Shutting down the internet doesn’t work – but governments keep doing it


George Ogola in The Conversation: “As the internet continues to gain considerable power and agency around the world, many governments have moved to regulate it. And where regulation fails, some states resort to internet shutdowns or deliberate disruptions.

The statistics are staggering. In India alone, there were 154 internet shutdowns between January 2016 and May 2018. This is the most of any country in the world.

But similar shutdowns are becoming common on the African continent. Already in 2019 there have been shutdowns in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Chad, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Last year there were 21 such shutdowns on the continent. This was the case in Togo, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Ethiopia, among others.

The justifications for such shutdowns are usually relatively predictable. Governments often claim that internet access is blocked in the interest of public security and order. In some instances, however, their reasoning borders on the curious if not downright absurd, like the case of Ethiopia in 2017 and Algeria in 2018 when the internet was shut down apparently to curb cheating in national examinations.

Whatever their reasons, governments have three general approaches to controlling citzens’ access to the web.

How they do it

Internet shutdowns or disruptions usually take three forms. The first and probably the most serious is where the state completely blocks access to the internet on all platforms. It’s arguably the most punitive, with significant socialeconomic and political costs.

The financial costs can run into millions of dollars for each day the internet is blocked. A Deloitte report on the issue estimates that a country with average connectivity could lose at least 1.9% of its daily GDP for each day all internet services are shut down.

For countries with average to medium level connectivity the loss is 1% of daily GDP, and for countries with average to low connectivity it’s 0.4%. It’s estimated that Ethiopia, for example, could lose up to US$500,000 a day whenever there is a shutdown. These shutdowns, then, damage businesses, discourage investments, and hinder economic growth.

The second way that governments restrict internet access is by applying content blocking techniques. They restrict access to particular sites or applications. This is the most common strategy and it’s usually targeted at social media platforms. The idea is to stop or limit conversations on these platforms.

Online spaces have become the platform for various forms of political expression that many states especially those with authoritarian leanings consider subversive. Governments argue, for example, that social media platforms encourage the spread of rumours which can trigger public unrest.

This was the case in 2016 in Uganda during the country’s presidential elections. The government restricted access to social media, describing the shutdown as a “security measure to avert lies … intended to incite violence and illegal declaration of election results”.

In Zimbabwe, the government blocked social media following demonstrations over an increase in fuel prices. It argued that the January 2019 ban was because the platforms were being “used to coordinate the violence”.

The third strategy, done almost by stealth, is the use of what is generally known as “bandwidth throttling”. In this case telecom operators or internet service providers are forced to lower the quality of their cell signals or internet speed. This makes the internet too slow to use. “Throttling” can also target particular online destinations such as social media sites….(More)”

From Human Rights Aspirations to Enforceable Obligations by Non-State Actors in the Digital Age: The Example of Internet Governance and ICANN


Paper by Monika Zalnieriute: “As the global policy-making capacity and influence of non-state actors in the digital age is rapidly increasing, the protection of fundamental human rights by private actors becomes one of the most pressing issues in Global Governance. This article combines business and human rights and digital constitutionalism discourses and uses the changing institutional context of Internet Governance and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (‘ICANN’) as an example to argue that economic incentives act against the voluntary protection of human rights by informal actors and regulatory structures in the digital era. It further contends that the global policy-making role and increasing regulatory power of informal actors such as ICANN necessitates reframing of their legal duties by subjecting them to directly binding human rights obligations in international law.

The article argues that such reframing is particularly important in the information age for three reasons. Firstly, it is needed to rectify an imbalance between hard legal commercial obligations and human rights soft law. This imbalance is well reflected in ICANNs policies. Secondly, binding obligations would ensure that individuals whose human rights have been affected can access an effective remedy. This is not envisaged under the new ICANN Bylaw on human rights precisely because of the fuzziness around the nature of ICANN’s obligations to respect internationally recognized human rights in its policies. Finally, the article suggests that because private actors such as ICANN are themselves engaging in the balancing exercise around such rights, an explicit recognition of their human rights obligations is crucial for the future development of access to justice in the digital age….(More)”.

