Exploring Digital Ecosystems: Organizational and Human Challenges


Proceedings edited by Alessandra Lazazzara, Francesca Ricciardi and Stefano Za: “The recent surge of interest in digital ecosystems is not only transforming the business landscape, but also poses several human and organizational challenges. Due to the pervasive effects of the transformation on firms and societies alike, both scholars and practitioners are interested in understanding the key mechanisms behind digital ecosystems, their emergence and evolution. In order to disentangle such factors, this book presents a collection of research papers focusing on the relationship between technologies (e.g. digital platforms, AI, infrastructure) and behaviours (e.g. digital learning, knowledge sharing, decision-making). Moreover, it provides critical insights into how digital ecosystems can shape value creation and benefit various stakeholders. The plurality of perspectives offered makes the book particularly relevant for users, companies, scientists and governments. The content is based on a selection of the best papers – original double-blind peer-reviewed contributions – presented at the annual conference of the Italian chapter of the AIS, which took place in Pavia, Italy in October 2018….(More)”.

Hacking for Housing: How open data and civic hacking creates wins for housing advocates


Krista Chan at Sunlight: “…Housing advocates have an essential role to play in protecting residents from the consequences of real estate speculation. But they’re often at a significant disadvantage; the real estate lobby has access to a wealth of data and technological expertise. Civic hackers and open data could play an essential role in leveling the playing field.

Civic hackers have facilitated wins for housing advocates by scraping data or submitting FOIA requests where data is not open and creating apps to help advocates gain insights that they can turn into action. 

Hackers at New York City’s Housing Data Coalition created a host of civic apps that identify problematic landlords by exposing owners behind shell companies, or flagging buildings where tenants are at risk of displacement. In a similar vein, Washington DC’s Housing Insights tool aggregates a wide variety of data to help advocates make decisions about affordable housing.

Barriers and opportunities

Today, the degree to which housing data exists, is openly available, and consistently reliable varies widely, even within cities themselves. Cities with robust communities of affordable housing advocacy groups may not be connected to people who can help open data and build usable tools. Even in cities with robust advocacy and civic tech communities, these groups may not know how to work together because of the significant institutional knowledge that’s required to understand how to best support housing advocacy efforts.

In cities where civic hackers have tried to create useful open housing data repositories, similar data cleaning processes have been replicated, such as record linkage of building owners or identification of rent-controlled units. Civic hackers need to take on these data cleaning and “extract, transform, load” (ETL) processes in order to work with the data itself, even if it’s openly available. The Housing Data Coalition has assembled NYC-DB, a tool which builds a postgres database containing a variety of housing related data pertaining to New York City, and Washington DC’s Housing Insights similarly ingests housing data into a postgres database and API for front-end access

Since these tools are open source, civic hackers in a multitude of cities can use existing work to develop their own, locally relevant tools to support local housing advocates….(More)”.

Making Smart Cities More Playable: Exploring Playable Cities


Book by Anton Nijholt: “This book explores the ways in which the broad range of technologies that make up the smart city infrastructure can be harnessed to incorporate more playfulness into the day-to-day activities that take place within smart cities, making them not only more efficient but also more enjoyable for the people who live and work within their confines. The book addresses various topics that will be of interest to playable cities stakeholders, including the human–computer interaction and game designer communities, computer scientists researching sensor and actuator technology in public spaces, urban designers, and (hopefully) urban policymakers….(More)”.

Open Governance of Cities: A new paradigm for understanding urban collaboration


Paper Albert J. Meijer, Miriam Lips and Kaiping Chen: “This theoretical viewpoint paper presents a new perspective on urban governance in an information age. Smart city governance is not only about technology but also about re-organizing collaboration between a variety of actors. The introduction of new tools for open collaboration in the public domain is rapidly changing the way collaborative action is organized. These technologies reduce the transaction costs for massive collaboration dramatically and thus facilitate new forms of collaboration that we could call ‘open governance’: new innovative forms of collective action aimed at solving complex public policy issues, contributing to public knowledge, or replacing traditional forms of public service provision. These innovative open and collaborative organisational forms in cities seem to point towards not only a wide variety of digitally connected actors but also to a fundamentally different and more invisible role of government in these arrangements. We argue that the recently emerging paradigm of New Public Governance (NPG) (Osborne 2010) also fails to capture the dynamics of open governance since it does not acknowledge the emergent – pop-up – character of the new collaborations; neither does it present an understanding of massive individualized collaboration in cities.

