This Is Not an Atlas.


Book by kollektiv orangotango: “This Is Not an Atlas gathers more than 40 counter-cartographies from all over the world. This collection shows how maps are created and transformed as a part of political struggle, for critical research or in art and education: from indigenous territories in the Amazon to the anti-eviction movement in San Francisco; from defending commons in Mexico to mapping refugee camps with balloons in Lebanon; from slums in Nairobi to squats in Berlin; from supporting communities in the Philippines to reporting sexual harassment in Cairo. This Is Not an Atlas seeks to inspire, to document the underrepresented, and to be a useful companion when becoming a counter-cartographer yourself….(More)”.

Participatory Citizenship and Crisis in Contemporary Brazil


Book by Valesca Lima: “This book discusses the issues of citizen rights, governance and political crisis in Brazil. The project has a focus on “citizenship in times of crisis,” i.e., seeking to understand how citizenship rights have changed since the Brazilian political and economic crisis that started in 2014. Building on theories of citizenship and governance, the author examines policy-based evidence on the retractions of participatory rights, which are consequence of a stagnant economic scenario and the re-organization of conservative sectors. This work will appeal to scholarly audiences interested in citizenship, Brazilian politics, and Latin American policy and governance….(More)”.

From City to Nation: Digital government in Argentina, 2015–2018


Paper by Tanya Filer, Antonio Weiss and Juan Cacace: “In 2015, voters in Argentina elected Mauricio Macri of the centre-right Propuesta Republicana (PRO) as their new President, following a tightly contested race. Macri inherited an office wrought with tensions: an unstable economy; a highly polarised population; and an increasing weariness towards the institutions of governance overall. In this context, his administration hoped to harness the possibilities of digital transformation to make citizens’ interactions with the State more efficient, more accountable, and ‘friendlier’.

Following a successful tenure in the City of Buenos Aires, where Macri had been Mayor, Minister Andrés Ibarra and a digital government team were charged with the project of national digital transformation, taking on projects from a single ‘whole-of-government’ portal to a mobile phone application designed to reduce the incidence of gender-based violence against women. Scaling up digitisation from the city to the national level was, by all accounts, a challenge. By 2018, Argentina had won global acclaim for its progress on key aspects of digital government, but also increasingly recognised the difficulties of digitisation at the national scale. It identified the need, as observed by the OECD, for an overarching strategic plan to manage the scale, diversity and politics of federal-level digital transformation. Based on interviews with key stakeholders, this case discusses the country’s digital modernisation agenda from 2015 to 2018, with a primary focus on service provision projects. It examines the challenges faced in terms of politics and technology, and the lessons that Argentina’s experience offers….(More)”

Open Verification


Article by Eyal Weizman: “More than a decade ago, I would have found the idea of a forensic institute to be rather abhorrent. Coming from the field of left activism and critical spatial practice, I felt instinctively oriented against the authority of established truths. Forensics relies on technical expertise in normative and legal frameworks, and smacks full of institutional authority. It is, after all, one of the fundamental arts of the state, the privilege of its agencies: the police, the secret services, or the military. Today, counter-intuitively perhaps, I find myself running Forensic Architecture, a group of architects, filmmakers, coders, and journalists which operates as a forensic agency and makes evidence public in different forums such as the media, courts, truth commissions, and cultural venues.

This reorientation of my thought practice was a response to changes in the texture of our present and to the nature of contemporary conflict. An evolving information and media environment enables authoritarian states to manipulate and distort facts about their crimes, but it also offers new techniques with which civil society groups can invert the forensic gaze and monitor them. This is what we call counter-forensics.

We do not yet have a satisfactory name for the new reactionary forces—a combination of digital racism, ultra-nationalism, self-victimhood, and conspiracism—that have taken hold across the world and become manifest in countries such as Russia, Poland, Hungary, Britain, Italy, Brazil, the US, and Israel, where I most closely experienced them. These forces have made the obscuring, blurring, manipulation, and distortion of facts their trademark. Whatever form of reality-denial “post truth” is, it is not simply about lying. Lying in politics is sometimes necessary. Deception, after all, has always been part of the toolbox of statecraft, and there might not be more of it now than in previous times.  The defining characteristics of our era might thus not be an extraordinary dissemination of untruths, but rather, ongoing attacks against the institutional authorities that buttress facts: government experts, universities, science laboratories, mainstream media, and the judiciary.

Because questioning the authority of state institutions is also what counter-forensics is about—we seek to expose police and military cover-ups, government lies, and instances in which the legal system has been aligned against state victims—we must distinguish it from the tactics of those political forces mentioned above.

Dark Epistemology

While “post truth” is a seemingly new phenomenon, for those working to expose state crimes at the frontiers of contemporary conflicts, it has long been the constant condition of our work. As a set of operations, this form of denial compounds the traditional roles of propaganda and censorship. It is propaganda because it is concerned with statements released by states to affect the thoughts and conducts of publics. It is not the traditional form of propaganda though, framed in the context of a confrontation between blocs and ideologies. It does not aim to persuade or tell you anything, nor does it seek to promote the assumed merits of one system over the other—equality vs. freedom or east vs. west—but rather to blur perception so that nobody knows what is real anymore. The aim is that when people no longer know what to think, how to establish facts, or when to trust them, those in power can fill this void by whatever they want to fill it with.

