Index: Trust in Institutions

The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on trust in institutions and was originally published in 2013.

Trust in Government

  • How many of the global public feel that their governments listen to them: 17%
  • How much of the global population trusts in institutions: almost half 
  • The number of Americans who trust institutions: less than half
  • How many people globally believe that business leaders and government officials will tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue: Less than one-fifth
  • The average level of confidence amongst citizens in 25 OECD countries:
    • In national government: 40%, down from 45% in 2007
    • In financial institutions: 43%
    • In public services such as local police and healthcare: 72% and 71% respectively

Executive Government

  • How many Americans trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always or most of the time” in September 2013: 19%
  • Those who trust the “men and women … who either hold or are running for public office”: 46%
  • Number of Americans who express a great deal or fair amount of trust in:
    • Local government: 71%
    • State government: 62%
    • Federal government: 52%
  • How many Americans trust in the ability of “the American people” to make judgments about political issues facing the country:  61%, declining every year since 2009
  • Those who have trust and confidence in the federal government’s ability to handle international problems: 49%
  • Number of Americans who feel “angry” at the federal government: 3 in 10, all-time high since first surveyed in 1997


  • Percentage of Americans who say “the political system can work fine, it’s the members of Congress that are the problem” in October 2013: 58%
  • Following the government shutdown, number of Americans who stated that Congress would work better if nearly every member was replaced next year: nearly half
  • Those who think that even an entire overhaul of Congress would not make much difference: 4 in 10 
  • Those who think that “most members of Congress have good intentions, it’s the political system that is broken” in October 2013: 32%

Trust in Media

  • Global trust in media (traditional, social, hybrid, owned, online search): 57% and rising
  • The percentage of Americans who say they have “a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media”: 44% – the lowest level since first surveyed in 1997
  • How many Americans see the mass media as too liberal: 46%
    • As too conservative: 13%
    • As “just about right”: 37%
  • The number of Americans who see the press as fulfilling the role of political watchdog and believe press criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things that should not be done: 68%
  • The proportion of Americans who have “only a little/not at all” level of trust in Facebook to protect privacy and personal information: three in four
    • In Google: 68%
    • In their cell phone provider: 63%

Trust in Industry

  • Global trust in business: 58%
  • How much of the global public trusts financial institutions: 50%
  • Proportion of the global public who consider themselves informed about the banking scandals: more than half
  • Of those, how many Americans report they now trust banks less: almost half
  • Number of respondents globally who say they trust tech companies to do what’s right: 77%, most trusted industry
  • Number of consumers across eight markets who were “confident” or “somewhat confident” that the tech sector can provide long-term solutions to meet the world’s toughest challenges: 76%


Candy Crush-style game helps scientists fight tree disease

Springwise: “The Sainsbury Laboratory has turned genome research into a game called Fraxinus, which could help find a cure for the Chalara ash dieback disease. Crowdsourcing science research isn’t a new thing — we’ve already seen Cancer Research UK enable anyone to help out by identifying cells through its ClicktoCure site. Now the Sainsbury Laboratory has turned genome research into a game called Fraxinus, which could help find a cure for the Chalara ash dieback disease.
Developed as a Facebook app, the game presents players with a number of colored, diamond-shaped blocks that represent the nucleotides that make up the DNA of ash trees. In each round, they have to try to match a particular string of nucleotides as best they can. Users with the nearest match get to ‘claim’ that pattern, but it can be stolen by others with a better sequence. Each sequence gives scientists insight into which genes may be immune from the disease and gives them a better shot at replenishing ash woodland.
According to the creators, Fraxinus has proved an addictive hit with young players, who are helping a good cause while playing. Are there other ways to gamify crowdsourced science research? Website:

What future do you want? Commission invites votes on what Europe could look like in 2050 to help steer future policy and research planning

