Smart Citizens


FutureEverything: “This publication aims to shift the debate on the future of cities towards the central place of citizens, and of decentralised, open urban infrastructures. It provides a global perspective on how cities can create the policies, structures and tools to engender a more innovative and participatory society. The publication contains a series of 23 short essays representing some of the key voices developing an emerging discourse around Smart Citizens.  Contributors include:

  • Dan Hill, Smart Citizens pioneer and CEO of communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio Fabrica on why Smart Citizens Make Smart Cities.
  • Anthony Townsend, urban planner, forecaster and author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia on the tensions between place-making and city-making on the role of mobile technologies in changing the way that people interact with their surroundings.
  • Paul Maltby, Director of the Government Innovation Group and of the Open Data and Transparency in the UK Cabinet Office on how government can support a smarter society.
  • Aditya Dev Sood, Founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies, presents polarised hypothetical futures for India in 2025 that argues for the use of technology to bridge gaps in social inequality.
  • Adam Greenfield, New York City-based writer and urbanist, on Recuperating the Smart City.

Editors: Drew Hemment, Anthony Townsend
Download Here.

Open Data Index provides first major assessment of state of open government data


Press Release from the Open Knowledge Foundation: “In the week of a major international summit on government transparency in London, the Open Knowledge Foundation has published its 2013 Open Data Index, showing that governments are still not providing enough information in an accessible form to their citizens and businesses.
The UK and US top the 2013 Index, which is a result of community-based surveys in 70 countries. They are followed by Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Of the countries assessed, Cyprus, St Kitts & Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, Kenya and Burkina Faso ranked lowest. There are many countries where the governments are less open but that were not assessed because of lack of openness or a sufficiently engaged civil society. This includes 30 countries who are members of the Open Government Partnership.
The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of information in ten key areas, including government spending, election results, transport timetables, and pollution levels, and reveals that whilst some good progress is being made, much remains to be done.
Rufus Pollock, Founder and CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation said:

Opening up government data drives democracy, accountability and innovation. It enables citizens to know and exercise their rights, and it brings benefits across society: from transport, to education and health. There has been a welcome increase in support for open data from governments in the last few years, but this Index reveals that too much valuable information is still unavailable.

The UK and US are leaders on open government data but even they have room for improvement: the US for example does not provide a single consolidated and open register of corporations, while the UK Electoral Commission lets down the UK’s good overall performance by not allowing open reuse of UK election data.
There is a very disappointing degree of openness of company registers across the board: only 5 out of the 20 leading countries have even basic information available via a truly open licence, and only 10 allow any form of bulk download. This information is critical for range of reasons – including tackling tax evasion and other forms of financial crime and corruption.
Less than half of the key datasets in the top 20 countries are available to re-use as open data, showing that even the leading countries do not fully understand the importance of citizens and businesses being able to legally and technically use, reuse and redistribute data. This enables them to build and share commercial and non-commercial services.
To see the full results: https://index.okfn.org. For graphs of the data: https://index.okfn.org/visualisations.”

Text messages are saving Swedes from cardiac arrest


Philip A. Stephenson in Quartz: “Sweden has found a faster way to treat people experiencing cardiac emergencies through a text message and a few thousand volunteers.

A program called SMSlivräddare, (or SMSLifesaver) (link in Swedish) solicits people who’ve been trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). When a Stockholm resident dials 112 for emergency services, a text message is sent to all volunteers within 500 meters of the person in need. The volunteer then arrives at the location within the crucial first minutes to perform lifesaving CPR. The odds for surviving cardiac arrest drop 10% for every minute it takes first responders to arrive…

With ambulance resources stretched thin, the average response time is some eight minutes, allowing SMS-livräddare-volunteers to reach victims before ambulances in 54% of cases.

Through a combination of techniques, including SMS-livräddare, Stockholm County has seen survival rates after cardiac arrest rise from 3% to nearly 11%, over the last decade. Local officials have also enlisted fire and police departments to respond to cardiac emergencies, but the Lifesavers routinely arrive before them as well.

