The Role of Big Data Analytics in Predicting Suicide


Chapter by Ronald C. Kessler et al: “…reviews the long history of using electronic medical records and other types of big data to predict suicide. Although a number of the most recent of these studies used machine learning (ML) methods, these studies were all suboptimal both in the features used as predictors and in the analytic approaches used to develop the prediction models. We review these limitations and describe opportunities for making improvements in future applications.

We also review the controversy among clinical experts about using structured suicide risk assessment tools (be they based on ML or older prediction methods) versus in-depth clinical evaluations of needs for treatment planning. Rather than seeing them as competitors, we propose integrating these different approaches to capitalize on their complementary strengths. We also emphasize the distinction between two types of ML analyses: those aimed at predicting which patients are at highest suicide risk, and those aimed at predicting the treatment options that will be best for individual patients. We explain why both are needed to optimize the value of big data ML methods in addressing the suicide problem….(More)”.

See also How Search Engine Data Enhance the Understanding of Determinants of Suicide in India and Inform Prevention: Observational Study.

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)”

How Tech Utopia Fostered Tyranny


Jon Askonas at The New Atlantis: “The rumors spread like wildfire: Muslims were secretly lacing a Sri Lankan village’s food with sterilization drugs. Soon, a video circulated that appeared to show a Muslim shopkeeper admitting to drugging his customers — he had misunderstood the question that was angrily put to him. Then all hell broke loose. Over a several-day span, dozens of mosques and Muslim-owned shops and homes were burned down across multiple towns. In one home, a young journalist was trapped, and perished.

Mob violence is an old phenomenon, but the tools encouraging it, in this case, were not. As the New York Times reported in April, the rumors were spread via Facebook, whose newsfeed algorithm prioritized high-engagement content, especially videos. “Designed to maximize user time on site,” as the Times article describes, the newsfeed algorithm “promotes whatever wins the most attention. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found, produce the highest engagement, and so proliferate.” On Facebook in Sri Lanka, posts with incendiary rumors had among the highest engagement rates, and so were among the most highly promoted content on the platform. Similar cases of mob violence have taken place in India, Myanmar, Mexico, and elsewhere, with misinformation spread mainly through Facebook and the messaging tool WhatsApp.

Follow The New AtlantisThis is in spite of Facebook’s decision in January 2018 to tweak its algorithm, apparently to prevent the kind of manipulation we saw in the 2016 U.S. election, when posts and election ads originating from Russia reportedly showed up in newsfeeds of up to 126 million American Facebook users. The company explained that the changes to its algorithm will mean that newsfeeds will be “showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation,” and “less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.” But these changes, which Facebook had tested out in countries like Sri Lanka in the previous year, may actually have exacerbated the problem — which is that incendiary content, when posted by friends and family, is guaranteed to “spark conversation” and therefore to be prioritized in newsfeeds. This is because “misinformation is almost always more interesting than the truth,” as Mathew Ingram provocatively put it in the Columbia Journalism Review.

How did we get here, from Facebook’s mission to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”? Riot-inducing “fake news” and election meddling are obviously far from what its founders intended for the platform. Likewise, Google’s founders surely did not build their search engine with the intention of its being censored in China to suppress free speech, and yet, after years of refusing this demand from Chinese leadership, Google has recently relented rather than pull their search engine from China entirely. And YouTube’s creators surely did not intend their feature that promotes “trending” content to help clickbait conspiracy-theory videos go viral.

These outcomes — not merely unanticipated by the companies’ founders but outright opposed to their intentions — are not limited to social media. So far, Big Tech companies have presented issues of incitement, algorithmic radicalization, and “fake news” as merely bumps on the road of progress, glitches and bugs to be patched over. In fact, the problem goes deeper, to fundamental questions of human nature. Tools based on the premise that access to information will only enlighten us and social connectivity will only make us more humane have instead fanned conspiracy theories, information bubbles, and social fracture. A tech movement spurred by visions of libertarian empowerment and progressive uplift has instead fanned a global resurgence of populism and authoritarianism.

Despite the storm of criticism, Silicon Valley has still failed to recognize in these abuses a sharp rebuke of its sunny view of human nature. It remains naïvely blind to how its own aspirations for social engineering are on a spectrum with the tools’ “unintended” uses by authoritarian regimes and nefarious actors….(More)”.

Index: Trust in Institutions 2019


By Michelle Winowatan, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Andrew Young, 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 trust in institutions.

Please share any additional, illustrative statistics on open data, or other issues at the nexus of technology and governance, with us at info@thelivinglib.org

Global Trust in Public Institutions

Trust in Government

United States

  • Americans who say their democracy is working at least “somewhat well:” 58% – 2018
  • Number who believe sweeping changes to their government are needed: 61% – 2018
  • Percentage of Americans expressing faith in election system security: 45% – 2018
  • Percentage of Americans expressing an overarching trust in government: 40% – 2019
  • How Americans would rate the trustworthiness of Congress: 4.1 out of 10 – 2017
  • Number who have confidence elected officials act in the best interests of the public: 25% – 2018
  • Amount who trust the federal government to do what is right “just about always or most of the time”: 18% – 2017
  • Americans with trust and confidence in the federal government to handle domestic problems: 2 in 5 – 2018
    • International problems: 1 in 2 – 2018
  • US institution with highest amount of confidence to act in the best interests of the public: The Military (80%) – 2018
  • Most favorably viewed level of government: Local (67%) – 2018
  • Most favorably viewed federal agency: National Park Service (83% favorable) – 2018
  • Least favorable federal agency: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (47% unfavorable) – 2018

United Kingdom

  • Overall trust in government: 42% – 2019
    • Number who think the country is headed in the “wrong direction:” 7 in 10 – 2018
    • Those who have trust in politicians: 17% – 2018
    • Amount who feel unrepresented in politics: 61% – 2019
    • Amount who feel that their standard of living will get worse over the next year: Nearly 4 in 10 – 2019
  • Trust the national government handling of personal data:

European Union

Africa

Latin America

Other

Trust in Media

  • Percentage of people around the world who trust the media: 47% – 2019
    • In the United Kingdom: 37% – 2019
    • In the United States: 48% – 2019
    • In China: 76% – 2019
  • Rating of news trustworthiness in the United States: 4.5 out of 10 – 2017
  • Number of citizens who trust the press across the European Union: Almost 1 in 2 – 2019
  • France: 3.9 out of 10 – 2019
  • Germany: 4.8 out of 10 – 2019
  • Italy: 3.8 out of 10 – 2019
  • Slovenia: 3.9 out of 10 – 2019
  • Percentage of European Union citizens who trust the radio: 59% – 2017
    • Television: 51% – 2017
    • The internet: 34% – 2017
    • Online social networks: 20% – 2017
  • EU citizens who do not actively participate in political discussions on social networks because they don’t trust online social networks: 3 in 10 – 2018
  • Those who are confident that the average person in the United Kingdom can tell real news from ‘fake news’: 3 in 10 – 2018

Trust in Business

Sources

Democracy From Above? The Unfulfilled Promise of Nationally Mandated Participatory Reforms


Book by Stephanie L. McNulty: “People are increasingly unhappy with their governments in democracies around the world. In countries as diverse as India, Ecuador, and Uganda, governments are responding to frustrations by mandating greater citizen participation at the local and state level. Officials embrace participatory reforms, believing that citizen councils and committees lead to improved accountability and more informed communities. Yet there’s been little research on the efficacy of these efforts to improve democracy, despite an explosion in their popularity since the mid-1980s.Democracy from Above? tests the hypothesis that top-down reforms strengthen democracies and evaluates the conditions that affect their success.

Stephanie L. McNulty addresses the global context of participatory reforms in developing nations. She observes and interprets what happens after greater citizen involvement is mandated in seventeen countries, with close case studies of Guatemala, Bolivia, and Peru. The first cross-national comparison on this issue,Democracy from Above? explores whether the reforms effectively redress the persistent problems of discrimination, elite capture, clientelism, and corruption in the countries that adopt them. As officials and reformers around the world and at every level of government look to strengthen citizen involvement and confidence in the political process, McNulty provides a clear understanding of the possibilities and limitations of nationally mandated participatory reforms…(More)”.

Crowdsourced mapping in crisis zones: collaboration, organisation and impact


Amelia Hunt and Doug Specht in the Journal of International Humanitarian Action:  “Crowdsourced mapping has become an integral part of humanitarian response, with high profile deployments of platforms following the Haiti and Nepal earthquakes, and the multiple projects initiated during the Ebola outbreak in North West Africa in 2014, being prominent examples. There have also been hundreds of deployments of crowdsourced mapping projects across the globe that did not have a high profile.

This paper, through an analysis of 51 mapping deployments between 2010 and 2016, complimented with expert interviews, seeks to explore the organisational structures that create the conditions for effective mapping actions, and the relationship between the commissioning body, often a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and the volunteers who regularly make up the team charged with producing the map.

The research suggests that there are three distinct areas that need to be improved in order to provide appropriate assistance through mapping in humanitarian crisis: regionalise, prepare and research. The paper concludes, based on the case studies, how each of these areas can be handled more effectively, concluding that failure to implement one area sufficiently can lead to overall project failure….(More)”

Smart cities could be lousy to live in if you have a disability


Elizabeth Woyke in MIT Technology Review: “People with disabilities affecting mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive function often move to cities to take advantage of their comprehensive transit systems and social services. But US law doesn’t specify how municipalities should design and implement digital services for disabled people. As a result, cities sometimes adopt new technologies that can end up causing, rather than resolving, problems of accessibility.

Nowhere was this more evident than with New York City’s LinkNYC kiosks, which were installed on sidewalks in 2016 without including instructions in Braille or audible form. Shortly after they went in, the American Federation for the Blind sued the city. The suit was settled in 2017 and the kiosks have been updated, but Pineda says touch screens in general are still not fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Also problematic: the social-media-based apps that some municipal governments have started using to solicit feedback from residents. Blind and low-vision people typically can’t use the apps, and people over 65 are less likely to, says James Thurston, a vice president at the nonprofit G3ict, which promotes accessible information and communication technologies. “Cities may think they’re getting data from all their residents, but if those apps aren’t accessible, they’re leaving out the voices of large chunks of their population,” he says….

Even for city officials who have these issues on their minds, knowing where to begin can be difficult. Smart Cities for All, an initiative led by Thurston and Pineda, aims to help by providing free, downloadable tools that cities can use to analyze their technology and find more accessible options. One is a database of hundreds of pre-vetted products and services. Among the entries are Cyclomedia, which uses lidar data to determine when city sidewalks need maintenance, and ZenCity, a data analytics platform that uses AI to gauge what people are saying about a city’s level of accessibility. 

This month, the group will kick off a project working with officials in Chicago to grade the city on how well it supports people with disabilities. One key part of the project will be ensuring the accessibility of a new 311 phone system being introduced as a general portal to city services. The group has plans to expand to several other US cities this year, but its ultimate aim is to turn the work into a global movement. It’s met with governments in India and Brazil as well as Sidewalk Labs, the Alphabet subsidiary that is developing a smart neighborhood in Toronto….(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.  

Creating Smart Cities


Book edited by Claudio Coletta, Leighton Evans, Liam Heaphy, and Rob Kitchin: “In cities around the world, digital technologies are utilized to manage city services and infrastructures, to govern urban life, to solve urban issues and to drive local and regional economies. While “smart city” advocates are keen to promote the benefits of smart urbanism – increased efficiency, sustainability, resilience, competitiveness, safety and security – critics point to the negative effects, such as the production of technocratic governance, the corporatization of urban services, technological lock-ins, privacy harms and vulnerability to cyberattack.

This book, through a range of international case studies, suggests social, political and practical interventions that would enable more equitable and just smart cities, reaping the benefits of smart city initiatives while minimizing some of their perils.

Included are case studies from Ireland, the United States of America, Colombia, the Netherlands, Singapore, India and the United Kingdom. These chapters discuss a range of issues including political economy, citizenship, standards, testbedding, urban regeneration, ethics, surveillance, privacy and cybersecurity. This book will be of interest to urban policymakers, as well as researchers in Regional Studies and Urban Planning…(More)”.