European Commission – MEMO: “Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, is inviting people to join a voting and ranking process on 11 visions of what the world could look like in 20-40 years. The Commission is seeking views on living and learning, leisure and working in Europe in 2050, to steer long-term policy or research planning.
The visions have been gathered over the past year through the Futurium, an online debate platform that allows policymakers to not only consult citizens, but to collaborate and “co-create” with them, and at events throughout Europe. Thousands of thinkers – from high school students, to the Erasmus Students Network; from entrepreneurs and internet pioneers to philosophers and university professors, have engaged in a collective inquiry – a means of crowd-sourcing what our future world could look like.
Eleven over-arching themes have been drawn together from more than 200 ideas for the future. From today, everyone is invited to join the debate and offer their rating and rankings of the various ideas. The results of the feedback will help the European Commission make better decisions about how to fund projects and ideas that both shape the future and get Europe ready for that future….
The Futurium is a foresight project run by DG CONNECT, based on an open source approach. It develops visions of society, technologies, attitudes and trends in 2040-2050 and use these, for example as potential blueprints for future policy choices or EU research and innovation funding priorities.
It is an online platform developed to capture emerging trends and enable interested citizens to co-create compelling visions of the futures that matter to them.

This crowd-sourcing approach provides useful insights on:

  1. vision: where people want to go, how desirable and likely are the visions posted on the platform;
  2. policy ideas: what should ideally be done to realise the futures; the possible impacts and plausibility of policy ideas;
  3. evidence: scientific and other evidence to support the visions and policy ideas.

Connecting policy making to people: in an increasingly connected society, online outreach and engagement is an essential response to the growing demand for participation, helping to capture new ideas and to broaden the legitimacy of the policy making process (IP/10/1296). The Futurium is an early prototype of a more general policy-making model described in the paper “The Futurium—a Foresight Platform for Evidence-Based and Participatory Policymaking“.

The Futurium was developed to lay the groundwork for future policy proposals which could be considered by the European Parliament and the European Commission under their new mandates as of 2014. But the Futurium’s open, flexible architecture makes it easily adaptable to any policy-making context, where thinking ahead, stakeholder participation and scientific evidence are needed.”

New Report: Federal Ideation Program: Challenges and Best Practices

New Report by Professor Gwanhoo Lee for the IBM Center for The Business of Government: “Ideation is the process of generating new ideas or solutions using crowdsourcing technologies, and it is changing the way federal government agencies innovate and solve problems. Ideation tools use online brainstorming or social voting platforms to submit new ideas, search previously submitted ideas, post questions and challenges, discuss and expand on ideas, vote them up or down and flag them.
This report examines the current status, challenges, and best practices of federal internal ide­ation programs made available exclusively to employees. Initial experiences from a variety of agencies show that these ideation tools hold great promise in engaging employees and stake­holders in problem-solving.
While ideation programs offer promising benefits, making innovation an aspect of everyone’s job is very hard to achieve. Given that these ideation tools and programs are still relatively new, agencies have not yet figured out the best practices and often do not know what to expect during the implementation process. This report seeks to fill this gap.
Based on field research and a literature review, the report describes four federal internal ideation programs, including IdeaHub (Department of Transportation), the Sounding Board (the Department of State), IdeaFactory (Department of Homeland Security), and CDC IdeaLab (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services).
Four important challenges are associated with the adoption and implementation of federal internal ideation programs. These are: managing the ideation process and technology; managing cultural change; managing privacy, security and transparency; and managing use of the ideation tool.
Federal government agencies have been moving in the right direction by embracing these tools and launching ideation programs in boosting employee-driven innovation. However, many daunting challenges and issues remain to be addressed. For a federal agency to sustain its internal ideation program, it should note the following:
Recommendation One: Treat the ideation program not as a management fad but as a vehicle to reinvent the agency.
Recommendation Two: Institutionalize the ideation program.
Recommendation Three: Make the ideation team a permanent organizational unit.
Recommendation Four: Document ideas that are implemented.Quantify their impact and demonstrate the return on investment.Share the return with the employees through meaningful rewards.
Recommendation Five: Assimilate and integrate the ideation program into the mission-critical administrative processes.
Recommendation Six: Develop an easy-to-use mobile app for the ideation system.
Recommendation Seven: Keep learning from other agencies and even from commercial organizations.”

