How can interoperability stimulate the use of digital public services? An analysis of national interoperability frameworks and e-Government in the European Union

Article by Alexandra Campmas, Nadina Iacob and Felice Simonelli: “This article explores the role of interoperability in the development of digital public services in Europe, analyzing the effects of an European Union (EU)-level initiative (the European interoperability framework, EIF) and the development of e-Government services on how citizens interact online with public administrations. The EIF is a common EU framework providing guidance on public sector interoperability. EU countries are not mandated to follow the EIF, but they are encouraged to take up its guidance in their respective national interoperability frameworks (NIFs). Against this background, this article tests two hypotheses: (a) the introduction of NIFs facilitates the online interaction between citizens and public administrations and (b) better e-Government services encourage citizens to interact online with public administrations. Both hypotheses are confirmed by a panel data analysis covering 26 European countries over the period 2012–2019. The analysis relies on a dummy variable reflecting the adoption of NIFs, built by carefully examining official documents of the countries in the scope of the analysis. Based on the empirical results, this article puts forward two main policy recommendations. First, efforts to improve e-Government services across Europe should be intensified in order to support the overarching digital agenda of the EU and increase benefits for European citizens. Second, interoperability should become a central element when designing new digital public services. Therefore, the European Commission could foster a common approach to interoperability of digital public services across the EU by strengthening the governance of interoperability initiatives and encouraging the adoption of specific interoperability requirements…(More)”.

Citizen science and the potential for mobility policy – Introducing the Bike Barometer

Paper by Tom Storme et al: “In this paper, we report on a citizen science pilot project involving adolescents who digitize and assess their daily home-to-school routes in different school neighborhoods in Flanders (Belgium). As part of this pilot project, a web-based platform, called the “Bike Barometer” (“Fietsbarometer” in Dutch) was developed. We introduce the tool in this paper and summarize the insights gained from the pilot. From the official launch of the platform in March until the end of the pilot in June 2020, 1,256 adolescents from 31 schools digitized 5657 km of roads, of which 3,750 km were evaluated for cycling friendliness and safety. The added value and potential of citizen science in general and the platform in particular are illustrated. The results offer detailed (spatial) insights into local safety conditions for Flanders and for specific school neighborhoods. The potential for mobility policy is twofold: (i) the cycling friendliness and traffic flows in school environments can be monitored over time and (ii) the platform has the potential to create local ecosystems of adolescents and teachers (both considered citizen scientists here) and policymakers. Two key pitfalls are identified as well: the need for a critical mass of citizen scientists and a minimum level of commitment required from local policymakers. By illustrating the untapped potential of citizen science, we argue that the intersection between citizen science and local policymaking in the domain of mobility deserves much more attention….(More)”.

Barcelona bets on ‘digital twin’ as future of city planning

Article by Aitor Hernández-Morales: “In five years’ time, the structure of Europe’s cities won’t be decided in local town halls but inside a quiet 19th-century chapel in a leafy neighborhood of Barcelona.

Housed in the deconsecrated Torre Girona chapel, the MareNostrum supercomputer — one of the world’s most powerful data processors — is already busily analyzing how to improve city planning in Barcelona.

Barcelona is using data to track access to primary health care centers throughout the city | BSC

“We’re using the supercomputer to make sure the urban planning process isn’t just based on clever ideas and good intentions, but on data that allows us to anticipate its impacts and avoid the negative ones,” said Barcelona Deputy Mayor Laia Bonet, who is in charge of the city’s digital transition, climate goals and international partnerships.

As part of a pilot project launched with the Italian city of Bologna earlier this year, Barcelona has created a data-based replica of itself — a digital twin — where it can trial run potential city planning projects.

“Instead of implementing flawed policies and then have to go back and correct them, we’re saving time by making sure those decisions are right before we execute them,” said Bonet.

Although the scheme is still in its test phase, Bonet said she expects the city’s high-tech approach to urban development will soon be the norm in cities across the EU.

“Within a five-year horizon I expect to see this as a basic urban planning tool,” she said.

Looking for blindspots

Barcelona’s popular superilles, or “superblocks,” are a prime example of an urban scheme that could have benefited from data modelling in the planning stages, according to Bonet.