Currently 9,600 Stockholm residents are registered SMS-livräddare-volunteers and there are plans to continue to increase enrollment. An estimated 200,000 Swedes have completed the necessary CPR training, and could, potentially, join the program….

Medical officials in other countries, including Scotland, are now considering similar community-based programs for cardiac arrest.”

7 Tactics for 21st-Century Cities


Abhi Nemani, co-director of Code for America: “Be it the burden placed on them by shrinking federal support, or the opportunity presented by modern technology, 21st-century cities are finding new ways to do things. For four years, Code for America has worked with dozens of cities, each finding creative ways to solve neighborhood problems, build local capacity and steward a national network. These aren’t one-offs. Cities are championing fundamental, institutional reforms to commit to an ongoing innovation agenda.
Here are a few of the ways how:

  1. …Create an office of new urban mechanics or appoint a chief innovation officer…
  2. …Appoint a chief data officer or create an office of performance management/enhancement…
  3. …Adopt the Gov.UK Design Principles, and require plain, human language on every interface….
  4. …Share open source technology with a sister city or change procurement rules to make it easier to redeploy civic tech….
  5. …Work with the local civic tech community and engage citizens for their feedback on city policy through events, tech and existing forums…
  6. …Create an open data policy and adopt open data specifications…
  7. …Attract tech talent into city leadership, and create training opportunities citywide to level up the tech literacy for city staff…”

From open data to open democracy


Article by : “Such debates further underscore the complexities of open data and where it might lead. While open data may be viewed by some inside and outside government as a technically-focused and largely incremental project based upon information formatting and accessibility (with the degree of openness subject to a myriad of security and confidentiality provisions), such an approach greatly limits its potential. Indeed, the growing ubiquity of mobile and smart devices, the advent of open source operating systems and social media platforms, and the growing commitment by governments themselves to expansive public engagement objectives, all suggest a widening scope.
Yet, what will incentivize the typical citizen to access open data and to partake in collective efforts to create public value? It is here where our digital culture may well fall short, emphasizing individualized service and convenience at the expense of civic responsibility and community-mindedness. For one American academic, this “citizenship deficit” erodes democratic legitimacy and renders our politics more polarized and less discursive. For other observers in Europe, notions of the digital divide are giving rise to new “data divides.”
The politics and practicalities of data privacy often bring further confusion. While privacy advocates call for greater protection and a culture of data activism among Internet users themselves, the networked ethos of online communities and commercialization fuels speed and sharing, often with little understanding of the ramifications of doing so. Differences between consumerism and citizenship are subtle yet profoundly important, while increasingly blurred and overlooked.
A key conundrum provincially and federally, within the Westminster confines of parliamentary democracy, is that open data is being hatched mainly from within the executive branch, whereas the legislative branch watches and withers. In devising genuine democratic openness, politicians and their parties must do more than post expenses online: they must become partners and advocates for renewal. A lesson of open source technology, however, is that systemic change demands an informed and engaged civil society, disgruntled with the status quo but also determined to act anew.
Most often, such actions are highly localized, even in a virtual world, giving rise to the purpose and meaning of smarter and more intelligent communities. And in Canada it bears noting that we see communities both large and small embracing open data and other forms of online experimentation such as participatory budgeting. It is often within small but connected communities where a virtuous cycle of online and in-person identities and actions can deepen and impact decision-making most directly.
How, then, do we reconcile traditional notions of top-down political federalism and national leadership with this bottom-up approach to community engagement and democratic renewal? Shifting from open data to open democracy is likely to be an uneven, diverse, and at times messy affair. Better this way than attempting to ordain top-down change in a centralized and standardized manner.”

The small-world effect is a modern phenomenon


New paper by Seth A. Marvel, Travis Martin, Charles R. Doering, David Lusseau, M. E. J. Newman: “The “small-world effect” is the observation that one can find a short chain of acquaintances, often of no more than a handful of individuals, connecting almost any two people on the planet. It is often expressed in the language of networks, where it is equivalent to the statement that most pairs of individuals are connected by a short path through the acquaintance network. Although the small-world effect is well-established empirically for contemporary social networks, we argue here that it is a relatively recent phenomenon, arising only in the last few hundred years: for most of mankind’s tenure on Earth the social world was large, with most pairs of individuals connected by relatively long chains of acquaintances, if at all. Our conclusions are based on observations about the spread of diseases, which travel over contact networks between individuals and whose dynamics can give us clues to the structure of those networks even when direct network measurements are not available. As an example we consider the spread of the Black Death in 14th-century Europe, which is known to have traveled across the continent in well-defined waves of infection over the course of several years. Using established epidemiological models, we show that such wave-like behavior can occur only if contacts between individuals living far apart are exponentially rare. We further show that if long-distance contacts are exponentially rare, then the shortest chain of contacts between distant individuals is on average a long one. The observation of the wave-like spread of a disease like the Black Death thus implies a network without the small-world effect.”

Bright Spots of open government to be recognised at global summit


Press Release of the UK Cabinet Office: “The 7 shortlisted initiatives vying for the Bright Spots award show how governments in Open Government Partnership countries are working with citizens to sharpen governance, harness new technologies to increase public participation and improve government responsiveness.
At the Open Government Partnership summit in London on 31 October 2013 and 1 November 2013, participants will be able to vote for one of the shortlisted projects. The winning project – the Bright Spot – will be announced in the summit’s final plenary session….
The shortlisted entries for the Bright Spots prize – which will be awarded at the London summit – are:

  • Chile – ChileAtiende

The aim of ChileAtiende has been to simplify government to citizens by providing a one-stop shop for accessing public services. Today, ChileAtiende has more than 190 offices across the whole country, a national call centre and a digital platform, through which citizens can access multiple services and benefits without having to navigate multiple government offices.

  • Estonia – People’s Assembly

The People’s Assembly is a deliberative democracy tool, designed to encourage input from citizens on the government’s legislative agenda. This web-based platform allows ordinary citizens to propose policy solutions to problems including fighting corruption. Within 3 weeks, 1,800 registered users posted nearly 6,000 ideas and comments. Parliament has since set a timetable for the most popular proposals to be introduced in the formal proceedings.

  • Georgia – improvements to the Freedom of Information Act

Civil society organisations in Georgia have successfully used the government’s participation in OGP to advocate improvements to the country’s Freedom of Information legislation. Government agencies are now obliged to proactively publish information in a way that is accessible to anyone, and to establish an electronic request system for information.

  • Indonesia – complaints portal

LAPOR! (meaning “to report” in Indonesian) is a social media channel where Indonesian citizens can submit complaints and enquiries about development programmes and public services. Comments are transferred directly to relevant ministries or government agencies, which can respond via the website. LAPOR! now has more than 225,350 registered users and receives an average of 1,435 inputs per day.

  • Montenegro – Be Responsible app

“Be Responsible” is a mobile app that allows citizens to report local problems – from illegal waste dumps, misuse of official vehicles and irregular parking, to failure to comply with tax regulations and issues over access to healthcare and education.

  • Philippines – citizen audits

The Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) project is exploring ways in which citizens can be directly engaged in the audit process for government projects and contribute to ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public resources. 4 pilot audits are in progress, covering public works, welfare, environment and education projects.

  • Romania – transparency in public sector recruitment

The PublicJob.ro website was set up to counter corruption and lack of transparency in civil service recruitment. PublicJob.ro takes recruitment data from public organisations and e-mails it to more than 20,000 subscribers in a weekly newsletter. As a result, it has become more difficult to manipulate the recruitment process.”

