Dynamic capabilities of the public sector: Towards a new synthesis

Paper by Rainer Kattel: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important public sector capacities and capabilities are in terms of reacting to crises, and re-configuring existing policies and implementation practices. Prior to the pandemic, policy makers were increasingly turning their attention to challenge-driven innovation policies in order to tackle climate emergencies and other ‘wicked’ societal challenges. Such a ‘normative turn’ also assumes the existence of what can be called dynamic capabilities in the public sector. This paper offers a new synthesis of how to conceptualise dynamic capabilities in the public sector. The paper synthesises existing state capacity, public sector innovation capacity and dynamic capabilities literature. Using three brief case studies (the UK’s Government Digital Service, the city of Barcelona and Sweden’s Vinnova), the paper discusses the origins and constitutive elements (sense-making, connecting, shaping) of dynamic capabilities. The paper also discusses how dynamic capabilities could be assessed…(More)”.

The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook

Guidance by the UK Government: “Digital, data and technology (DDaT) underpins everything we do and the government provides vital services for millions of citizens every day. The public sector is estimated to spend £46 billion on digital in 2021/22. To ensure that spend meets the needs of our users in this rapidly evolving world, we need to continually strive for excellence by thinking about our products and services in new ways.

The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook is focused on getting things right from the start. Setting projects and programmes up for success can take more time upfront but we know from past experience that this early investment can be repaid many times over by enabling us to avoid costly mistakes later on.

Changing our approach to procurement in this sector will allow us to learn from successes and failures across government and industry. In order to decide on the correct delivery model, a robust assessment needs to be done of the options available (see Delivery Model Assessment in Chapter 5).

This mixed model of delivery is key. We will use the market’s expertise and capability to supplement agile teams and our commercial processes must be designed to enable this. Following the policies and principles in this Playbook, we will work with our suppliers to take an outcome-based approach and deliver innovative solutions which are focused on the user and create the best possible value for our citizens.

The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook sets out 11 key policy reforms which will transform how we assess, procure and manage our products and services. This includes:

  • online public services such as applying for a driver’s licence
  • business systems ranging from simple database applications through to large transactional systems supporting the operation of tax collection and benefits payments.
  • back-office systems such as finance, human resources, and facilities management systems
  • infrastructure which provides all the basic tools of the modern working environment such as computers and email

We will work together across government and industry to implement and drive the consistent application of the best practice and policies set out in this Playbook and deliver transformational change….(More)”.

Researcher Helps Create Big Data ‘Early Alarm’ for Ukraine Abuses

Article by Chris Carroll: From searing images of civilians targeted by shelling to detailed accounts of sick children and their families fleeing nearby fighting to seek medical care, journalists have created a kaleidoscopic view of the suffering that has engulfed Ukraine since Russia invaded—but the news media can’t be everywhere.

Social media practically can be, however, and a University of Maryland researcher is part of a U.S.-Ukrainian multi-institutional team that’s harvesting data from Twitter and analyzing it with machine-learning algorithms. The result is a real-time system that provides a running account of what people in Ukraine are facing, constructed from their own accounts.

The project, Data for Ukraine, has been running for about three weeks, and has shown itself able to surface important events a few hours ahead of Western or even Ukrainian media sources. It focuses on four areas: humanitarian needs, displaced people, civilian resistance and human rights violations. In addition to simply showing spikes of credible tweets about certain subjects the team is tracking, the system also geolocates tweets—essentially mapping where events take place.

“It’s an early alarm system for human rights abuses,” said Ernesto Calvo, professor of government and politics and director of UMD’s Inter-Disciplinary Lab for Computational Social Science. “For it to work, we need to know two basic things: what is happening or being reported, and who is reporting those things.”

Calvo and his lab focus on the second of those two requirements, and constructed a “community detection” system to identify key nodes of Twitter users from which to use data. Other team members with expertise in Ukrainian society and politics spotted him a list of about 400 verified users who actively tweet on relevant topics. Then Calvo, who honed his approach analyzing social media from political and environmental crises in Latin America, and his team expanded and deepened the collection, drawing on connections and followers of the initial list so that millions of tweets per day now feed the system.