“Post truth” also functions as a new form of censorship because it blocks one’s ability to evaluate and debate facts. In the face of governments’ increasing difficulties in cutting data out of circulation and in suppressing political discourse, it adds rather than subtracts, augmenting the level of noise in a deliberate maneuver to divert attention….(More)”.

Gender gaps in urban mobility


Paper (preprint) by Laetitia Gauvin, Michele Tizzoni, Simone Piaggesi, Andrew Young, Natalia Adler, Stefaan Verhulst, Leo Ferres, and Ciro Cattuto: “The use of public transportation or simply moving about in streets are gendered issues. Women and girls often engage in multi-purpose, multi-stop trips in order to do household chores, work, and study (‘trip chaining’). Women-headed households are often more prominent in urban settings and they tend to work more in low-paid/informal jobs than men, with limited access to transportation subsidies. Here we present recent results on urban mobility from a gendered perspective by uniquely combining a wide range of datasets, including commercial sources of telecom and open data. We explored urban mobility of women and men in the greater metropolitan area of Santiago, Chile, by analyzing the mobility traces extracted from the Call Detail Records (CDRs) of a large cohort of anonymized mobile phone users over a period of 3 months. We find that, taking into account the differences in users’ calling behaviors, women move less than men, visiting less unique locations and distributing their time less equally among such locations. By mapping gender differences in mobility over the 52 comunas of Santiago, we find a higher mobility gap to be correlated with socio-economic indicators, such as a lower average income, and with the lack of public and private transportation options. Such results provide new insights for policymakers to design more gender inclusive transportation plans in the city of Santiago….(More)”.

Public Entrepreneurship: How to train 21st century leaders


Beth Noveck at apolitical: “So how do we develop these better ways of working in government? How do we create a more effective public service?

Governments, universities and philanthropies are beginning to invest in training those inside and outside of government in new kinds of public entrepreneurial skills. They are also innovating in how they teach.

Canada has created a new Digital Academy to teach digital literacy to all 250,000 public servants. Among other approaches, they have created a 15 minute podcast series called bus rides to enable public servants to learn on their commute.

The better programs, like Canada’s, combine online and face-to-face methods. This is what Israel does in its Digital Leaders program. This nine-month program alternates between web- and live meetings as well as connecting learners to a global, online network of digital innovators.

Many countries have started to teach human-centred design to public servants, instructing officials in how to design services with, not simply for the public, as WeGov does in Brazil. in Chile, the UAI University has just begun teaching quantitative skills, offering three day intensives in data science for public servants.

The GovLab also offers a nifty, free online program called Solving Public Problems with Data.

The Public sector learning

To ensure that learning translates into practice, Australia’s BizLab Academy, turns students into teachers by using alumni of their human-centred design training as mentors for new students.

The Cities of Orlando and Sao Paulo go beyond training public servantsOrlando includes members of the public in its training program for city officials. Because they are learning to redesign services with citizens, the public participates in the training.

The Sao Paulo Abierta program uses citizens as trainers for the city’s public servants. Over 23,000 of them have studied with these lay trainers, who possess the innovation skills that are in short supply in government. In fact, public officials are prohibited from teaching in the program altogether.

Image from the ten recommendations for training public entrepreneurs. Read all the recommendations here. 

Recognising that it is not enough to train only a lone innovator or data scientist in a unit, governments are scaling their programs across the public sector.

Argentina’s LabGob has already trained 30,000 people since 2016 in its Design Academy for Public Policy with plans to expand. For every class taken, a public servant earns points, which are a prerequisite for promotions and pay raises in the Argentinian civil service.

Rather than going broad, some training programs are going deep by teaching sector-specific innovation skills. The NHS Digital Academy done in collaboration with Imperial College is a series of six online and four live sessions designed to produce leaders in health innovation.

Innovating in a bureaucracy

In my own work at the GovLab at New York University, we are helping public entrepreneurs take their public interest projects from idea to implementation using coaching, rather than training.

Training classes may be wonderful but leave people feeling abandoned when they return to their desks to face the challenge of innovating within a bureaucracy.

With hands-on mentoring from global leaders and peer-to-peer support, the GovLab Academycoaching programs try to ensure that public servants are getting the help they need to advance innovative projects.

Knowing what innovation skills to teach and how to teach them, however, should depend on asking people what they want. That’s why the Australia New Zealand School of Government is administering a survey asking these questions for public servants there….(More)”.

Number of fact-checking outlets surges to 188 in more than 60 countries


Mark Stencel at Poynter: “The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid global concerns about the spread of misinformation, according to the latest tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.

Since the last annual fact-checking census in February 2018, we’ve added 39 more outlets that actively assess claims from politicians and social media, a 26% increase. The new total is also more than four times the 44 fact-checkers we counted when we launched our global database and map in 2014.

Globally, the largest growth came in Asia, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year. Nine of the 27 fact-checking outlets that launched since the start of 2018 were in Asia, including six in India. Latin American fact-checking also saw a growth spurt in that same period, with two new outlets in Costa Rica, and others in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.

The actual worldwide total is likely much higher than our current tally. That’s because more than a half-dozen of the fact-checkers we’ve added to the database since the start of 2018 began as election-related partnerships that involved the collaboration of multiple organizations. And some those election partners are discussing ways to continue or reactivate that work— either together or on their own.

Over the past 12 months, five separate multimedia partnerships enlisted more than 60 different fact-checking organizations and other news companies to help debunk claims and verify information for voters in MexicoBrazilSweden,Nigeria and the Philippines. And the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network assembled a separate team of 19 media outlets from 13 countries to consolidate and share their reporting during the run-up to last month’s elections for the European Parliament. Our database includes each of these partnerships, along with several others— but not each of the individual partners. And because they were intentionally short-run projects, three of these big partnerships appear among the 74 inactive projects we also document in our database.

Politics isn’t the only driver for fact-checkers. Many outlets in our database are concentrating efforts on viral hoaxes and other forms of online misinformation — often in coordination with the big digital platforms on which that misinformation spreads.

We also continue to see new topic-specific fact-checkers such as Metafact in Australia and Health Feedback in France— both of which launched in 2018 to focus on claims about health and medicine for a worldwide audience….(More)”.

Of Governance and Revenue: Participatory Institutions and Tax Compliance in Brazil


Paper by Michael Touchton, Brian Wampler and Tiago C. Peixoto: “Traditionally, governments seek to mobilize tax revenues by expanding their enforcement of existing tax regimes and facilitating tax payments. However, enforcement and facilitation can be costly and produce diminishing marginal returns if citizens are unwilling to pay their taxes. This paper addresses gaps in knowledge about tax compliance, by asking a basic question: what explains why citizens and businesses comply with tax rules? To answer this question, the paper shows how the voluntary adoption of two different types of participatory governance institutions influences municipal tax collection in Brazil. Municipalities that voluntarily adopt participatory institutions collect significantly higher levels of taxes than similar municipalities without these institutions. The paper provides evidence that moves scholarship on tax compliance beyond enforcement and facilitation paradigms, while offering a better assessment of the role of local democratic institutions for government performance and tax compliance….(More)”.

Information Sharing as a Dimension of Smartness: Understanding Benefits and Challenges in Two Megacities


Paper by J. Ramon Gil-Garcia, Theresa A. Pardo, and Manuel De Tuya: “Cities around the world are facing increasingly complex problems.

These problems frequently require collaboration and information sharing across agency boundaries.

In our view, information sharing can be seen as an important dimension of what is recently being called smartness in cities and enables the ability to improve decision making and day-to-day operations in urban settings. Unfortunately, what many city managers are learning is that there are important challenges to sharing information both within their city and with others.

Based on nonemergency service integration initiatives in New York City and Mexico City, this article examines important benefits from and challenges to information sharing in the context of what the participants characterize as smart city initiatives, particularly in large metropolitan areas.

The research question guiding this study is as follows: To what extent do previous findings about information sharing hold in the context of city initiatives, particularly in megacities?

The results provide evidence on the importance of some specific characteristics of cities and megalopolises and how they affect benefits and challenges of information sharing. For instance, cities seem to have more managerial flexibility than other jurisdictions such as state governments.

In addition, megalopolises have most of the necessary technical skills and financial resources needed for information sharing and, therefore, these challenges are not as relevant as in other local governments….(More)”.

Open government and citizen engagement: From theory to action


Camilo Romero Galeano at apolitical: “…According to the 2016 Corruption Perception Index analysing the behaviour of 178 countries, 69% of countries evaluated again raised the alarm about what has been referred to as “the cancer of the public service”.

The scandals of misappropriation of public funds, illicit enrichment of public officials, the slippery labyrinths of procurement and all kinds of practices that challenge ethics in the public service are daily news around the world.

Colombia and the department of Nariño suffer from the same problems. Bad practices of traditional politics and chiefdoms have ended up destroying the trust that citizens once had in political institutions. Corruption and its devastating effects always end up undermining people’s dignity.

With this as the current state of affairs, and in our capacity as a subnational government, we have designed hand in hand with the citizens of Nariño a new government program. It  is based on an approach to innovation called “New Government” that relies on three pillars: open government; social innovation; and collaborative economy.

The new program has been endorsed by more than 300,000 voters and subsequently concretised in our roadmap for the territory: “Nariño heart of the World”. The creation of this policy document brought together 31,700 participants and involved travelling around the 13 subregions that compose the 64 municipalities in Nariño.

In this way, citizen participation has become an essential tool in the fight against corruption.

Our open government strategy is called GANA — Gobierno Abierto de Nariño (in English, “Win — Open Government of Nariño”). The strategy takes a step forward in ensuring cabinet officials become transparent and publicly declare private assets. Citizens can now find out the financial conditions in which public officials begin and finish their administrative periods. Each one of us….(More)”