Platform Urbanism: Negotiating Platform Ecosystems in Connected Cities


Book by Sarah Barns: “This book reflects on what it means to live as urban citizens in a world increasingly shaped by the business and organisational logics of digital platforms. Where smart city strategies promote the roll-out of internet of things (IoT) technologies and big data analytics by city governments worldwide, platform urbanism responds to the deep and pervasive entanglements that exist between urban citizens, city services and platform ecosystems today.    

Recent years have witnessed a backlash against major global platforms, evidenced by burgeoning literatures on platform capitalism, the platform society, platform surveillance and platform governance, as well as regulatory attention towards the market power of platforms in their dominance of global data infrastructure.  

This book responds to these developments and asks: How do platform ecosystems reshape connected cities? How do urban researchers and policy makers respond to the logics of platform ecosystems and platform intermediation? What sorts of multisensory urban engagements are rendered through platform interfaces and modalities? And what sorts of governance challenges and responses are needed to cultivate and champion the digital public spaces of our connected lives….(More)”.

What are hidden data treasuries and how can they help development outcomes?


Blogpost by Damien Jacques et al: “Cashew nuts in Burkina Faso can be seen growing from space. Such is the power of satellite technology, it’s now possible to observe the changing colors of fields as crops slowly ripen.

This matters because it can be used as an early warning of crop failure and food crisis – giving governments and aid agencies more time to organize a response.

Our team built an exhaustive crop type and yield estimation map in Burkina Faso, using artificial intelligence and satellite images from the European Space Agency. 

But building the map would not have been possible without a data set that GIZ, the German government’s international development agency, had collected for one purpose on the ground some years before – and never looked at again.

At Dalberg, we call this a “hidden data treasury” and it has huge potential to be used for good. 

Unlocking data potential

In the records of the GIZ Data Lab, the GPS coordinates and crop yield measurements of just a few hundred cashew fields were sitting dormant.

They’d been collected in 2015 to assess the impact of a program to train farmers. But through the power of machine learning, that data set has been given a new purpose.

Using Dalberg Data Insights’ AIDA platform, our team trained algorithms to analyze satellite images for cashew crops, track the crops’ color as they ripen, and from there, estimate yields for the area covered by the data.

From this, it’s now possible to predict crop failures for thousands of fields.

We believe this “recycling” of old data, when paired with artificial intelligence, can help to bridge the data gaps in low-income countries and meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals….(More)”.

Responsible Operations: Data Science, Machine Learning, and AI in Libraries


OCLC Research Position Paper by Thomas Padilla: “Despite greater awareness, significant gaps persist between concept and operationalization in libraries at the level of workflows (managing bias in probabilistic description), policies (community engagement vis-à-vis the development of machine-actionable collections), positions (developing staff who can utilize, develop, critique, and/or promote services influenced by data science, machine learning, and AI), collections (development of “gold standard” training data), and infrastructure (development of systems that make use of these technologies and methods). Shifting from awareness to operationalization will require holistic organizational commitment to responsible operations. The viability of responsible operations depends on organizational incentives and protections that promote constructive dissent…(More)”.

Appropriate use of data in public space


Collection of Essays by NL Digital Government: “Smart cities are urban areas where large amounts of data are collected using sensors to enable a range of processes in the cities to run smoothly. However, the use of data is only legally and ethically allowed if the data is gathered and processed in a proper manner. It is not clear to many cities what data (personal or otherwise) about citizens may be gathered and processed, and under what conditions. The main question addressed by this essay concerns the degree to which data on citizens may be reused in the context of smart cities.

The emphasis here is on the reuse of data. Among the aspects featured are smart cities, the Internet of Things, big data, and nudging. Diferent types of data reuse will also be identifed using a typology that helps clarify and assess the desirability of data reuse. The heart of this essay is an examination of the most relevant legal and ethical frameworks for data reuse.

The most relevant legal frameworks are privacy and human rights, the protection of personal data and administrative law (in particular, the general principles of sound administration). The most relevant ethical frameworks are deontology, utilitarianism, and value ethics. The ethical perspectives ofer assessment frameworks that can be used within the legal frameworks, for drawing up codes of conduct, for example, and other forms of self-regulation. Observance of the legal and ethical frameworks referred to in this essay very probably means that data is being used and reused in an appropriate manner. Failure to observe these frameworks means that such use and reuse is not appropriate.

Four recommendations are made on the basis of these conclusions. Local authorities in smart cities must commit themselves to the appropriate reuse of data through public-private partnerships, actively involve citizens in their considerations of what factors are relevant, ensure transparency on data-related matters and in such considerations, and gradually continue the development of smart cities through pilot schemes….(More)”.

The Challenges of Sharing Data in an Era of Politicized Science


Editorial by Howard Bauchner in JAMA: “The goal of making science more transparent—sharing data, posting results on trial registries, use of preprint servers, and open access publishing—may enhance scientific discovery and improve individual and population health, but it also comes with substantial challenges in an era of politicized science, enhanced skepticism, and the ubiquitous world of social media. The recent announcement by the Trump administration of plans to proceed with an updated version of the proposed rule “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” stipulating that all underlying data from studies that underpin public health regulations from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be made publicly available so that those data can be independently validated, epitomizes some of these challenges. According to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler: “Good science is science that can be replicated and independently validated, science that can hold up to scrutiny. That is why we’re moving forward to ensure that the science supporting agency decisions is transparent and available for evaluation by the public and stakeholders.”

Virtually every time JAMA publishes an article on the effects of pollution or climate change on health, the journal immediately receives demands from critics to retract the article for various reasons. Some individuals and groups simply do not believe that pollution or climate change affects human health. Research on climate change, and the effects of climate change on the health of the planet and human beings, if made available to anyone for reanalysis could be manipulated to find a different outcome than initially reported. In an age of skepticism about many issues, including science, with the ability to use social media to disseminate unfounded and at times potentially harmful ideas, it is challenging to balance the potential benefits of sharing data with the harms that could be done by reanalysis.

Can the experience of sharing data derived from randomized clinical trials (RCTs)—either as mandated by some funders and journals or as supported by individual investigators—serve as examples as a way to safeguard “truth” in science….

Although the sharing of data may have numerous benefits, it also comes with substantial challenges particularly in highly contentious and politicized areas, such as the effects of climate change and pollution on health, in which the public dialogue appears to be based on as much fiction as fact. The sharing of data, whether mandated by funders, including foundations and government, or volunteered by scientists who believe in the principle of data transparency, is a complicated issue in the evolving world of science, analysis, skepticism, and communication. Above all, the scientific process—including original research and reanalysis of shared data—must prevail, and the inherent search for evidence, facts, and truth must not be compromised by special interests, coercive influences, or politicized perspectives. There are no simple answers, just words of caution and concern….(More)”.

The Right to Be Seen


Anne-Marie Slaughter and Yuliya Panfil at Project Syndicate: “While much of the developed world is properly worried about myriad privacy outrages at the hands of Big Tech and demanding – and securing – for individuals a “right to be forgotten,” many around the world are posing a very different question: What about the right to be seen?

Just ask the billion people who are locked out of services we take for granted – things like a bank account, a deed to a house, or even a mobile phone account – because they lack identity documents and thus can’t prove who they are. They are effectively invisible as a result of poor data.

The ability to exercise many of our most basic rights and privileges – such as the right to vote, drive, own property, and travel internationally – is determined by large administrative agencies that rely on standardized information to determine who is eligible for what. For example, to obtain a passport it is typically necessary to present a birth certificate. But what if you do not have a birth certificate? To open a bank account requires proof of address. But what if your house doesn’t have an address?

The inability to provide such basic information is a barrier to stability, prosperity, and opportunity. Invisible people are locked out of the formal economy, unable to vote, travel, or access medical and education benefits. It’s not that they are undeserving or unqualified, it’s that they are data poor.

In this context, the rich digital record provided by our smartphones and other sensors could become a powerful tool for good, so long as the risks are acknowledged. These gadgets, which have become central to our social and economic lives, leave a data trail that for many of us is the raw material that fuels what Harvard’s Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism.” Our Google location history shows exactly where we live and work. Our email activity reveals our social networks. Even the way we hold our smartphone can give away early signs of Parkinson’s.

But what if citizens could harness the power of these data for themselves, to become visible to administrative gatekeepers and access the rights and privileges to which they are entitled? Their virtual trail could then be converted into proof of physical facts.

That is beginning to happen. In India, slum dwellers are using smartphone location data to put themselves on city maps for the first time and register for addresses that they can then use to receive mail and register for government IDs. In Tanzania, citizens are using their mobile payment histories to build their credit scores and access more traditional financial services. And in Europe and the United States, Uber drivers are fighting for their rideshare data to advocate for employment benefits….(More)”.

National SDG Review: data challenges and opportunities


Press Release: “…the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) and Partners for Review launched a landmark new paper that identifies the factors preventing countries from fully exploiting their data ecosystem and proposes solutions to strengthening statistical capacities to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ninety percent of the data in the world has been created in the past two years, yet many countries with low statistical capacity struggle to produce, analyse and communicate the data necessary to advance sustainable development. At the same time, demand for more and better data and statistics is increasingly massively, with international agreements like the 2030 Agenda placing unprecedented demand on countries to report on more than 230 indicators.

Using PARIS21’s Capacity Development 4.0 (CD 4.0) approach, the paper shows that leveraging data available in the data ecosystem for official re­porting requires new capacity in terms of skills and knowledge, man­agement, politics and power. The paper also shows that these capacities need to be developed at both the organisational and systemic level, which involves the various channels and interactions that connect different organisations.

Aimed at national statistics offices, development professionals and others involved in the national data ecosystem, the paper provides a roadmap that can help national statistical systems develop and strengthen the capacities of traditional and new actors in the data ecosystem to improve both the fol­low-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda as well as the data architecture for sustainable development at the national level…(More)”.

Responsible Data for Children


New Site and Report by UNICEF and The GovLab: “RD4C seeks to build awareness regarding the need for special attention to data issues affecting children—especially in this age of changing technology and data linkage; and to engage with governments, communities, and development actors to put the best interests of children and a child rights approach at the center of our data activities. The right data in the right hands at the right time can significantly improve outcomes for children. The challenge is to understand the potential risks and ensure that the collection, analysis and use of data on children does not undermine these benefits.

Drawing upon field-based research and established good practice, RD4C aims to highlight and support best practice data responsibility; identify challenges and develop practical tools to assist practitioners in evaluating and addressing them; and encourage a broader discussion on actionable principles, insights, and approaches for responsible data management.

Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’ Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans


Rob Copeland at Wall Street Journal: “Google is engaged with one of the U.S.’s largest health-care systems on a project to collect and crunch the detailed personal-health information of millions of people across 21 states.

The initiative, code-named “Project Nightingale,” appears to be the biggest effort yet by a Silicon Valley giant to gain a toehold in the health-care industry through the handling of patients’ medical data. Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc.  and Microsoft Corp. are also aggressively pushing into health care, though they haven’t yet struck deals of this scope.

Google began Project Nightingale in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, a Catholic chain of 2,600 hospitals, doctors’ offices and other facilities, with the data sharing accelerating since summer, according to internal documents.

The data involved in the initiative encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth….

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and the documents.

In a news release issued after The Wall Street Journal reported on Project Nightingale on Monday, the companies said the initiative is compliant with federal health law and includes robust protections for patient data….(More)”.

Finland’s model in utilising forest data


Report by Matti Valonen et al: “The aim of this study is to depict the Finnish Forest Centre’s Metsään.fiwebsite’s background, objectives and implementation and to assess its needs for development and future prospects. The Metsään.fi-service included in the Metsään.fi-website is a free e-service for forest owners and corporate actors (companies, associations and service providers) in the forest sector, which aim is to support active decision-making among forest owners by offering forest resource data and maps on forest properties, by making contacts with the authorities easier through online services and to act as a platform for offering forest services, among other things.

In addition to the Metsään.fi-service, the website includes open forest data services that offer the users national forest resource data that is not linked with personal information.

Private forests are in a key position as raw material sources for traditional and new forest-based bioeconomy. In addition to wood material, the forests produce non-timber forest products (for example berries and mushrooms), opportunities for recreation and other ecosystem services.

Private forests cover roughly 60 percent of forest land, but about 80 percent of the domestic wood used by forest industry. In 2017 the value of the forest industry production was 21 billion euros, which is a fifth of the entire industry production value in Finland. The forest industry export in 2017 was worth about 12 billion euros, which covers a fifth of the entire export of goods. Therefore, the forest sector is important for Finland’s national economy…(More)”.