Is Crowdsourcing the Future for Crime Investigation?


Joe Harris in IFSEC Global: “Following April’s Boston Marathon bombings, many people around the world wanted to help in any way they could. Previously, there would have been little but financial assistance that they could have offered.
However, with the advent of high-quality cameras on smartphone devices, and services such as YouTube and Flickr, it was not long before the well-known online collectives such as Reddit and 4chan mobilized members of the public to ask them to review hundreds of thousands of photos and videos taken on the day to try and identify potential suspects….Here in the UK, we recently had the successful launch of Facewatch, and we have seen other regional attempts — such as Greater Manchester Police’s services and appeals app — to use the goodwill of members of the public to help trace, identify, or report suspected criminals and the crimes that they commit.
Does this herald a new era in transparency? Are we seeing the first steps towards a more transparent future where rapid information flow means that there really is nowhere to hide? Or are we instead falling into some Orwellian society construct where people are scared to speak out or think for themselves?”

Public Service Online – Digital by Default or by Detour?


Assessing User Centric eGovernment performance in Europe: Among the key findings:

  1. The most popular services were declaring income taxes (73% of users declare taxes online), moving or changing address (57%) and enrolling in higher education and/or applying for student grant (56%).
  2. While 54% of those surveyed still prefer face-to face contact or other traditional channels, at least 30% of them indicated they could also be regular eGovernment users if more relevant services were provided.
  3. 47% of eGovernment users got all they wanted from online services, 46% only partially received what they were looking for.

The report also signals that improvements are needed to online services for important life events like losing or finding a job, setting up a company and registering for studying.

  1. For people living in their own country, on average more than half of the administrative steps related to these key life events can be carried out online. Websites give information about the remaining steps. However, more transparency and interaction with users is needed to better empower citizens.
  2. The picture is less bright for the almost 2 million people who move or commute between EU Member States. While the majority of Member States provide some information about studying or starting a company from abroad, online registration is less common. Only 9 countries allow citizens from another EU Member State to register to study online, and only 17 countries allow them to take some steps to start a company in this way.”

The Internet as Politicizing Instrument


New Issue of Transformations (Editorial): “This issue of Transformations presents essays responding to Marcus Breen’s recent book Uprising: The Internet’s Unintended Consequences. Breen asks whether the Internet can become a politicising instrument for the new online proletariat – the individualised users isolated by the monitor screen. He asks “if the proletariat can use the Internet, is it freed from the moral and social constraints of the past that were imposed by conventional media and its regulation of the public space?” (32) This question raises further issues. Does this freedom translate into an emancipatory politics where the proletariat is able to pursue its own ends, or does it simply reproduce the power relation between the user-subject and the Internet and those who control and manage it. The articles in this issue respond in various ways to these questions.
Marcus Breen’s own article “The Internet and Privatism: Reconstructing the Monitor Space” makes a case for privatism – the restriction of subjective life to isolated or privatised experience, especially in relation to the computer monitor – as the new modality of meaning making in the Internet era. Using approaches associated with cultural and media studies, the paper traces the way the Internet has influenced the shift in the culture towards values associated with the confluence of ideas around the private, best described by privatism.
Fidele Vlavo’s article investigates the central discourses that have constructed the internet as a democratic and public environment removed from state and corporate control. The aim is to call attention to the issues that have limited the development of the internet as a tool for socio-political empowerment. The paper first retraces the early discursive constructions that insist on representing the internet as a decentralised and open structure. It also questions the role played by the digerati (or cyber elite) in the formulation of contradictory demands for public interests, self-governance, and entrepreneurial rights. Finally, it examines the emergence of two early virtual communities and their attempts to facilitate free speech and self-regulation. In the context of activists advocating freedom of expression and government institutions re-organizing legislation to control the Internet, the examination of these discourses provides a useful starting point for the (re)assessment of the potential of direct online mobilization.
Emit Snake-Being’s article examines the limits of the Internet as a politicising instrument by showing how Internet users are subject to the controls of the search engine algorithm, managed by elite groups whose purpose is to reproduce themselves in terms of neo-liberal capitalism. Invoking recent political events in the Middle East and in London in which a wired proletariat sought to resist and overturn political authorities through Internet communication, Snake-Beings argues that such events are compromised by the fact that they owe their possibility to Internet providers and their commercial imperatives. Snake-Being’s article, as well as most of the other articles in this issue, offers a timely reminder not only of the possibilities, but of the limits of the Internet as a politicising instrument for progressive, emancipatory politics.
Frances Shaw’s paper concerns the way in which the logic of surveillance operates in contested sites in cities where live coverage of demonstrations against capitalism leads to confrontation between demonstrators and police. Through a detailed account of the “Occupy Sydney” demonstration in 2011, Shaw shows how both demonstrators and police engaged in tactics of surveillance and resistance to counter each other’s power and authority. In an age of instant communication and global surveillance, freedom of movement and freedom from surveillance in public spaces is drawn into the logics of power mediated by mobile ‘phones and computer based communication technology.
Karyl Ketchum’s paper offers detailed analysis of two Internet sites to show how the proletarianisation of the Internet is gendered in terms of male interests. Picking up on Breen’s argument that Internet proletarianisation leads to an open system that “supports both anything and anyone,” she argues that, in the domain of online pornography, this new-found freedom turns out to be “the power of computer analytics to harness and hone the shifting meanings of white Western Enlightenment masculinities in new globalising postcolonial contexts, economies and geopolitical struggles.” Furthermore, Ketchum shows how this default to male interests was also at work in American reporting of the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. The YouTube video posted by a young Egyptian woman, Asmaa Mahfouz, which sparked the revolution in Egypt that eventually overthrew the Mubarak government, was not given due coverage by the Western media, so that “women like Mahfouz all but disappear from Western accounts of the Arab Spring.”
Liden and Giritli Nygren’s paper addresses the challenges to the theories of the political sphere posed by a digital society. It is suggested that this is most evident at the intersection between understandings of technology, performativities, and politics that combines empirical closeness with abstract understandings of socio-political and cultural contexts. The paper exemplifies this by reporting on a study of online citizen dialogue in the making, in this case concerning school planning in a Swedish municipality. Applying these theoretical perspectives to this case provides some key findings. The technological design is regarded as restricting the potential dialogue, as is outlined in different themes where the participants enact varying positions—taxpayers, citizen consumers, or local residents. The political analysis stresses a dialogue that lacks both polemic and public perspectives, and rather is characterized by the expression of different special interests. Together, these perspectives can provide the foundation for the development of applying theories in a digital society.
The Internet and Privatism: Reconstructing the Monitor Space (Marcus Breen)
The Digital Hysterias of Decentralisation, Entrepreneurship and Open Community (Fidele Vlavo)
From Ideology to Algorithm: the Opaque Politics of the Internet (Emit Snake-Beings)
“Walls of Seeing”: Protest Surveillance, Embodied Boundaries, and Counter-Surveillance at Occupy Sydney (Frances Shaw)
Gendered Uprisings: Desire, Revolution, and the Internet’s “Unintended Consequences”(Karyl E. Ketchum)
Analysing the Intersections between Technology, Performativity, and Politics: the Case of Local Citizen Dialogue (Gustav Lidén and Katarina Giritli Nygren)”

CrowdingIn


CrowdingINA crowdfunding directory by UK’s Nesta…: “Crowdfunding, the method of sourcing funds from large numbers of people, has been growing quickly worldwide in recent years and has the potential to revolutionise the world of finance, creating new opportunities to fund everything from new products and businesses to community projects. As the market grows, so too does the number of sites (or ‘platforms’) that facilitate the exchange between the crowd of funders and those seeking finance. To help you find the platform most suited to your financing needs, this directory lists information on those platforms currently open to fundraising from individuals and businesses in the UK.”

Putin Puts OGP Entry on Hold


Moscow Times: ” President Vladimir Putin has postponed Russia’s entry into the Open Government Partnership planned for the second half of this year, a news report said Monday.
“We are not talking about winding up plans to join, but corrections in timing and the scale of participation are possible,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant.
OGP is an international partnership with over 50 member states aimed at promoting human rights, budget transparency and fighting corruption.
In December, Medvedev had confirmed plans to join the partnership in Sept. 2013 noting that Russia needs membership for its own benefit, and not for the sake of becoming “part of a global shindig”.
Open Government Minister Mikhail Abyzov said Russia will join the organization if the latter implements the newcomer’s recommendations, namely, linking transparency assessments provided by the OGP to investment ratings, Kommersant said.
Furthermore, Russia proposes expanding the OGP’s format, increasing the number of member and observer states, as well as changing the principles of financing the organization.”

Crowdfunding gives rise to projects truly in public domain


USA Today: “Crowdfunding, the cyberpractice of pooling individuals’ money for a cause, so far has centered on private enterprise. It’s now spreading to public spaces and other community projects that are typically the domain of municipalities.

The global reach and speed of the Internet are raising not just money but awareness and galvanizing communities.

SmartPlanet.com recently reported that crowdfunding capital projects is gaining momentum, giving communities part ownership of everything from a 66-story downtown skyscraper in Bogota to a bridge in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Several websites such as neighborland.com and neighbor.ly are platforms to raise money for projects ranging from planting fruit trees in San Francisco to building a playground that accommodates disabled children in Parsippany, N.J.

