Why Big Data Is Not Truth


Quentin Hardy in the New York Times: “Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft Research, calls the problem “Big Data fundamentalism — the idea with larger data sets, we get closer to objective truth.” Speaking at a conference in Berkeley, Calif., on Thursday, she identified what she calls “six myths of Big Data.”
Myth 1: Big Data is New
In 1997, there was a paper that discussed the difficulty of visualizing Big Data, and in 1999, a paper that discussed the problems of gaining insight from the numbers in Big Data. That indicates that two prominent issues today in Big Data, display and insight, had been around for awhile…..
Myth 2: Big Data Is Objective
Over 20 million Twitter messages about Hurricane Sandy were posted last year. … “These were very privileged urban stories.” And some people, privileged or otherwise, put information like their home addresses on Twitter in an effort to seek aid. That sensitive information is still out there, even though the threat is gone.
Myth 3: Big Data Doesn’t Discriminate
“Big Data is neither color blind nor gender blind,” Ms. Crawford said. “We can see how it is used in marketing to segment people.” …
Myth 4: Big Data Makes Cities Smart
…, moving cities toward digital initiatives like predictive policing, or creating systems where people are seen, whether they like it or not, can promote lots of tension between individuals and their governments.
Myth 5: Big Data Is Anonymous
A study published in Nature last March looked at 1.5 million phone records that had personally identifying information removed. It found that just four data points of when and where a call was made could identify 95 percent of individuals. …
Myth 6: You Can Opt Out
… given the ways that information can be obtained in these big systems, “what are the chances that your personal information will never be used?”
Before Big Data disappears into the background as another fact of life, Ms. Crawford said, “We need to think about how we will navigate these systems. Not just individually, but as a society.”

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.”

Open Data and Civil Society


Nick Hurd, UK Minister for Civil Society, on the potential of open data for the third sector in The Guardian:

“Part of the value of civil society is holding power to account, and if this can be underpinned by good quality data, we will have a very powerful tool indeed….The UK is absolutely at the vanguard of the global open data movement, and NGOs have a great sense that this is something they want to play a part in.There is potential to help them do more of what they do, and to do it better, but they’re going to need a lot of help in terms of information and access to events where they can exchange ideas and best practice.”

Also in the article: “The competitive marketplace and bilateral nature of funding awards make this issue perhaps even more significant in the charity sector, and it is in changing attitudes and encouraging this warts-and-all approach that movement leadership bodies such as the Open Data Institute (ODI) will play their biggest role….Joining the ODI in driving and overseeing wider adoption of these practices is the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN). One of its first projects was a partnership with an organisation called Publish What You Fund, the aim of which was to release data on the breakdown of funding to sectors and departments in Uganda according to source – government or aid.
…Open data can often take the form of complex databases that need to be interrogated by a data specialist, and many charities simply do not have these technical resources sitting untapped. OKFN is foremost among a number of organisations looking to bridge this gap by training members of the public in data mining and analysis techniques….
“We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘knowledge is power’, and in this case knowledge means insight gained from this newly available data. But data doesn’t turn into insight or knowledge magically. It takes people, it takes skills, it takes tools to become knowledge, data and change.
“We set up the School of Data in partnership with Peer 2 Peer University just over a year and a half ago with the aim of enabling citizens to carry out this process, and what we really want to do is empower charities to use data in the same way”, said Pollock.”

The need of a Theory of Participation for 21st Century Governance


A new paper by Prof. Vickie Edwards in the International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior (IJOTB) concludes: “Research in the years to come should focus on how organizational forms are best adapted to integrate these participatory methods. Specifically, by examining organizational structures and how they integrate with the public in both successful and unsuccessful cases, scholars can gain a better understanding of appropriate organizational forms for stronger democracies at the local level. Such studies should also consider behavioral aspects and the views of both administrators and citizens who become involved in such efforts, as a lack of buy-in at any stage in the participatory process can cause the process to fail – something evidenced by the Great Society efforts in engagement. Personality factors may also play a role in the success or failure of engagement efforts, as such efforts may hinge on the public popularity of individual administrators who interface with citizens. Documenting efforts at participation and engagement through the use of case studies, survey methods, and social network analysis can aid practitioners in identifying best practices, as well as scholars as we seek to better understand each new piece of the participation puzzle”.

"Imagery to the Crowd"


Description: “The Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU), a division within the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues at the U.S. Department of State, is working to increase the availability of spatial data in areas experiencing humanitarian emergencies. Built from a crowdsourcing model, the new “Imagery to the Crowd” process publishes high-resolution commercial satellite imagery, purchased by the Unites States Government, in a web-based format that can be easily mapped by volunteers.
The digital map data generated by the volunteers are stored in a database maintained by OpenStreetMap (OSM), a UK-registered non-profit foundation, under a license that ensures the data are freely available and open for a range of uses (http://osm.org). Inspired by the success of the OSM mapping effort after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Imagery to the Crowd process harnesses the combined power of satellite imagery and the volunteer mapping community to help aid agencies provide informed and effective humanitarian assistance, and plan recovery and development activities.
5-minute Ignite Talk about Imagery to the Crowd:

Procurement needs better data now


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.”

Public health, disaster recovery and social media


Janice Jacobs:  “Increasingly, social media is playing a key role in helping to ease the heavy burden of these tragedies by connecting individuals and communities with each other and with critical resources…
Social media, in its simplest form, can notify the masses in real-time about situations that are happening or are about to happen.

  • In August 2011, several New Yorkers learned of an earthquake on Twitter prior to feeling it. From the D.C. area, tweets began popping up in droves almost 30 seconds before anyone felt the tremors in New York City, and ahead of any media reports about it. Twitter said that more than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets were sent within a minute of the earthquake’s manifestation…...

Social media can be used to identify trouble spots and to react quickly during emergencies.

Social media can be used to foster communication among various healthcare, aid, government agencies and individuals.

  • Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ, a prolific Twitter user, consistently tweeted helpful information for the Newark community following Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012.”

 

Medical Care, Aided by the Crowd


New York Times profile of a new crowdsourced service: “Watsi, which started last August, lets people donate as little as $5 toward low-cost, high-impact medical treatment for patients in third-world countries. The procedures range from relatively simple ones like fixing a broken limb to more complicated surgery — say, to remove an eye tumor. But the treatments generally have a high likelihood of success and don’t involve multiple operations or long-term care… Watsi represents the next generation of charities dependent on online donors, evolving the model started by sites like Kiva. With just a few mouse clicks, Kiva users, say, are able to lend money to a restaurant owner in the Philippines — and to examine her loan proposal and repayment schedule, to read about her and see her photograph.”

Open Data and Charities


Chronicle of Philanthropy: “President Obama is asking Congress to require nonprofits to file their informational tax returns electronically and taking other steps to encourage the Internal Revenue Service to make charity data more easily available to the public.
In his budget proposal for fiscal 2014, which starts October 1, Mr. Obama urged Congress to phase in a requirement that would force all charities to file their returns electronically within the next three years.”