2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report


Report by James G. McGann: “The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world. Often referred to as the “think tanks’ think tank,” TTCSP examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations. Over the last 27 years, the TTCSP has developed and led a series of global initiatives that have helped bridge the gap between knowledge and policy in critical policy areas such as international peace and security, globalization and governance, international economics, environmental issues, information and society, poverty alleviation, and healthcare and global health. These international collaborative efforts are designed to establish regional and international networks of policy institutes and communities that improve policy making while strengthening democratic institutions and civil societies around the world.

The TTCSP works with leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs, and produces the annual Global Go To think Tank Index that ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories. This is achieved with the help of a panel of over 1,796 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world. We have strong relationships with leading think tanks around the world, and our annual think Tank Index is used by academics, journalists, donors and the public to locate and connect with the leading centers of public policy research around the world. Our goal is to increase the profile and performance of think tanks and raise the public awareness of the important role think tanks play in governments and civil societies around the globe.”…(More)”.

New Urban Centres Database sets new standards for information on cities at global scale


EU Science Hub: “Data analysis highlights very diverse development patterns and inequalities across cities and world regions.

Building on the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL), the new database provides more detailed information on the cities’ location and size as well as characteristics such as greenness, night time light emission, population size, the built-up areas exposed to natural hazards, and travel time to the capital city.

For several of these attributes, the database contains information recorded over time, dating as far back as 1975. 

Responding to a lack of consistent data, or data only limited to large cities, the Urban Centre Database now makes it possible to map, classify and count all human settlements in the world in a standardised way.

An analysis of the data reveals very different development patterns in the different parts of the world.

“The data shows that in the low-income countries, high population growth has resulted only into moderate increases in the built-up areas, while in the high-income countries, moderate population growth has resulted into very big increases in the built-up areas. In practice, cities have grown more in size in richer countries, with respect to poorer countries where the populations are growing faster”, said JRC researcher Thomas Kemper.

According to JRC scientists, around 75% of the global population now live in cities, towns or suburbs….

The City Centres Database provides new open data supporting the monitoring of UN Sustainable Development Goals, the UN’s New Urban Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The main findings based on the Urban Centre Database are summarised in a new edition of the Atlas of the Human Planet, published together with the database….(More)”.

The Digitalization of Public Diplomacy


Book by Ilan Manor: “This book addresses how digitalization has influenced the institutions, practitioners and audiences of diplomacy. Throughout, the author argues that terms such as ‘digitalized public diplomacy’ or ‘digital public diplomacy’ are misleading, as they suggest that Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) are either digital or non-digital, when in fact digitalization should be conceptualized as a long-term process in which the values, norms, working procedures and goals of public diplomacy are challenged and re-defined. Subsequently, through case study examination, this book also argues that different MFAs are at different stages of the digitalization process. By adopting the term ‘the digitalization of public diplomacy’, this book will offer a new conceptual framework for investigating the impact of digitalization on the practice of public diplomacy….(More)”.

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer


Press Release: “The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust has changed profoundly in the past year—people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers. Globally, 75 percent of people trust “my employer” to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent) and media (47 percent).

Divided by Trust

There is a 16-point gap between the more trusting informed public and the far-more-skeptical mass population, marking a return to record highs of trust inequality. The phenomenon fueling this divide was a pronounced rise in trust among the informed public. Markets such as the U.S., UK, Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong saw trust gains of 12 points or more among the informed public. In 18 markets, there is now a double-digit trust gap between the informed public and the mass population.

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer - Trust Inequality

An Urgent Desire for Change

Despite the divergence in trust between the informed public and mass population the world is united on one front—all share an urgent desire for change. Only one in five feels that the system is working for them, with nearly half of the mass population believing that the system is failing them.

In conjunction with pessimism and worry, there is a growing move toward engagement and action. In 2019, engagement with the news surged by 22 points; 40 percent not only consume news once a week or more, but they also routinely amplify it. But people are encountering roadblocks in their quest for facts, with 73 percent worried about fake news being used as a weapon.

Trust Barometer - News Engagement

The New Employer-Employee Contract

Despite a high lack of faith in the system, there is one relationship that remains strong: “my employer.” Fifty-eight percent of general population employees say they look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about contentious societal issues.

Employees are ready and willing to trust their employers, but the trust must be earned through more than “business as usual.” Employees’ expectation that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80 percent)….(More)”.