“Community groups are increasingly ready to challenge cities’ plans,” says Bryan Boyer, an independent consultant and adviser to The Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA, a think tank. “We’re all learning to live in the context of a networked society.”

Crowdfund
Crowdfunder, which connects entrepreneurs and investors globally, just launched a local version — CROWDFUNDx.”

UK Report: Public Data Will Boost Business


Tech Europe (WSJ): “The report into public data commissioned by the department for Business, Innovation and Skills  said that creating an open national database would benefit both the U.K.’s private and public sectors. Data will be a core resource in the future, said Stephan Shakespeare, chair of the U.K.’s Data Strategy Board and the report’s author….
An analysis by Deloitte accompanying Mr. Shakespeare’s report calculated that the use of public data in 2011-2012 had added up to £7.2 billion ($11 billion) to the U.K. economy. In one case, opening up live transport information from Transport for London had saved Londoners working time valued at up £58 million in one year alone, Deloitte calculated. Opening up more public data would unlock more value, said the accountants.
In the document, which the government will respond to this summer, Mr. Shakespeare outlines a strategy for how the government could open access to everything from trash-collection data to information on heart treatments.”

How Estonia became E-stonia


Tim Mansel from BBC News: “In some countries, computer programming might be seen as the realm of the nerd.

But not in Estonia, where it is seen as fun, simple and cool.
This northernmost of the three Baltic states, a small corner of the Soviet Union until 1991, is now one of the most internet-dependent countries in the world.
And Estonian schools are teaching children as young as seven how to programme computers….
better known is Skype, an Estonian start-up long since gone global.
Skype was bought by Microsoft in 2011 for a cool $8.5bn, but still employs 450 people at its local headquarters on the outskirts of Tallinn, roughly a quarter of its total workforce. Tiit Paananen, from Skype, says they are passionate about education and that it works closely with Estonian universities and secondary schools….
Estonians today vote online and pay tax online. Their health records are online and, using what President Ilves likes to call a “personal access key” – others refer to it as an ID card – they can pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy. The card offers access to a wide range of other services.
All this will be second nature to the youngest generation of E-stonians. They encounter electronic communication as soon as they enter school through the eKool (e-school) system. Exam marks, homework assignments and attendance in class are all available to parents at the click of a mouse.”

When the Crowd Fights Corruption


New Harvard Business School Research Paper by Paul Healy and Karthik Ramanna  (Harvard Business Review): “Corruption is the greatest impediment to conducting business in Russia, according to leaders recently surveyed by the World Economic Forum. Indeed, it’s a problem in many emerging markets, and businesses have a role to play in combating it, according to Healy and Ramanna. The authors focus on RosPil — an anticorruption entity in Russia set up by Alexey Navalny, a crusader against public and private malfeasance in that country. As of December 2011, RosPil claimed to have prevented the granting of dubious contracts worth US$1.3 billion. The organization holds corrupt politicians’ and bureaucrats’ feet to the fire largely through internet-based crowdsourcing, whereby often-anonymous people identify requests for government-issued tenders that are designed to generate kickbacks. Should entities like RosPil be supported, and should companies fashion their own responses to corruption? On the one hand, there are obvious public-relations and political risks; on the other hand, corruption can erode a firm’s competitiveness, the trust of customers and employees, and even the very legitimacy of capitalism. The authors argue that heads of many multinational companies are well positioned to combat corruption in emerging markets. Those leaders have the power to enforce policies in their organizations and networks, and they enjoy the ability to organize others in the industry against this pernicious threat.”

Technology and Economic Prosperity


EDUARDO PORTER in The New York Times: “The impact of a technological innovation depends on how deeply it embeds itself in everything we do.
Earlier this month, a couple of economists at the Harvard Business School and the Toulouse School of Economics in France produced a paper asking “If Technology Has Arrived Everywhere, Why Has Income Diverged?” Economic prosperity, they noted, is ultimately driven by technological innovation. So if technologies today spread much more quickly than they used to from rich to poor countries, how come the income divide between rich and poor nations remains so large?
It took 119 years, on average, for the spindle to spread outside of Europe to the poorer reaches of the late-18th-century world, according to the authors. The Internet encircled the globe in seven. One might expect that this would have helped developing countries catch up with the richest nations at the frontier of technology
The reason that this did not happen, the authors propose, is that despite spreading faster, new technologies have not embedded themselves as deeply, measured by their prevalence, relative to the size of the economy. “The divergence in the degree of assimilation of technologies started about 100 years ago,” observed Diego Comin of Harvard Business School, one of the authors.”