This paper aims to theoretically and empirically explore the core elements and the underlying socio-technical developments of this new Open Governance (OG) paradigm and compare and contrast OG with existing governance paradigms. Based on illustrative real-life cases, we will argue that we need a new paradigm that is better capable of explaining these emerging innovative forms of governing cities. We will argue that this requires an understanding of governance as a platform that facilitates an urban ecosystem. By connecting new insights from studies on digital governance to the debate about governance paradigms, this paper results in a set crucial empirical and normative questions about governance of cities and also in guidelines for urban governance that builds upon the rich, emerging interactions in cities that are facilitated by new technologies….(More)”

Review into bias in algorithmic decision-making


Interim Report by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (UK): The use of algorithms has the potential to improve the quality of decision- making by increasing the speed and accuracy with which decisions are made. If designed well, they can reduce human bias in decision-making processes. However, as the volume and variety of data used to inform decisions increases, and the algorithms used to interpret the data become more complex, concerns are growing that without proper oversight, algorithms risk entrenching and potentially worsening bias.

The way in which decisions are made, the potential biases which they are subject to and the impact these decisions have on individuals are highly context dependent. Our Review focuses on exploring bias in four key sectors: policing, financial services, recruitment and local government. These have been selected because they all involve significant decisions being made about individuals, there is evidence of the growing uptake of machine learning algorithms in the sectors and there is evidence of historic bias in decision-making within these sectors. This Review seeks to answer three sets of questions:

  1. Data: Do organisations and regulators have access to the data they require to adequately identify and mitigate bias?
  2. Tools and techniques: What statistical and technical solutions are available now or will be required in future to identify and mitigate bias and which represent best practice?
  3. Governance: Who should be responsible for governing, auditing and assuring these algorithmic decision-making systems?

Our work to date has led to some emerging insights that respond to these three sets of questions and will guide our subsequent work….(More)”.

The role of comparative city policy data in assessing progress toward the urban SDG targets


VeronikaRozhenkova et al in Cities: “As part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, all countries have agreed to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. We argue that there is a critical need for large-scale comparative city policy data that, when linked with outcome data, could be used to identify where policies are working and where they could be improved. In an assessment of the landscape of existing city policy data, based on a comprehensive scoping review, we find that existing databases are insufficient for the purposes of comparative analysis. We then describe what an “ideal” city policy database would look like, where it could be housed, and how it could be developed. Such a database could be a key tool for achieving SDG 11, the urban Sustainable Development Goal….(More)”.

Urbanism Under Google: Lessons from Sidewalk Toronto


Paper by Ellen P. Goodman and Julia Powles: “Cities around the world are rapidly adopting digital technologies, data analytics, and the trappings of “smart” infrastructure. No company is more ambitious about exploring data flows and seeking to dominate networks of information than Google. In October 2017, Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs embarked on its first prototype smart city in Toronto, Canada, planning a new kind of data-driven urban environment: “the world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up.” Although the vision is for an urban district foregrounding progressive ideals of inclusivity, for the crucial first 18 months of the venture, many of the most consequential features of the project were hidden from view and unavailable for serious scrutiny. The players defied public accountability on questions about data collection and surveillance, governance, privacy, competition, and procurement. Even more basic questions about the use of public space went unanswered: privatized services, land ownership, infrastructure deployment and, in all cases, the question of who is in control. What was hidden in this first stage, and what was revealed, suggest that the imagined smart city may be incompatible with democratic processes, sustained public governance, and the public interest.

This article analyzes the Sidewalk project in Toronto as it took shape in its first phase, prior to the release of the Master Innovation and Development Plan, exploring three major governance challenges posed by the imagined “city of the future”: privatization, platformization, and domination. The significance of this case study applies well beyond Toronto. Google and related companies are modeling future business growth embedded in cities and using projects like the one in Toronto as test beds. What happens in Toronto is designed to be replicated. We conclude with some lessons, highlighting the precarity of civic stewardship and public accountability when cities are confronted with tantalizing visions of privatized urban innovation…(More)”.

