Health Datapalooza just wrapped


I’ve just finished two packed days at the Health Datapalooza, put on by the Health Data Consortium with the Department of Health and Human Services. As I’ve just heard someone say, many of the 2000 people here are a bit “Palooza”d out.” But this fourth annual event shows the growing power of open government data on health and health care services. The two-day event covered both the knowledge and applications that can come from the release of data like that on Medicare claims, and the ways in which the Affordable Care Act is driving the use of data for better delivery of high-quality care. The participation of leaders from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service added an international perspective as well.
There’s too much to summarize in a single blog post, but you can follow these links to read about the Health Data Consortium and its new CEO’s goals; the DataPalooza’s opening plenary session, with luminaries from government, business, and the New Yorker; and today’s keynote by Todd Park, with reflections on some of new companies that open government data is supporting.
– Joel Gurin, GovLab network member and Founder and Editor, OpenDataNow.com

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.”

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.”

Wikipedia Recent Changes Map


Wikipedia

The Verge: “By watching a new visualization, known plainly as the Wikipedia Recent Changes Map, viewers can see the location of every unregistered Wikipedia user who makes a change to the open encyclopedia. It provides a voyeuristic look at the rate that knowledge is contributed to the website, giving you the faintest impression of the Spaniard interested in the television show Jackass or the Brazilian who defaced the page on the Jersey Devil to feature a photograph of the new pope. Though the visualization moves quickly, it’s only displaying about one-fifth of the edits being made: Wikipedia doesn’t reveal location data for registered users, and unregistered users make up just 15 to 20 percent of all contribution, according to studies of the website.”

Measuring Impact of Open and Transparent Governance


opengovMark Robinson @ OGP blog: “Eighteen months on from the launch of the Open Government Partnership in New York in September 2011, there is growing attention to what has been achieved to date.  In the recent OGP Steering Committee meeting in London, government and civil society members were unanimous in the view that the OGP must demonstrate results and impact to retain its momentum and wider credibility.  This will be a major focus of the annual OGP conference in London on 31 October and 1 November, with an emphasis on showcasing innovations, highlighting results and sharing lessons.
Much has been achieved in eighteen months.  Membership has grown from 8 founding governments to 58.  Many action plan commitments have been realised for the majority of OGP member countries. The Independent Reporting Mechanism has been approved and launched. Lesson learning and sharing experience is moving ahead….
The third type of results are the trickiest to measure: What has been the impact of openness and transparency on the lives of ordinary citizens?  In the two years since the OGP was launched it may be difficult to find many convincing examples of such impact, but it is important to make a start in collecting such evidence.
Impact on the lives of citizens would be evident in improvements in the quality of service delivery, by making information on quality, access and complaint redressal public. A related example would be efficiency savings realised from publishing government contracts.  Misallocation of public funds exposed through enhanced budget transparency is another. Action on corruption arising from bribes for services, misuse of public funds, or illegal procurement practices would all be significant results from these transparency reforms.  A final example relates to jobs and prosperity, where the utilisation of government data in the public domain by the private sector to inform business investment decisions and create employment.
Generating convincing evidence on the impact of transparency reforms is critical to the longer-term success of the OGP. It is the ultimate test of whether lofty public ambitions announced in country action plans achieve real impacts to the benefit of citizens.”

Open Data Research Announced


WWW Foundation Press Release:  “Speaking at an Open Government Partnership reception last night in London, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web Foundation (Web Foundation) and inventor of the Web, unveiled details of the first ever in-depth study into how the power of open data could be harnessed to tackle social challenges in the developing world. The 14 country study is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and will be overseen by the Web Foundation’s world-leading open data experts. An interim progress update will be made at an October 2013 meeting of the Open Government Partnership, with in-depth results expected in 2014…

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web Foundation and inventor of the Web said:

“Open Data, accessed via a free and open Web, has the potential to create a better world. However, best practice in London or New York is not necessarily best practice in Lima or Nairobi.  The Web Foundation’s research will help to ensure that Open Data initiatives in the developing world will unlock real improvements in citizens’ day-to-day lives.”

José M. Alonso, program manager at the World Wide Web Foundation, added:

“Through this study, the Web Foundation hopes not only to contribute to global understanding of open data, but also to cultivate the ability of developing world researchers and development workers to understand and apply open data for themselves.”

Further details on the project, including case study outlines are available here: http://oddc.opendataresearch.org/