Since 2014 the city has been creating mini-neighborhoods where through-traffic and on-street parking is all but banned, with the goal of establishing a “network of green hubs and squares where pedestrians have priority.” The superblocks were also touted as a way to help tackle air pollution, which is directly responsible for over 1,000 deaths in Barcelona each year…(More)”.

Public Data Commons: A public-interest framework for B2G data sharing in the Data Act

Policy Brief by Alek Tarkowski & Francesco Vogelezang: “It is by now a truism that data is a crucial resource in the digital era. Yet today access to data and the capacity to make use of data and to benefit from it are unevenly distributed. A new understanding of data is needed, one that takes into account a society-wide data sharing and value creation. This will solve power asymmetries related to data ownership and the capacity to use it, and fill the public value gap with regard to data-driven growth and innovation.

Public institutions are also in a unique position to safeguard the rule of law, ensure democratic control and accountability, and drive the use of data to generate non-economic value.

The “data sharing for public good” narratives have been presented for over a decade, arguing that privately-owned big data should be used for the public interest. The idea of the commons has attracted the attention of policymakers interested in developing institutional responses that can advance public interest goals. The concept of the data commons offers a generative model of property that is well-aligned with the ambitions of the European data strategy. And by employing the idea of the data commons, the public debate can be shifted beyond an opposition between treating data as a commodity or protecting it as the object of fundamental rights.

The European Union is uniquely positioned to deliver a data governance framework that ensures Business-to-Government (B2G) data sharing in the public interest. The policy vision for such a framework has been presented in the European strategy for data, and specific recommendations for a robust B2G data sharing model have been made by the Commission’s high-level expert group.

There are three connected objectives that must be achieved through a B2G data sharing framework. Firstly, access to data and the capacity to make use of it needs to be ensured for a broader range of actors. Secondly, exclusive corporate control over data needs to be reduced. And thirdly, the information power of the state and its generative capacity should be strengthened.

Yet the current proposal for the Data Act fails to meet these goals, due to a narrow B2G data sharing mandate limited only to situations of public emergency and exceptional need.

This policy brief therefore presents a model for public interest B2G data sharing, aimed to complement the current proposal. This framework would also create a robust baseline for sectoral regulations, like the recently proposed Regulation on the European Health Data Space. The proposal includes the creation of the European Public Data Commons, a body that acts as a recipient and clearinghouse for the data made available…(More)”.

“Co-construction” in Deliberative Democracy: Lessons from the French Citizens’ Convention for Climate

Paper by L.G. Giraudet et al: “Launched in 2019, the French Citizens’ Convention for Climate (CCC) tasked 150 randomly-chosen citizens with proposing fair and effective measures to fight climate change. This was to be fulfilled through an “innovative co-construction procedure,” involving some unspecified external input alongside that from the citizens. Did inputs from the steering bodies undermine the citizens’ accountability for the output? Did co-construction help the output resonate with the general public, as is expected from a citizens’ assembly? To answer these questions, we build on our unique experience in observing the CCC proceedings and documenting them with qualitative and quantitative data. We find that the steering bodies’ input, albeit significant, did not impair the citizens’ agency, creativity and freedom of choice. While succeeding in creating consensus among the citizens who were involved, this co-constructive approach however failed to generate significant support among the broader public. These results call for a strengthening of the commitment structure that determines how follow-up on the proposals from a citizens’ assembly should be conducted…(More)”.

Systems thinking for civil servants

UK Gov: “The guidance is intended for civil servants working all over government, regardless of grade, department, background or profession.

The documents include:

  • an introduction to systems thinking, a short summary of what systems thinking is, when it is useful and why it can be beneficial to your work
  • the systems thinking journey, which expands on the content within the introduction to systems thinking and maps 5 systems thinking principles to different stages of the policy design process
  • the systems thinking toolkit, which contains step-by-step instructions on how to use 11 systems thinking tools
  • the systems thinking case study bank, which contains a collection of 14 personal testimonials from civil servants on their experiences of using systems thinking in their work

This suite of documents aims to act as a springboard into systems thinking for civil servants unfamiliar with this approach. We introduce a small sample of systems thinking concepts and tools, chosen due to their accessibility and alignment to civil service policy development, but which is by no means comprehensive. We hope this acts as a first step towards using systems thinking approaches to solve complex problems and we strongly encourage the reader to go on to explore the wider systems thinking field further. These documents are ‘beta versions’ which we hope to update in the future in response to user feedback….(More)”.