Open Mobility Foundation


Press Release: “The Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) – a global coalition led by cities committed to using well-designed, open-source technology to evolve how cities manage transportation in the modern era – launched today with the mission to promote safety, equity and quality of life. The announcement comes as a response to the growing number of vehicles and emerging mobility options on city streets. A new city-governed non-profit, the OMF brings together academic, commercial, advocacy and municipal stakeholders to help cities develop and deploy new digital mobility tools, and provide the governance needed to efficiently manage them.

“Cities are always working to harness the power of technology for the public good. The Open Mobility Foundation will help us manage emerging transportation infrastructures, and make mobility more accessible and affordable for people in all of our communities,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also serves as Advisory Council Chair of Accelerator for America, which showcased the MDS platform early on.

The OMF convenes a new kind of public-private forum to seed innovative ideas and govern an evolving software platform. Serving as a forum for discussions about pedestrian safety, privacy, equity, open-source governance and other related topics, the OMF has engaged a broad range of city and municipal organizations, private companies and non-profit groups, and experts and advocates to ensure comprehensive engagement and expertise on vital issues….

The OMF governs a platform called “Mobility Data Specification” (MDS) that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation developed to help manage dockless micro-mobility programs (including shared dockless e-scooters). MDS is comprised of a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that create standard communications between cities and private companies to improve their operations. The APIs allow cities to collect data that can inform real-time traffic management and public policy decisions to enhance safety, equity and quality of life. More than 50 cities across the United States – and dozens across the globe – already use MDS to manage micro-mobility services.

Making this software open and free offers a safe and efficient environment for stakeholders, including municipalities, companies, experts and the public, to solve problems together. And because private companies scale best when cities can offer a consistent playbook for innovation, the OMF aims to nurture those services that provide the highest benefit to the largest number of people, from sustainability to safety outcomes….(More)”

Gender gaps in urban mobility


Paper (preprint) by Laetitia Gauvin, Michele Tizzoni, Simone Piaggesi, Andrew Young, Natalia Adler, Stefaan Verhulst, Leo Ferres, and Ciro Cattuto: “The use of public transportation or simply moving about in streets are gendered issues. Women and girls often engage in multi-purpose, multi-stop trips in order to do household chores, work, and study (‘trip chaining’). Women-headed households are often more prominent in urban settings and they tend to work more in low-paid/informal jobs than men, with limited access to transportation subsidies. Here we present recent results on urban mobility from a gendered perspective by uniquely combining a wide range of datasets, including commercial sources of telecom and open data. We explored urban mobility of women and men in the greater metropolitan area of Santiago, Chile, by analyzing the mobility traces extracted from the Call Detail Records (CDRs) of a large cohort of anonymized mobile phone users over a period of 3 months. We find that, taking into account the differences in users’ calling behaviors, women move less than men, visiting less unique locations and distributing their time less equally among such locations. By mapping gender differences in mobility over the 52 comunas of Santiago, we find a higher mobility gap to be correlated with socio-economic indicators, such as a lower average income, and with the lack of public and private transportation options. Such results provide new insights for policymakers to design more gender inclusive transportation plans in the city of Santiago….(More)”.

Capacities for urban transformations governance and the case of New York City


Paper by Katharina Hölscher et al: “The narrative of urban sustainability transformations epitomises the hope that urban governance can create the conditions to plan and govern cities in a way that they contribute to local and global sustainability and resilience. So far, urban governance is not delivering: novel governance approaches are emerging in cities worldwide, yet are unable to transform conventional policymaking and planning to allow for innovative, co-beneficial and long-term solutions and actions to emerge and institutionalise. We present a capacities framework for urban transformations governance, starting from the need to fulfil distinct output functions (‘what needs to happen’) for mobilising and influencing urban transformation dynamics. The framework helps to diagnose and inform urban governance for responding to disturbances (stewarding capacity), phasing-out drivers of path-dependency (unlocking capacity), creating and embedding novelties (transformative capacity) and coordinating multi-actor processes (orchestrating capacity). Our case study of climate governance in New York City exemplifies the framework’s applicability and explanatory power to identify conditions and activities facilitating transformation (governance), and to reveal gaps and barriers of these vis-à-vis the existing governance regime. Our framework thereby functions as a tool to explore what new forms of urban transformation governance are emerging, how effective these are, and how to strengthen capacities….(More)”.