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/

The Dangers of Surveillance


Paper by Neil M. Richards in Harvard Law Review. Abstract:  “From the Fourth Amendment to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, our culture is full of warnings about state scrutiny of our lives. These warnings are commonplace, but they are rarely very specific. Other than the vague threat of an Orwellian dystopia, as a society we don’t really know why surveillance is bad, and why we should be wary of it. To the extent the answer has something to do with “privacy,” we lack an understanding of what “privacy” means in this context, and why it matters. Developments in government and corporate practices have made this problem more urgent. Although we have laws that protect us against government surveillance, secret government programs cannot be challenged until they are discovered.
… I propose a set of four principles that should guide the future development of surveillance law, allowing for a more appropriate balance between the costs and benefits of government surveillance. First, we must recognize that surveillance transcends the public-private divide. Even if we are ultimately more concerned with government surveillance, any solution must grapple with the complex relationships between government and corporate watchers. Second, we must recognize that secret surveillance is illegitimate, and prohibit the creation of any domestic surveillance programs whose existence is secret. Third, we should recognize that total surveillance is illegitimate and reject the idea that it is acceptable for the government to record all Internet activity without authorization. Fourth, we must recognize that surveillance is harmful. Surveillance menaces intellectual privacy and increases the risk of blackmail, coercion, and discrimination; accordingly, we must recognize surveillance as a harm in constitutional standing doctrine.

Taking Open Government to the Next Level


Carl Fillichio who heads the Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs at (Work in Progress):  “Since we published a department-wide API two years ago, developers across the country have used it to create apps that educate users about workplace safety and health, employers’ compliance with wage and hour laws, and improving employment opportunities for disabled workers, just to name a few!
Releasing data through an API was a big step forward, but it was not exactly groundbreaking.  However, since then, my team has been working hard to develop software development kits that are truly innovative because they make using our API even easier.
These kits (also known as SDKs) contain application code for six different platforms − iOS, Android, Blackberry, .Net, PHP and Ruby − that anyone creating a mobile or Web-based app using our data could incorporate. By using the kits, experienced developers will save time and novice developers will be able to work with DOL data in just a few minutes…. All of these kits can be downloaded from our developer site. Additionally, in keeping with the federal digital government strategy, each has been published as an open source project on github, a popular code-sharing site. For a list of federal APIs that are supported by our kits, check the github repository’s wiki page. This list will be updated as the kits are tested with additional federal APIs.”
 

Policy Modeling through Collaboration and Simulation


New paper on “Bridging narrative scenario texts and formal policy modeling through conceptual policy modeling” in Artificial Intelligence and Law.

Abstract: “Engaging stakeholders in policy making and supporting policy development with advanced information and communication technologies including policy simulation is currently high on the agenda of research. In order to involve stakeholders in providing their input to policy modeling via online means, simple techniques need to be employed such as scenario technique. Scenarios enable stakeholders to express their views in narrative text. At the other end of policy development, a frequently used approach to policy modeling is agent-based simulation. So far, effective support to transform narrative text input to formal simulation statements is not widely available. In this paper, we present a novel approach to support the transformation of narrative texts via conceptual modeling into formal simulation models. The approach also stores provenance information which is conveyed via annotations of texts to the conceptual model and further on to the simulation model. This way, traceability of information is provided, which contributes to better understanding and transparency, and therewith enables stakeholders and policy modelers to return to the sources that informed the conceptual and simulation model.”

New OECD paper on Machine-to-Machine Communications


Machine-to-Machine Communications – Connecting Billions of Devices: “This document examines the future of machine-to-machine communication (M2M), with a particular focus on mobile wireless networks. M2M devices are defined, in this paper, as those that are actively communicating using wired and wireless networks, are not computers in the traditional sense and are using the Internet in some form or another. While, at the global level, there are currently around five billion devices connected to mobile networks, this may by some estimates increase to 50 billion by the end of the decade. The report provides examples of some of the uses to which M2M is being put today and its potential to enhance economic and social development. It concludes that to achieve these benefits, however, changes to telecommunication policy and regulatory frameworks may be required. Some of the main areas that will need to be evaluated, and implications of M2M assessed, include: opening access to mobile wholesale markets for firms not providing public telecommunication services; numbering policy; frequency policy; privacy and security; and access to public sector information.”

Big Data can help keep the peace


NextGov story: “Some of the same social media analyses that have helped Google and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spot warning signs of a flu outbreak could be used to detect the rumblings of violent conflict before it begins, scholars said in a paper released this week.
Kenyan officials used essentially this system to track hate speech on Facebook, blogs and Twitter in advance of that nation’s 2013 presidential election, which brought Uhuru Kenyatta to power.
Similar efforts to track Syrian social media have been able to identify ceasefire violations within 15 minutes of when they occur, according to the paper on New Technology and the Prevention of Violence and Conflict prepared by the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Peace Institute and presented at the United States Institute of Peace Friday.”

Vision for Citizen Engagement


From Development Gateway on their “Vision for Citizen Engagement”: “As governments become more open they are producing more open data about their activities. Yet open data is just a “gateway drug” toward more participatory governance. We need to focus on the ecosystem that surrounds such tools to get citizens “hooked” on the power of open data to effect the changes that are relevant to their day-to-day challenges…. The key to Open Data adoption is relevance and context. What data will citizens find relevant? And how they will use that relevant data to improve their lives?…
We believe that an informed and engaged citizenry and civil society, using the tools of Open Data, can improve development outcomes in partnership with their governments.
To find out what matters to citizens, civil society, technologists, and governments, we need to bring them together in “safe” public venues where they can identify development challenges and create lasting solutions together face-to-face. For citizens, governments, and civil society, this can be traditional community centers like libraries, schools, universities and places of worship.
For technologists, co-working spaces like the “Hubs” and “Labs” that are emerging around the world are bringing excitement and attention to development challenges. DG took a slightly different approach than others. We reinvented our working environment, opening up our office space and inviting over sixteen other organizations to form the new OpenGov Hub. With almost daily events mixing citizens, governments, and civil society with technologists, we are beginning to see significant increased collaboration and innovation.”