Can politicians and citizens deliberate together? Evidence from a local deliberative mini-public

Paper by Kimmo Grönlund, Kaisa Herne, Maija Jäske, and Mikko Värttö: “In a deliberative mini-public, a representative number of citizens receive information and discuss given policy topics in facilitated small groups. Typically, mini-publics are most effective politically and can have the most impact on policy-making when they are connected to democratic decision-making processes. Theorists have put forward possible mechanisms that may enhance this linkage, one of which is involving politicians within mini-publics with citizens. However, although much research to date has focussed on mini-publics with many citizen participants, there is little analysis of mini-publics with politicians as coparticipants. In this study, we ask how involving politicians in mini-publics influences both participating citizens’ opinions and citizens’ and politicians’ perceptions of the quality of the mini-public deliberations. We organised an online mini-public, together with the City of Turku, Finland, on the topic of transport planning. The participants (n = 171) were recruited from a random sample and discussed the topic in facilitated small groups (n = 21). Pre- and postdeliberation surveys were collected. The effect of politicians on mini-publics was studied using an experimental intervention: in half of the groups, local politicians (two per group) participated, whereas in the other half, citizens deliberated among themselves. Although we found that the participating citizens’ opinions changed, no trace of differences between the two treatment groups was reported. We conclude that politicians, at least when they are in a clear minority in the deliberating small groups, can deliberate with citizens without negatively affecting internal inclusion and the quality of deliberation within mini-publics….(More)”.

GDPR and the Lost Generation of Innovative Apps

Paper by Rebecca Janßen, Reinhold Kesler, Michael E. Kummer & Joel Waldfogel: “Using data on 4.1 million apps at the Google Play Store from 2016 to 2019, we document that GDPR induced the exit of about a third of available apps; and in the quarters following implementation, entry of new apps fell by half. We estimate a structural model of demand and entry in the app market. Comparing long-run equilibria with and without GDPR, we find that GDPR reduces consumer surplus and aggregate app usage by about a third. Whatever the privacy benefits of GDPR, they come at substantial costs in foregone innovation…(More)”.

The power of data: how Helsinki is improving citizens’ lives

WEF Blog: “New technologies, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and the metaverse, demand data as the foundational resource for solving systemic challenges, from pandemic response to climate change. Yet despite an abundance of both supply and demand, the evolution from data to insight still presents many challenges.

On the one hand, data often remains siloed within territorial boundaries and corporate environments and is unavailable to benefit people, society and the planet. On the other, the type of governance needed to assure proper oversight, transparency and accountability by those using data is still being understood.

As the data universe expands, it becomes exponentially more complex, requiring solutions that integrate political, economic, social, environmental, technological and, most importantly, human aspects…

Through its partnership with the City of Helsinki, the Forum has convened a global community of technologists, anthropologists and policy and data experts to develop data policy that serves the general public and meets their expectations…(More)”.

Helsinki process to understand the power of data

Digital Constitutionalism in Europe: Reframing Rights and Powers in the Algorithmic Society

Book by Giovanni De Gregorio: “This book is about rights and powers in the digital age. It is an attempt to reframe the role of constitutional democracies in the algorithmic society. By focusing on the European constitutional framework as a lodestar, this book examines the rise and consolidation of digital constitutionalism as a reaction to digital capitalism. The primary goal is to examine how European digital constitutionalism can protect fundamental rights and democratic values against the charm of digital liberalism and the challenges raised by platform powers. Firstly, this book investigates the reasons leading to the development of digital constitutionalism in Europe. Secondly, it provides a normative framework analysing to what extent European constitutionalism provides an architecture to protect rights and limit the exercise of unaccountable powers in the algorithmic society….(More)”.