Randomise Me


NESTA Policy Innovation Blog: “On 20 June 2013 we are hosting the launch of Randomise Me, a new website developed with Ben Goldacre, which will enable anyone to set up and run their own trial. What questions would you like to answer? For instance, ever wondered whether coffee gives you heart palpitations? Whether the reading app used in your classroom really does improve children’s attainment? Whether your new marketing campaign is increasing volunteer recruitment? If you want to know answers, then run a trial on Randomise Me and find out.
Randomised Control Trials may sound complex, but they simply involve taking a group, such as a group of patients, children, schools, or others, splitting them into groups at random, and then giving one intervention to one group, and another intervention to the other. The differences between each group are then observed to see if one intervention has achieved its supposed outcome. They are commonly used in medicine, but are much less common in other areas, such as children’s services, social care or education. Randomise Me is going to help remedy this.”

Empowering Consumers through the Smart Disclosure of Data


OSTP: “Today, the Administration’s interagency National Science and Technology Council released Smart Disclosure and Consumer Decision Making: Report of the Task Force on Smart Disclosurethe first comprehensive description of the Federal Government’s efforts to promote the smart disclosure of information that can help consumers make wise decisions in the marketplace.
Whether they are searching for colleges, health insurance, credit cards, airline flights, or energy providers, consumers can find it difficult to identify the specific product or service that best suits their particular needs. In some cases, the effort required to sift through all of the available information is so large that consumers make decisions using inadequate information. As a result, they may overpay, miss out on a product that would better meet their needs, or be surprised by fees.
The report released today outlines ways in which Federal agencies and other governmental and non-governmental organizations can use—and in many cases are already using—smart disclosure approaches that increase market transparency and empower consumers facing complex choices in domains such as health, education, energy and personal finance.”

Public Service Online – Digital by Default or by Detour?


Assessing User Centric eGovernment performance in Europe: Among the key findings:

  1. The most popular services were declaring income taxes (73% of users declare taxes online), moving or changing address (57%) and enrolling in higher education and/or applying for student grant (56%).
  2. While 54% of those surveyed still prefer face-to face contact or other traditional channels, at least 30% of them indicated they could also be regular eGovernment users if more relevant services were provided.
  3. 47% of eGovernment users got all they wanted from online services, 46% only partially received what they were looking for.

The report also signals that improvements are needed to online services for important life events like losing or finding a job, setting up a company and registering for studying.

  1. For people living in their own country, on average more than half of the administrative steps related to these key life events can be carried out online. Websites give information about the remaining steps. However, more transparency and interaction with users is needed to better empower citizens.
  2. The picture is less bright for the almost 2 million people who move or commute between EU Member States. While the majority of Member States provide some information about studying or starting a company from abroad, online registration is less common. Only 9 countries allow citizens from another EU Member State to register to study online, and only 17 countries allow them to take some steps to start a company in this way.”

Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy


New Report by McKinsey Global Institute: “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, cuts through the noise and identifies 12 technologies that could drive truly massive economic transformations and disruptions in the coming years. The report also looks at exactly how these technologies could change our world, as well as their benefits and challenges, and offers guidelines to help leaders from businesses and other institutions respond.
We estimate that, together, applications of the 12 technologies discussed in the report could have a potential economic impact between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025. This estimate is neither predictive nor comprehensive. It is based on an in-depth analysis of key potential applications and the value they could create in a number of ways, including the consumer surplus that arises from better products, lower prices, a cleaner environment, and better health….
Policy makers can use advanced technology to address their own operational challenges (for example, by deploying the Internet of Things to improve infrastructure management). The nature of work will continue to change, and that will require strong education and retraining programs. To address challenges that the new technologies themselves will bring, policy makers can use some of those very technologies—for example, by creating new educational and training systems with the mobile Internet, which can also help address an ever-increasing productivity imperative to deliver public services more efficiently and effectively. To develop a more nuanced and useful view of technology’s impact, governments may also want to consider new metrics that capture more than GDP effects. This approach can help policy makers balance the need to encourage growth with their responsibility to look out for the public welfare as new technologies reshape economies and lives.”
 

Informed, Structured Citizen Networks Benefit Government Best


Dan Bevarly in his blog, aheadofideas: “An online collective social process based on the Group Forming Networks (GFN) model with third party facilitation (perhaps via a community foundation or other local nonprofit) offers an effective solution for successful resident engagement for public policy making. It is essential that the process be accepted by elected officials and other policy making agencies that must contribute information and data for the networks, and accept the collaboration of their subgroups and participants as valid, deliberative civic engagement.
Residents will become engaged around a policy discussion (and perhaps join a network on the topic) based on a certain variables including:

  • interest, existing knowledge or expertise in the subject matter;
  • personal or community impact or relevance from decisions surrounding the policy topic(s); and
  • belief that participation will lead to real or visible outcome or resolution.

Government (as policy maker) must support these networks by providing objective, in-depth information about a policy issue, project or challenge to establish and feed a knowledge base for citizen/resident education.
Government needs informed citizen participation that helps address its many challenges with new ideas and knowledge. It is in their best interest to embrace structured networks to increase resident participation and consensus in the policy making process, and to increase efficiency in providing programs and services. But it should not be responsible for maintaining these networks….”

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.”

New Open Data Executive Order and Policy


The White House: “The Obama Administration today took groundbreaking new steps to make information generated and stored by the Federal Government more open and accessible to innovators and the public, to fuel entrepreneurship and economic growth while increasing government transparency and efficiency.
Today’s actions—including an Executive Order signed by the President and an Open Data Policy released by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy—declare that information is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public.  The Executive Order requires that, going forward, data generated by the government be made available in open, machine-readable formats, while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality, and security.
The move will make troves of previously inaccessible or unmanageable data easily available to entrepreneurs, researchers, and others who can use those files to generate new products and services, build businesses, and create jobs….
Along with the Executive Order and Open Data Policy, the Administration announced a series of complementary actions:
• A new Data.Gov.  In the months ahead, Data.gov, the powerful central hub for open government data, will launch new services that include improved visualization, mapping tools, better context to help locate and understand these data, and robust Application Programming Interface (API) access for developers.
• New open source tools to make data more open and accessible.  The US Chief Information Officer and the US Chief Technology Officer are releasing free, open source tools on Github, a site that allows communities of developers to collaboratively develop solutions.  This effort, known as Project Open Data, can accelerate the adoption of open data practices by providing plug-and-play tools and best practices to help agencies improve the management and release of open data.  For example, one tool released today automatically converts simple spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers.  Anyone, from government agencies to private citizens to local governments and for-profit companies, can freely use and adapt these tools starting immediately.
• Building a 21st century digital government.  As part of the Administration’s Digital Government Strategy and Open Data Initiatives in health, energy, education, public safety, finance, and global development, agencies have been working to unlock data from the vaults of government, while continuing to protect privacy and national security.  Newly available or improved data sets from these initiatives will be released today and over the coming weeks as part of the one year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy.
• Continued engagement with entrepreneurs and innovators to leverage government data.  The Administration has convened and will continue to bring together companies, organizations, and civil society for a variety of summits to highlight how these innovators use open data to positively impact the public and address important national challenges.  In June, Federal agencies will participate in the fourth annual Health Datapalooza, hosted by the nonprofit Health Data Consortium, which will bring together more than 1,800 entrepreneurs, innovators, clinicians, patient advocates, and policymakers for information sessions, presentations, and “code-a-thons” focused on how the power of data can be harnessed to help save lives and improve healthcare for all Americans.
For more information on open data highlights across government visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/docsreports”

A Page From the Tri-Sector Athlete Playbook: Designing a Pro-Bono Partnership Model for Cities and Public Agencies


Jeremy Goldberg: “Leaders in our social systems and institutions are faced with many of the same challenges of the past century, but they are tasked to solve them within new fiscal realities. In the United States these fiscal realities are tied to the impact of the most recent economic recession coupled with declining property and tax revenues. While these issues seem largely to be “problems” that many perceive to belong to our government, leadership across sectors has had to respond and adapt in numerous ways, some of which unfortunately include pay and hiring-freezes, lay-offs and cuts to important public services and programs related to education, parks and safety.
Fortunately, within this “new normal” there are examples of leadership within the public and private sector confronting these challenges head-on through innovative public-private partnerships (p3s). For example, municipal governments are turning to opportunities like IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge, which provides funding and a team of IBM employees to assist the city in solving specific public problems. Other cities such as Boston, Louisville and San Francisco have established initiatives, projects and Offices of Civic Innovation where government, technologists, communities and residents are collaborating to solve problems through open-data initiatives and platforms.
This new generation of innovative P3s demonstrates the inherent power of what Joseph Nye coined a tri-sector athlete — someone who is able and experienced in business, government and the social sector. Today, unlike any other time before, tri-sector athletes are demonstrating that business as usual just won’t cut it. These athletes, myself included, believe it’s the perfect moment for civic innovation, the perfect time civic collaboration, and the perfect moment for an organization like Fuse Corps to lead the national civic entrepreneurship movement… and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Civilized Discourse Construction Kit


Jeff Atwood at “Coding Horror“: “Forum software? Maybe. Let’s see, it’s 2013, has forum software advanced at all in the last ten years? I’m thinking no.
Forums are the dark matter of the web, the B-movies of the Internet. But they matter. To this day I regularly get excellent search results on forum pages for stuff I’m interested in. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t end up on some forum, somewhere, looking for some obscure bit of information. And more often than not, I find it there….

At Stack Exchange, one of the tricky things we learned about Q&A is that if your goal is to have an excellent signal to noise ratio, you must suppress discussion. Stack Exchange only supports the absolute minimum amount of discussion necessary to produce great questions and great answers. That’s why answers get constantly re-ordered by votes, that’s why comments have limited formatting and length and only a few display, and so forth….

Today we announce the launch of Discourse, a next-generation, 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet.

Discourse-logo-big

The goal of the company we formed, Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc., is exactly that – to raise the standard of civilized discourse on the Internet through seeding it with better discussion software:

  • 100% open source and free to the world, now and forever.
  • Feels great to use. It’s fun.
  • Designed for hi-resolution tablets and advanced web browsers.
  • Built in moderation and governance systems that let discussion communities protect themselves from trolls, spammers, and bad actors – even without official moderators.”