IBM aims to use crowdsourced sensor data to improve local weather forecasting globally


Larry Dignan at ZDN: “IBM is hoping that mobile barometric sensors from individuals opting in, supercomputing ,and the Internet of Things can make weather forecasting more local globally.

Big Blue, which owns The Weather Company, will outline the IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF). GRAF incorporates IoT data in its weather models via crowdsourcing.

While hyper local weather forecasts are available in the US, Japan, and some parts of Western Europe, many regions in the world lack an accurate picture of weather.

Mary Glackin, senior vice president of The Weather Company, said the company is “trying to fill in the blanks.” She added, “In a place like India, weather stations are kilometers away. We think this can be as significant as bringing satellite data into models.”

For instance, the developing world gets forecasts based on global data that are updated every 6 hours and resolutions at 10km to 15km. By using GRAF, IBM said it can offer forecasts for the day ahead that are updated hourly on average and have a 3km resolution….(More)”.

Index: Open Data


By Alexandra Shaw, Michelle Winowatan, Andrew Young, and Stefaan Verhulst

The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on open data and was originally published in 2018.

Value and Impact

  • The projected year at which all 28+ EU member countries will have a fully operating open data portal: 2020

  • Between 2016 and 2020, the market size of open data in Europe is expected to increase by 36.9%, and reach this value by 2020: EUR 75.7 billion

Public Views on and Use of Open Government Data

  • Number of Americans who do not trust the federal government or social media sites to protect their data: Approximately 50%

  • Key findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit report on Open Government Data Demand:

    • Percentage of respondents who say the key reason why governments open up their data is to create greater trust between the government and citizens: 70%

    • Percentage of respondents who say OGD plays an important role in improving lives of citizens: 78%

    • Percentage of respondents who say OGD helps with daily decision making especially for transportation, education, environment: 53%

    • Percentage of respondents who cite lack of awareness about OGD and its potential use and benefits as the greatest barrier to usage: 50%

    • Percentage of respondents who say they lack access to usable and relevant data: 31%

    • Percentage of respondents who think they don’t have sufficient technical skills to use open government data: 25%

    • Percentage of respondents who feel the number of OGD apps available is insufficient, indicating an opportunity for app developers: 20%

    • Percentage of respondents who say OGD has the potential to generate economic value and new business opportunity: 61%

    • Percentage of respondents who say they don’t trust governments to keep data safe, protected, and anonymized: 19%

Efforts and Involvement

  • Time that’s passed since open government advocates convened to create a set of principles for open government data – the instance that started the open data government movement: 10 years

  • Countries participating in the Open Government Partnership today: 79 OGP participating countries and 20 subnational governments

  • Percentage of “open data readiness” in Europe according to European Data Portal: 72%

    • Open data readiness consists of four indicators which are presence of policy, national coordination, licensing norms, and use of data.

  • Number of U.S. cities with Open Data portals: 27

  • Number of governments who have adopted the International Open Data Charter: 62

  • Number of non-state organizations endorsing the International Open Data Charter: 57

  • Number of countries analyzed by the Open Data Index: 94

  • Number of Latin American countries that do not have open data portals as of 2017: 4 total – Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua

  • Number of cities participating in the Open Data Census: 39

Demand for Open Data

  • Open data demand measured by frequency of open government data use according to The Economist Intelligence Unit report:

    • Australia

      • Monthly: 15% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 22% of respondents

      • Annually: 10% of respondents

    • Finland

      • Monthly: 28% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 18% of respondents

      • Annually: 20% of respondents

    •  France

      • Monthly: 27% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 17% of respondents

      • Annually: 19% of respondents

        •  
    • India

      • Monthly: 29% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 20% of respondents

      • Annually: 10% of respondents

    • Singapore

      • Monthly: 28% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 15% of respondents

      • Annually: 17% of respondents 

    • UK

      • Monthly: 23% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 21% of respondents

      • Annually: 15% of respondents

    • US

      • Monthly: 16% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 15% of respondents

      • Annually: 20% of respondents

  • Number of FOIA requests received in the US for fiscal year 2017: 818,271

  • Number of FOIA request processed in the US for fiscal year 2017: 823,222

  • Distribution of FOIA requests in 2017 among top 5 agencies with highest number of request:

    • DHS: 45%

    • DOJ: 10%

    • NARA: 7%

    • DOD: 7%

    • HHS: 4%

Examining Datasets

  • Country with highest index score according to ODB Leaders Edition: Canada (76 out of 100)

  • Country with lowest index score according to ODB Leaders Edition: Sierra Leone (22 out of 100)

  • Number of datasets open in the top 30 governments according to ODB Leaders Edition: Fewer than 1 in 5

  • Average percentage of datasets that are open in the top 30 open data governments according to ODB Leaders Edition: 19%

  • Average percentage of datasets that are open in the top 30 open data governments according to ODB Leaders Edition by sector/subject:

    • Budget: 30%

    • Companies: 13%

    • Contracts: 27%

    • Crime: 17%

    • Education: 13%

    • Elections: 17%

    • Environment: 20%

    • Health: 17%

    • Land: 7%

    • Legislation: 13%

    • Maps: 20%

    • Spending: 13%

    • Statistics: 27%

    • Trade: 23%

    • Transport: 30%

  • Percentage of countries that release data on government spending according to ODB Leaders Edition: 13%

  • Percentage of government data that is updated at regular intervals according to ODB Leaders Edition: 74%

  • Number of datasets available through:

  • Number of datasets classed as “open” in 94 places worldwide analyzed by the Open Data Index: 11%

  • Percentage of open datasets in the Caribbean, according to Open Data Census: 7%

  • Number of companies whose data is available through OpenCorporates: 158,589,950

City Open Data

  • New York City

  • Singapore

    • Number of datasets published in Singapore: 1,480

    • Percentage of datasets with standardized format: 35%

    • Percentage of datasets made as raw as possible: 25%

  • Barcelona

    • Number of datasets published in Barcelona: 443

    • Open data demand in Barcelona measured by:

      • Number of unique sessions in the month of September 2018: 5,401

    • Quality of datasets published in Barcelona according to Tim Berners Lee 5-star Open Data: 3 stars

  • London

    • Number of datasets published in London: 762

    • Number of data requests since October 2014: 325

  • Bandung

    • Number of datasets published in Bandung: 1,417

  • Buenos Aires

    • Number of datasets published in Buenos Aires: 216

  • Dubai

    • Number of datasets published in Dubai: 267

  • Melbourne

    • Number of datasets published in Melbourne: 199

Sources

  • About OGP, Open Government Partnership. 2018.  

Efficacious and Ethical Public Paternalism


Daniel M. Hausman in the Review of Behavioral Economics (Special Issue on Behavioral Economics and New Paternalism): “People often make bad judgments. A big brother or sister who was wise, well-informed, and properly-motivated could often make better decisions for almost everyone. But can governments, which are not staffed with ideal big brothers or sisters, improve upon the mediocre decisions individuals make? If so, when and how? The risks of extending the reach of government into guiding individual lives must also be addressed. This essay addresses three questions concerning when paternalistic policies can be efficacious, efficient, and safe: 1. In what circumstances can policy makers be confident that they know better than individuals how individuals can best promote their own well-being? 2. What are the methods governments can use to lead people to make decision that are better for themselves? 3. What are the moral pluses and minuses of these methods? Answering these questions defines a domain in which paternalistic policy is an attractive option….(More)”.

The UN Principles on Personal Data Protection and Privacy


United Nations System: “The Principles on Personal Data Protection and Privacy set out a basic framework for the processing of personal data by, or on behalf of, the United Nations System Organizations in carrying out their mandated activities.

The Principles aim to: (i) harmonize standards for the protection of personal data across the UN System; (ii) facilitate the accountable processing of personal data; and (iii) ensure respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals, in particular the right to privacy. These Principles apply to personal data, contained in any form, and processed in any manner. Where appropriate, they may also be used as a benchmark for the processing of non-personal data, in a sensitive context that may put certain individuals or groups of individuals at risk of harms. 
 
The High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) formally adopted the Principles at its 36th Meeting on 11 October 2018. The adoption followed the HLCM’s decision at its 35th Meeting in April 2018 to engage with the UN Data Privacy Policy Group (UN PPG) in developing a set of high-level principles on the cross-cutting issue of data privacy. Preceding the 36th HLCM meeting in October, the Principles were developed and unanimously endorsed by the organizations represented on the UN PPG….(More) (Download the Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles)