Better Cities Competition

oi-logoAnnouncement: Do you want to make our cities of the future better? Want to help improve quality of life in your home, your work and your public life? Have an idea how? Capture it in a short video and be in with a chance to win one of our amazing prizes!
As a part of Open Innovation 2.0: Sustainable Economy & Society collaboration  Intel Labs Europe, Dublin City Council, Trinity College Dublin and European Commission Open Innovation and Strategy Policy Group are delighted to announce that the 2013 Better Cities competition is now open.
The theme of the competition is how to make our cities more socially and economically sustainable, through use of open data and information technology.  Particular focus should be given to how citizens can engage and contribute to the innovation process.

Sanitation Hackathon

SanitationNew York Times: “Because of the rapid spread of cellular phones, mobile technology has previously been used to address a variety of problems in the developing world, including access to financial services, health care information and education. But toilets were another matter….Building on a process that had previously been employed to address problems in supplying clean water to people in poor areas, the World Bank turned its attention to sanitation. Over six months last year, it solicited ideas from experts in the field, as well as software developers. The process culminated in early December with the actual hackathon — two days in which more than 1,000 developers gathered in 40 cities worldwide to work on their projects….After the event in Washington, the winners of the hackathon are set to travel to Silicon Valley for meetings with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are interested in the issue. The World Bank does not plan to invest in the projects, but hopes that others might.”
See also

Reinvent Regulation

Reinvent Roundtable that will take place on April 23, 2013 11:00 am PT : “Tim O’Reilly has some big ideas about how to dramatically modernize the entire notion of government regulation, particularly “algorithmic regulation” that harnesses computer power, much like top tech companies in Silicon Valley, to oversee the financial industry, which is using those same tools. This roundtable features some top talent from the Valley to apply their brains to figuring out how we could reinvent much more iterative regulation that constantly gets refined through analyzing data and processing feedback loops – much like Google refines its search techniques. In fact, we’ll have a top person from Google Search as well as someone from the US Treasury Department to work on these ideas. Watch Now →”

Work-force Science and Big Data

Steve Lohr from the New York Times: “Work-force science, in short, is what happens when Big Data meets H.R….Today, every e-mail, instant message, phone call, line of written code and mouse-click leaves a digital signal. These patterns can now be inexpensively collected and mined for insights into how people work and communicate, potentially opening doors to more efficiency and innovation within companies.

Digital technology also makes it possible to conduct and aggregate personality-based assessments, often using online quizzes or games, in far greater detail and numbers than ever before. In the past, studies of worker behavior were typically based on observing a few hundred people at most. Today, studies can include thousands or hundreds of thousands of workers, an exponential leap ahead.

“The heart of science is measurement,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. “We’re seeing a revolution in measurement, and it will revolutionize organizational economics and personnel economics.”

The data-gathering technology, to be sure, raises questions about the limits of worker surveillance. “The larger problem here is that all these workplace metrics are being collected when you as a worker are essentially behind a one-way mirror,” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group. “You don’t know what data is being collected and how it is used.”

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.”

The GovLab

Steven Johnson, author of Future Perfect : “Peer-to-Patent stands as one of my favorite examples of peer progressive thinking at work. It brings in outside minds not directly affiliated with the government to help the government solve the problems it faces, effectively making a more porous boundary between citizen and state….I say all this to explain why I’m excited to be flying to NY tonight to help Noveck with her latest project, the Governance Lab at NYU, an extended, multidisciplinary investigation in new forms of participatory governance, backed by the Knight Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation…
I wrote Future Perfect in large part to capture all the thrilling new experiments and research into peer collaboration that I saw flourishing all around me, and to give those diverse projects the umbrella name of peer progressivism so that they could be more easily conceived as a unified movement. But I also wrote the book with the explicit assumption that we had a lot to learn about these systems. For starters, peer networks take a number of different forms: crowdfunding projects like Kickstarter are quite different from crowd-authored projects like open source software or Wikipedia; prize-backed challenges are a completely different beast altogether. For movement-building, it’s important to stress the commonalities between these different networks, but for practical application, we need to study the distinctions. And we need to avoid the easy assumption that decentralized, peer-based approaches will always outperform centralized ones.

Surfing Logs Reveal Global Eating Patterns

From the The Physics arXiv Blog:  “The way we view online recipes reveals how our eating habits change over time, say computational sociologists….it’s no surprise that computational sociologists have begun to mine the data associated with our browsing habits to discover more about our diets and eating habits. Last year we looked at some fascinating work examining networks of ingredients and the flavours they contain, gathered from online recipe websites.  It turns out this approach gives fascinating insights into the way recipes vary geographically and into the possibility of unexplored combinations of flavours.
Today, Robert West at Stanford University and Ryen White and Eric Horvitz from Microsoft Research in Redmond, take a deeper look at the electronic trails we leave when we hunt for food on the web. They say the data reveals important trends in the way our diets change with the season, with our geographical location and with certain special days such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. And they conclude that the data could become an important tool for monitoring public health.”
See also : From Cookies to Cooks: Insights on Dietary Patterns via Analysis of Web Usage Logs

Digital engagement: time to shift attention toward use and usefulness

Geoff Mulgan: “The last few years have brought a cornucopia of innovation around data, with millions of data sets opened up, and big campaigns around transparency, all interacting with the results of a glut of hackathons, appathons and the like. Linked to this has been the explosion of creativity around digital tools for civic engagement and local government….
There are also big questions to ask about digital technologies and public services – and in particular why so few public services have been radically redesigned. This has been talked about for as long as I can remember – and it’s not hard to map out how a transformed health, welfare or transport system could work if you started afresh. But with a few exceptions (like tax) this isn’t happening in any of the big public services anywhere. I’ll be writing some blogs soon about how we might accelerate this kind of systemic change.
In the meantime there are some more pragmatic questions to ask about what is and isn’t working.  A pattern is becoming clear which poses a challenge to the enthusiasts, and to funders like us.  In essence it’s this: there has been brilliant progress on the supply side – opening up data, and multiplying tools and apps of all kinds. But there has been far less progress on the demand and use side. The result is that thousands of promising data sets, apps and sites remain unused; and a great deal of creativity and energy has gone to waste.
The reasons are fairly obvious when you think about it. This is a movement driven by enthusiasts who have tended to assume that supply will create its own demand (sometimes it does – but not often).  Most of the practitioners are interested in the technical challenges of design, and a measure of their success is that for most applications there are readily accessible tools now available. Yet the much bigger challenges lie around use: how to develop attractive brands; how to promote and market; how to shape design to fit how people will actually use the services; how to build living communities.”

Citizen Engagement and City Budgets

Governing Magazine: “Inviting public comment early in the budget process, and doing so in multiple ways, is closely associated with better performance outcomes, according to a new study in The American Review of Public Administration.

State and local government meetings, from a state agency to a county board, are notoriously low in attendance. Some governments have reacted with experiments to spur better public involvement, especially in drafting budgets. … Despite this patchwork of efforts to involve citizens, public administrators still don’t know exactly when to seek public input and how it might affect the day-to-day work of governing. So Hai Guo and Milena Neshkova, both assistant professors in the Department of Public Administration at Florida International University, set out to study the relationship between citizen participation in budgeting and measurable performance outcomes. Their analysis relied on 2005 survey data on state transportation agencies and their civic engagement strategies (focus groups, for example) across four stages in the budget process.
Because their research focused solely on transportation agencies, they looked at transportation-related outcomes that governments value: fewer road-related fatalities and fewer poor-quality roads. They took into account external factors, such as level of funding, that might account for differences in fatality rates or road conditions. They found that not only is there an inverse relationship (more attempts at civic engagement mean fewer fatalities and low-quality roads), but that the relationship is statistically significant. In other words, the result isn’t due to chance.
More importantly, the association was strongest at the earliest stage in the process. “You need to engage them early. I think that’s the point we’re trying to make,” Prof. Guo said. Since the analysis was specific to state transportation departments, Prof. Guo says he’d like to see if the same pattern would emerge at other levels of government.”

Map of the internet could make it stronger

From the Scientist: “In many ways the internet is like another country. It has its own communities, cultures and even currency. But its infrastructure – the fibre optic cables that span the globe, and the thousands of buildings housing servers and routers – passes through almost every nation…. Previous attempts to map the internet have been from within, using “sniffer” software to report the IP addresses of devices visited along a particular route, which, in theory, can then be translated into geographical locations. But this approach doesn’t work,… Barford and Roughan head up two separate projects that are attempting to change that. Instead of relying on sniffers, they are scouring ISP databases to find published information about local networks, and piecing these together into a global map. Roughan’s Internet Topology Zoo is a growing collection of maps of individual networks. Barford’s Internet Atlas expands on this, adding crucial buildings and links between networks to flesh out the map. So far the Internet Atlas, perhaps the most comprehensive map of the physical internet, maps 10,000 such structures and 13,000 connections.”