Talking About a (Data) Revolution


Dave Banisar at Article 19: “It is important to recognize the utility that data can bring. Data can ease analysis, reveal important patterns and facilitate comparisons. For example, the Transactional Access Clearing House (TRAC – http://www.trac.org) at Syracuse University uses data sets from the US Department of Justice to analyze how the federal government enforces its criminal and civil laws, showing how laws are applied differently across the US.
The (somewhat ICT-companies manufactured) excitement over “E-government” in the late 1990s imagined a brave new e-world where governments would quickly and easily provide needed information and services to their citizens. This was presented as an alternative to the “reactive” and “confrontational” right to information laws but eventually led to the realization that ministerial web pages and the ability to pay tickets online did not lead to open government. Singapore ranks near the top every year on e-government but is clearly not an ‘open government’. Similarly, it is important to recognize that governments providing data through voluntary measures is not enough.
For open data to promote open government, it needs to operate within a framework of law and regulation that ensures that information is collected, organized and stored and then made public in a timely, accurate and useful form.   The information must be more than just what government bodies find useful to release, but what is important for the public to know to ensure that those bodies are accountable.
Otherwise, it is in danger of just being propaganda, subject to manipulation to make government bodies look good. TRAC has had to sue the USA federal government dozens of times under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the government data and after they publish it, some government bodies still claim that the information is incorrect.  Voluntary systems of publication usually fail when they potentially embarrass the bodies doing the publication.
In the countries where open data has been most successful such as the USA and UK, there also exists a legal right to demand information which keeps bodies honest. Most open government laws around the world now have requirements for affirmative publication of key information and they are slowly being amended to include open data requirements to ensure that the information is more easily usable.
Where there is no or weak open government laws, many barriers can obstruct open data. In Kenya, which has been championing their open data portal while being slow to adopt a law on freedom of information, a recent review found that the portal was stagnating. In part, the problem was that in the absence of laws mandating openness, there remains a culture of secrecy and fear of releasing information.
Further, mere access to data is not enough to ensure informed participation by citizens and enable their ability to affect decision-making processes.  Legal rights to all information held by governments – right to information laws – are essential to tell the “why”. RTI reveals how and why decisions and policy are made – secret meetings, questionable contracts, dubious emails and other information. These are essential elements for oversight and accountability. Being able to document why a road was built for political reasons is as crucial for change as recognizing that it’s in the wrong place. The TRAC users, mostly journalists, use the system as a starting point to ask questions or why enforcement is so uneven or taxes are not being collected. They need sources and open government laws to ask these questions.
Of course, even open government laws are not enough. There needs to be strong rights for citizen consultation and participation and the ability to enforce those rights, such as is mandated by the UNECE Convention on Access to Environment Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice (Aarhus Convention). A protocol to that convention has led to a Europe-wide data portal on environmental pollution.
For open data to be truly effective, there needs to be a right to information enshrined in law that requires that information is made available in a timely, reliable format that people want, not just what the government body wants to release. And it needs to be backed up with rights of engagement and participation. From this open data can flourish.  The OGP needs to refocus on the building blocks of open government – good law and policy – and not just the flashy apps.”

Choose Your Own Route on Finland's Algorithm-Driven Public Bus


Brian Merchant at Motherboard: “Technology should probably be transforming public transit a lot faster than it is. Yes, apps like Hopstop have made finding stops easier and I’ve started riding the bus in unfamiliar parts of town a bit more often thanks to Google Maps’ route info. But these are relatively small steps, and it’s all limited to making scheduling information more widely available. Where’s the innovation on the other side? Where’s the Uber-like interactivity, the bus that comes to you after a tap on the iPhone?
In Finland, actually. The Kutsuplus is Helsinki’s groundbreaking mass transit hybrid program that lets riders choose their own routes, pay for fares on their phones, and summon their own buses. It’s a pretty interesting concept. With a ten minute lead time, you summon a Kutsuplus bus to a stop using the official app, just as you’d call a livery cab on Uber. Each minibus in the fleet seats at least nine people, and there’s room for baby carriages and bikes.
You can call your own private Kutsuplus, but if you share the ride, you share the costs—it’s about half the price of a cab fare, and a dollar or two more expensive than old school bus transit. You can then pick your own stop, also using the app.
The interesting part is the scheduling, which is entirely automated. If you’re sharing the ride, an algorithm determines the most direct route, and you only get charged as though you were riding solo. You can pay with a Kutsuplus wallet on the app, or, eventually, bill the charge to your phone bill.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee: The many meanings of Open