Nearly half of the captured tweets are in Ukrainian, 30% are in English and 20% are in Russian. Knowing who to exclude—accounts started the day before the invasion, for instance, or with few long-term connections—is key, Calvo said…(More)”.

The Bristol Approach for Citizen Engagement in the Energy Market

Interview by Sebastian Klemm with Lorraine Hudson Anna Higueras and Lucia Errandonea:”… the Twinergy engagement framework with 5 iterative steps:

  1. Identification of the communities.
  2. Co-Design Technologies and Incentives for participating in the project.
  3. Deploy Technologies at people’s home and develop new skills within the communities.
  4. Measure Changes with a co-assessment approach.
  5. Reflect on Outcomes to improve engagement and delivery.

KWMC and Ideas for Change have worked with pilot leaders, through interviews and workshops, to understand their previous experience with engagement methods and gather knowledge about local contexts, citizens and communities who will be engaged.

The Citizen Engagement Framework includes a set of innovative tools to guide pilot leaders in planning their interventions. These tools are the EDI matrix, the persona cards, scenario cards and a pilot timeline.

  1. The EDI Matrix that aims to foster reflection in the recruitment process ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to participate.
  2. The Persona Cards that prompt an in-depth reflection about participants background, motivations and skills.
  3. The Scenario Cards to imagine possible situations that could be experienced during the pilot program.
  4. Pilot Timeline that provides an overview of key activities to be conducted over the course of the pilot and supports planning in advance….(More)”.

Is AI Good for the Planet?

Book by Benedetta Brevini: “Artificial intelligence (AI) is presented as a solution to the greatest challenges of our time, from global pandemics and chronic diseases to cybersecurity threats and the climate crisis. But AI also contributes to the climate crisis by running on technology that depletes scarce resources and by relying on data centres that demand excessive energy use.

Is AI Good for the Planet? brings the climate crisis to the centre of debates around AI, exposing its environmental costs and forcing us to reconsider our understanding of the technology. It reveals why we should no longer ignore the environmental problems generated by AI. Embracing a green agenda for AI that puts the climate crisis at centre stage is our urgent priority.

Engaging and passionately written, this book is essential reading for scholars and students of AI, environmental studies, politics, and media studies and for anyone interested in the connections between technology and the environment…(More)”.

Hiding Behind Machines: Artificial Agents May Help to Evade Punishment

Paper by Till Feier, Jan Gogoll & Matthias Uhl: “The transfer of tasks with sometimes far-reaching implications to autonomous systems raises a number of ethical questions. In addition to fundamental questions about the moral agency of these systems, behavioral issues arise. We investigate the empirically accessible question of whether the imposition of harm by an agent is systematically judged differently when the agent is artificial and not human. The results of a laboratory experiment suggest that decision-makers can actually avoid punishment more easily by delegating to machines than by delegating to other people. Our results imply that the availability of artificial agents could provide stronger incentives for decision-makers to delegate sensitive decisions…(More)”.

Urban Creativity Now

Playbook by Urban Change Academy: “The coronavirus pandemic has changed city life almost beyond recognition. Many people are struggling with loss, financial insecurity, and loneliness. At the same time, the crisis has made many things possible that were previously unthinkable or difficult to imagine – parks became open-air fitness studios, car parks turned into playgrounds, exhibition halls changed into hospital wards. Bicycles have been given more space on the streets in many cities, retailers and restaurateurs have become more creative and found new ways to serve their customers despite shop closures.

Many of these things have come about spontaneously, without any underlying strategies or development plans. they demonstrate a creativity we have not seen that we have not seen in cities for a long time. As the Urban Change Academy, we were wondering: what can cities learn from these projects? This playbook reflects that approach.

Urban Creativity Now is a collection of impulses, observations, and perspectives on the Covid pandemic and how it is changing our cities. In three parts, we explore the question of how cities and citizens are dealing with this crisis and what options for action arise from it…(More)”.

Mapping the Demand Side of Computational Social Science for Policy

Report by Alonso Raposo, M., et al: “This report aims at collecting novel and pressing policy issues that can be addressed by Computational Social Science (CSS), an emerging discipline that is rooted in the increasing availability of digital trace data and computational resources and seeks to apply data science methods to social sciences. The questions were sourced from researchers at the European Commission who work at the interface between science and policy and who are well positioned to formulate research questions that are likely to anticipate future policy needs.

The attempt is to identify possible directions for Computational Social Science starting from the demand side, making it an effort to consider not only how science can ultimately provide policy support — “Science for Policy – but also how policymakers can be involved in the process of defining and co-creating the CSS4P agenda from the outset — ‘Policy for Science’. The report is expected to raise awareness on the latest scientific advances in Computational Social Science and on its potential for policy, integrating the knowledge of policymakers and stimulating further questions in the context of future developments of this initiative…(More)”.

Ukraine shows us the power of the 21st Century Citizen

Essay by Matt Leighninger: “This is a new kind of war, waged by a new kind of citizen.

The failure of the Russian forces to subdue Ukraine quickly has astonished experts, officials, and journalists worldwide. It shouldn’t. The Ukrainian resistance is just the latest example of the new attitudes and abilities of 21st century citizens.

While social media has been getting a lot of attention in this “TikTok War,” the real story is the growing determination and capacity of ordinary people. Around the world, ordinary people are fundamentally different from people of generations past. They have dramatically higher levels of education, far less deference to authority figures, and much greater facility with technology.

These trends have changed citizenship itself. We need to understand this shift so that societies, especially democratic ones, can figure out how to adapt, both in war and peace.

The war in Ukraine is instructive, in at least four ways.

First, citizens now have the ability to make their own media; Ukrainians, under attack, are mass-producing reality TV. Thanks to footage produced by thousands of people and viewed by millions, the war has a constantly unfolding cast of characters. Ukrainian farmers towing Russian vehicles, a soldier moonwalking in a field, people joyriding on a captured Russian tank, and a little girl singing “Let It Go” in a Kiev bomb shelter have become relatable, inspiring figures in the conflict. Seemingly every time Ukrainians have success on the battlefield, they upload videos of burned tanks and downed planes…(More)”.

Technology rules? The advent of new technologies in the justice system

Report by The Justice and Home Affairs Committee (House of Lords): “In recent years, and without many of us realising it, Artificial Intelligence has begun to permeate every aspect of our personal and professional lives. We live in a world of big data; more and more decisions in society are being taken by machines using algorithms built from that data, be it in healthcare, education, business, or consumerism. Our Committee has limited its investigation to only one area–how these advanced technologies are used in our justice system. Algorithms are being used to improve crime detection, aid the security categorisation of prisoners, streamline entry clearance processes at our borders and generate new insights that feed into the entire criminal justice pipeline.

We began our work on the understanding that Artificial Intelligence (AI), used correctly, has the potential to improve people’s lives through greater efficiency, improved productivity. and in finding solutions to often complex problems. But while acknowledging the many benefits, we were taken aback by the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence tools potentially being used without proper oversight, particularly by police forces across the country. Facial recognition may be the best known of these new technologies but in reality there are many more already in use, with more being developed all the time.

When deployed within the justice system, AI technologies have serious implications for a person’s human rights and civil liberties. At what point could someone be imprisoned on the basis of technology that cannot be explained? Informed scrutiny is therefore essential to ensure that any new tools deployed in this sphere are safe, necessary, proportionate, and effective. This scrutiny is not happening. Instead, we uncovered a landscape, a new Wild West, in which new technologies are developing at a pace that public awareness, government and legislation have not kept up with.
Public bodies and all 43 police forces are free to individually commission whatever tools they like or buy them from companies eager to get in on the burgeoning AI market. And the market itself is worryingly opaque. We were told that public bodies often do not know much about the systems they are buying and will be implementing, due to the seller’s insistence on commercial confidentiality–despite the fact that many of these systems will be harvesting, and relying on, data from the general public.
This is particularly concerning in light of evidence we heard of dubious selling practices and claims made by vendors as to their products’ effectiveness which are often untested and unproven…(More)”.