10 (different sizes of particulate matter), and volatile organic compounds such as benzene and formaldehyde.

The data revealed that all three workers were routinely exposed to hazardous levels of pollutants. For PM2.5, referring to particulates that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less — which have been linked to health risks including heart attacks and strokes — all riders were consistently logging exposure levels more than 10 times the World Health Organization’s recommended daily average of 15 micrograms per cubic meter. Manu Sharma, in New Delhi, recorded the highest PM2.5 level of the three riders, hitting 468.3 micrograms per cubic meter around 6 p.m. Lahore was a close second, with Iqbal recording 464.2 micrograms per cubic meter around the same time.

Alongside tracking specific pollutants, the Atmotube Pro gives an overall real-time air quality score (AQS) from 0–100, with zero being the most severely polluted, and 100 being the cleanest. According to Atmo, the company that makes the Atmotube monitors, a reading of 0–20 should be considered a health alert, under which conditions “everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion.” But the three gig workers found their monitors consistently displayed the lowest possible score…(More)”.

The Judicial Data Collaborative

About: “We enable collaborations between researchers, technical experts, practitioners and organisations to create a shared vocabulary, standards and protocols for open judicial data sets, shared infrastructure and resources to host and explain available judicial data.

The objective is to drive and sustain advocacy on the quality and limitations of Indian judicial data and engage the judicial data community to enable cross-learning among various projects…

Accessibility and understanding of judicial data are essential to making courts and tribunals more transparent, accountable and easy to navigate for litigants. In recent years, eCourts services and various Court and tribunals’ websites have made a large volume of data about cases available. This has expanded the window into judicial functioning and enabled more empirical research on the role of courts in the protection of citizen’s rights. Such research can also assist busy courts understand patterns of litigation and practice and can help engage across disciplines with stakeholders to improve functioning of courts.

Some pioneering initiatives in the judicial data landscape include research such as DAKSH’s database; annual India Justice Reports; and studies of court functioning during the pandemic and quality of eCourts data; open datasets including Development Data Lab’s Judicial Data Portal containing District & Taluka court cases (2010-2018) and platforms that collect them such as Justice Hub; and interactive databases such as the Vidhi JALDI Constitution Bench Pendency Project…(More)”.

Enabling Data-Driven Innovation : Learning from Korea’s Data Policies and Practices for Harnessing AI 

Report by the World Bank: “Over the past few decades, the Republic of Korea has consciously undertaken initiatives to transform its economy into a competitive, data-driven system. The primary objectives of this transition were to stimulate economic growth and job creation, enhance the nation’s capacity to withstand adversities such as the aftermath of COVID-19, and position it favorably to capitalize on emerging technologies, particularly artificial intelligence (AI). The Korean government has endeavored to accomplish these objectives through establishing a dependable digital data infrastructure and a comprehensive set of national data policies. This policy note aims to present a comprehensive synopsis of Korea’s extensive efforts to establish a robust digital data infrastructure and utilize data as a key driver for innovation and economic growth. The note additionally addresses the fundamental elements required to realize these benefits of data, including data policies, data governance, and data infrastructure. Furthermore, the note highlights some key results of Korea’s data policies, including the expansion of public data opening, the development of big data platforms, and the growth of the AI Hub. It also mentions the characteristics and success factors of Korea’s data policy, such as government support and the reorganization of institutional infrastructures. However, it acknowledges that there are still challenges to overcome, such as in data collection and utilization as well as transitioning from a government-led to a market-friendly data policy. The note concludes by providing developing countries and emerging economies with specific insights derived from Korea’s forward-thinking policy making that can assist them in harnessing the potential and benefits of data…(More)”.

Why China Can’t Export Its Model of Surveillance

Article by Minxin Pei: “t’s Not the Tech That Empowers Big Brother in Beijing—It’s the Informants…Over the past two decades, Chinese leaders have built a high-tech surveillance system of seemingly extraordinary sophistication. Facial recognition software, Internet monitoring, and ubiquitous video cameras give the impression that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has finally accomplished the dictator’s dream of building a surveillance state like the one imagined in George Orwell’s 1984

A high-tech surveillance network now blankets the entire country, and the potency of this system was on full display in November 2022, when nationwide protests against China’s COVID lockdown shocked the party. Although the protesters were careful to conceal their faces with masks and hats, the police used mobile-phone location data to track them down. Mass arrests followed.

Beijing’s surveillance state is not only a technological feat. It also relies on a highly labor-intensive organization. Over the past eight decades, the CCP has constructed a vast network of millions of informers and spies whose often unpaid work has been critical to the regime’s survival. It is these men and women, more than cameras or artificial intelligence, that have allowed Beijing to suppress dissent. Without a network of this size, the system could not function. This means that, despite the party’s best efforts, the Chinese security apparatus is impossible to export…(More)”.

Eat, Click, Judge: The Rise of Cyber Jurors on China’s Food Apps

Article from Ye Zhanhang: “From unwanted ingredients in takeaway meals and negative restaurant reviews to late deliveries and poor product quality, digital marketplaces teem with minor frustrations. 

But because they affect customer satisfaction and business reputations, several Chinese online shopping platforms have come up with a unique solution: Ordinary users can become “cyber jurors” to deliberate and cast decisive votes in resolving disputes between buyers and sellers.

Though introduced in 2020, the concept has surged in popularity among young Chinese in recent months, primarily fueled by viral cases that users eagerly follow, scrutinizing every detail and deliberation online…

To be eligible for the role, a user must meet certain criteria, including having a verified account, maintaining consumption records within the past three months, and successfully navigating five mock cases as part of an entry test. Cyber jurors don’t receive any money for completing cases but may be rewarded with coupons.

Xianyu, an online secondhand shopping platform, has also introduced a “court” system that assembles a jury of 17 volunteer users to adjudicate disputes between buyers and sellers. 

Miao Mingyu, a law professor at the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Youth Daily that this public jury function, with its impartial third-party perspective, has the potential to enhance transaction transparency and the fairness of the platform’s evaluation system.

Despite Chinese law prohibiting platforms from removing user reviews of products, Miao noted that this feature has enabled the platform to effectively address unfair negative reviews without violating legal constraints…(More)”.