Sir Tim Berners-Lee; ” I was recently asked to talk about the idea of “open”, and I realized the term is used in at least eight different ways. The distinct interpretations are all important in different but interlocking ways. Getting them confused leads to a lot of misunderstanding, so it’s good to review them all.
When we tease apart their meanings, we can understand more clearly which aspects of each are the most important. The first, one of the most important forms of openness for the Web, is its universality.
Universality – When I designed the Web protocols, I had already seen many networked information systems fail because they made some assumptions about the users – that they were using a particular type of computer for instance – or constrained the way they worked, such as forcing them to organize their data in a particular way, or to use a particular data format. The Web had to avoid these issues. The goal was that anyone should be able to publish anything on the Web and so it had to be universal in that it was independent of all these technical constraints, as well as language, character sets, and culture….
Open Standards
The actual design of the Web involved the creation of open standards – and getting people to agree to use them globally. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), of which I am the Director, helps create interoperable standards for Web technology, including HTML5, mobile Web, graphics, the Semantic Web of linked data, and Web accessibility. Any company can join and anyone can review and help create the specifications for the Web….
Open Web Platform (OWP)
W3C’s Open Web Platform is the name for a particular set of open standards which enable an exciting stage of Web computing. Standards such as HTML5, SVG, CSS, video, JavaScript, and others are advancing together so that programmes that once worked only on desktop, tablets or phones can now work from  within the browser itself. It has all the power of HTML5, like easily-inserted video and, in the future, easily-inserted conferences. It also features the APIs for accessing hardware and other capabilities on the device, such as a smartphone’s accelerometer, camera, and local storage. While native apps are limited, Web Apps can work on any platform….
Open Government through Open Data
In 2009, I resolved to encourage more use of data on the Web. Too many websites could generate nice reports as documents, but had no way to access the data behind it to check and build on the results.  In February that year I stood up in front of a TED audience and asked them for their data; I even got them to chant: “raw data now”.  In April that year, I met with Gordon Brown, then Prime Minister of the UK and with him began the UK Government’s ground-breaking work on Open Data. That same year President Barack Obama announced his commitment to the US Open Government Initiative. In 2010 I went back to TED and showed the audience some of what had been achieved, including Open Street Map’s role in relief efforts in Haiti….
Open Platform
While it’s not really a feature of the Web, a concern for a lot of people is whether they can choose which apps run on their own phone or computer. An Open Platform means having the right to install and write software on your computer or device. One motivation to close off a computing platform comes from a manufacturer wanting to allow you to experience their content on your machine without being able to store it or pass it on. Some systems are very closed, in that the user can only watch a movie or play a game, with no chance to copy anything or back it up. Some systems are very open, allowing users to take copies of files and run any application they like. Many systems fall in between, letting users pay for additional material or an experience…
Open Source
“Open Source” is another way “open” is used on the web, one which has been and is very important to the Web’s growth. It’s important to me that I can get at the source code of any software I’m using. If I can get at the source code, can I modify it? Can I distribute the modified code and run it on my machine?  As Free Software Foundation lead Richard Stallman puts it, “free as in freedom rather than free as in beer”.
Open Access
Open Access is a Web-based movement specifically about free (as in beer) access to the body of academic learning. Governments, and therefore taxpayers, pay for research via grants but often the results of the research are kept in closed-access academic journals. The results are only available to those at big universities. The poor and those in remote rural areas cannot participate…
Open Internet and Net Neutrality
When we talk about keeping the internet free and open, we are often worried about blocking and spying. One of the ways in which we protect the Web is by ensuring Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is about non-discrimination. Its principle is that if I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or a greater quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. This is important because it allows an open, fair market. It’s essential to an open, fair democracy. The alternative is a Web in which governments or large companies, or frequently a close association of the two, try to control the internet, with packets of information delivered in a way that discriminates for commercial or political reasons. Regimes of every sort spy on their citizens, deriving hugely accurate and detailed profiles of them and their intimate lives. Today, the battle is building.  The rights of individual people on the Web are being attacked, and at the moment only a few people really understand and realize what is going on.”