Annual CGA Conference “Location-enabled devices are weaving “smart grids” and building “smart cities;” they allow people to discover a friend in a shopping mall, catch a bus at its next stop, check surrounding air quality while walking down a street, or avoid a rain storm on a tourist route – now or in the near future. And increasingly they allow those who provide services to track, whether we are walking past stores on the street or seeking help in a natural disaster.
The Centre for Spatial Law and Policy based in Washington, DC, the Center for Geographic Analysis, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University are co-hosting a two-day program examining the legal and policy issues that will impact geospatial technologies and the development of location-enabled societies. The event will take place at Harvard University on May 2-3, 2013…The goal is to explore the different dimensions of policy and legal concerns in geospatial technology applications, and to begin in creating a policy and legal framework for a location-enabled society. Download the conference program brochure.”
Next City reports: “…opening up government can get expensive. That’s why two developers this week launched the Department of Better Technology, an effort to make open government tools cheaper, more efficient and easier to engage with.
As founder Clay Johnson explains in a post on the site’s blog, a federal website that catalogues databases on government contracts, which launched last year, cost $181 million to build — $81 million more than a recent research initiative to map the human brain.
The first undertaking of Johnson and his partner, GovHub co-founder Adam Becker, is a tool meant to make it simpler for businesses to find government projects to bid on, as well as help officials streamline the process of managing procurements. In a pilot experiment, Johnson writes, the pair found that not only were bids coming in faster and at a reduced price, but more people were doing the bidding.
Per Johnson, “many of the bids that came in were from businesses that had not ordinarily contracted with the federal government before.”
The Department of Better Technology will accept five cities to test a beta version of this tool, called Procure.io, in 2013.”
The last few years, we have seen a variety of experimentation with new ways to engage citizens in the decisions making process especially at the local or community level. Little is known however on what works and why. The National League of Cities, working with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, released a report today reviewing the impact of experimentation within 14 communities in the US, highlighting several “bright spots”. The so-called scans focus on four aspects of community engagement:
The use of new tools and strategies
The ability to reach a broad spectrum of people, including those not typically “engaged”
Notable successes and outcomes
Sustainable efforts to use a range of strategies
A slide-deck summarizing the findings of the report:
Volta: “Visualising arguments helps people assemble their throughts and get to grip with complex problems according to The Argumentation Factory, based in Amsterdam. Their Argument Maps, constructed for government agencies, NGOs and commercial organizations, are designed to enable people to make better decisions and share and communicate information. Dutch research organisation TNO, in association with The Argumentation Factory, have launched the European Shale Gas Argument Map detailing the pros and cons of the production of shale gas for EU member states with shale gas resources. Their map is designed to provide the foundation for an open discussion and help the user make a balaced assessment.”
Paper by NetLab (Toronto University) scholars in the latest issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: “We review the evidence from a number of surveys in which our NetLab has been involved about the extent to which the Internet is transforming or enhancing community. The studies show that the Internet is used for connectivity locally as well as globally, although the nature of its use varies in different countries. Internet use is adding on to other forms of communication, rather than replacing them. Internet use is reinforcing the pre-existing turn to societies in the developed world that are organized around networked individualism rather than group or local solidarities. The result has important implications for civic involvement.”
Howard Rolfe, procurement director for East of England NHS Collaborative Procurement Hub, in The Guardian: “Knowledge management is fundamental to any organisation and procurement in the NHS is no exception. Current systems are not joined up and don’t give the level of information that should be expected. Management in many NHS trusts cannot say how effective procurement is within their organisation because they don’t have a dashboard of information that tells them, for example, the biggest spend areas, who is placing the order, what price is paid and how that price compares.
Systems now exist that could help answer these questions and increase board and senior management focus on this area of huge spend….The time for better data is now, the opportunity is at the top of political and management agendas and the need is overwhelming. What is the solution? The provision of effective knowledge management systems is key and will facilitate improvements in information, procurement and collaborative aggregation by providing greater visibility of spend and reduction of administrative activity.”
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.
Michael Chertoff and Dallas Lawrence in WSJ: “A dozen years ago when the terrorists struck on 9/11, there was no Facebook or Twitter or i-anything on the market. Cellphones were relatively common, but when cell networks collapsed in 2001, many people were left disconnected and wanting for immediate answers. Last week in Boston, when mobile networks became overloaded following the bombings, the social-media-savvy Boston Police Department turned to Twitter, using the platform as a makeshift newsroom to alert media and concerned citizens to breaking news.
Law-enforcement agencies around the world will note how social media played a prominent role both in telling the story and writing its eventual conclusion. Some key lessons have emerged.”
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.”
Peter Ludlow, professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, in the New York Times: “Hacktivists, roughly speaking, are individuals who redeploy and repurpose technology for social causes….For some reason, it seems that the government considers hackers who are out to line their pockets less of a threat than those who are trying to make a political point….The law, as interpreted by the prosecutors, makes it a felony to use a computer system for “unintended” applications, or even violate a terms-of-service agreement. That would theoretically make a felon out of anyone who lied about their age or weight on Match.com…In a world in which nearly everyone is technically a felon, we rely on the good judgment of prosecutors to decide who should be targets and how hard the law should come down on them. We have thus entered a legal reality not so different from that faced by Socrates when the Thirty Tyrants ruled Athens, and it is a dangerous one. When everyone is guilty of something, those most harshly prosecuted tend to be the ones that are challenging the established order, poking fun at the authorities, speaking truth to power — in other words, the gadflies of our society.”