Concerns about opening up data, and responses which have proved effective

Google doc by Christopher Gutteridge, University of Southampton and Alexander Dutton, University of Oxford:  “This document is inspired by the open data excuses bingo card. Someone asked for what responses have proved effective. This document is a work in progress based on our experience. Carly Strasser has also written at the Data Pub blog about these issues from an Open Science and research data perspective. You may also be interested in How to make a business case for open data, published by the ODI.
We’ll get spam…
Terrorists might use the data…
People will contact us to ask about stuff…
People will misinterpret the data…
It’s too big…
It’s not very interesting…
We might want to use it in a research paper…
There’s no API to that system…
We’re worried about the Data Protection Act…
We’re not sure that we own it…
I don’t mind making it open, but I worry someone else might object…
It’s too complicated…
Our data is embarrassingly bad…
It’s not a priority and we’re busy…
Our lawyers want to make a custom license…
It changes too quickly…
There’s already a project in progress which sounds similar…
Some of what you asked for is confidential…
I don’t own the data, so can’t give you permission…
We don’t have that data…
That data is already published via (external organisation X)….
We can’t provide that dataset because one part is not possible…
What if something breaks and the open version becomes out of date?…
We can’t see the benefit…
What if we want to sell access to this data…?
If we publish this data, people might sue us…
We want people to come direct to us so we know why they want the data…

Findings from the emerging field of Transparency Research

Tiago Peixoto: “HEC Paris has just hosted the 3rd Global Conference on Transparency Research, and they have made the list of accepted papers available. …
As one goes through the papers,  it is clear that unlike most of the open government space, when it comes to research, transparency is treated less as a matter of technology and formats and more as a matter of social and political institutions.  And that is a good thing.”
This year’s papers are listed below:

Mirroring the real world in social media: twitter, geolocation, and sentiment analysis

Paper by E Baucom, A Sanjari, X Liu, and M Chen as part of the proceedings of UnstructureNLP ’13: “In recent years social media has been used to characterize and predict real world events, and in this research we seek to investigate how closely Twitter mirrors the real world. Specifically, we wish to characterize the relationship between the language used on Twitter and the results of the 2011 NBA Playoff games. We hypothesize that the language used by Twitter users will be useful in classifying the users’ locations combined with the current status of which team is in the lead during the game. This is based on the common assumption that “fans” of a team have more positive sentiment and will accordingly use different language when their team is doing well. We investigate this hypothesis by labeling each tweet according the the location of the user along with the team that is in the lead at the time of the tweet. The hypothesized difference in language (as measured by tfidf) should then have predictive power over the tweet labels. We find that indeed it does and we experiment further by adding semantic orientation (SO) information as part of the feature set. The SO does not offer much improvement over tf-idf alone. We discuss the relative strengths of the two types of features for our data.”

What's Different that Makes Open Data an Infrastructure?

Article by Christopher Thomas: “It wasn’t too long ago that governments remained pretty guarded with their data. It really did not matter who the data steward was, as each discipline had its “reasons” for keeping data out of the hands of others…
The mapping and GIS industry was no stranger to the resistance to open data.  However the concerns were slightly different than the governments’ concerns.  Perhaps this was due to the time, effort, and money required to develop the data by staff.  Mapping and GIS fought a valiant battle that this data was not information subject to the Freedom of Information Act, but rather an asset subject to different rules of funding and cost recovery.
Recently, attitudes have been changing as mapping and GIS data are being looked at as more of an infrastructure, because governments now see the importance of including it as part of their daily operation. …
So what’s different today? Well, governments can avoid data dumps that leave important members of your team wondering how the data is being used.  Or better yet, wondering how many times your old data has been exchanged and used without new or updated data being considered. You later learn that someone has used your old data on a project that has come back to haunt you.  The major difference today is that there is an ability to extend this infrastructure as a web service.  If you publish current data on websites or portals, data can now be downloaded for use in various products or connected to apps. As Mark Head, chief data officer for the city of Philadelphia puts it, “web services are the ‘secret sauce’ to open data.” Governments can simply extend map and GIS data for adoption by business startups and civic hackers, for example, with the confidence that current data is being used.”

Open government and conflicts with public trust and privacy: Recent research ideas

Article by John Wihbey:  “Since the Progressive Era, ideas about the benefits of government openness — crystallized by Justice Brandeis’s famous phrase about the disinfectant qualities of “sunlight” — have steadily grown more popular and prevalent. Post-Watergate reforms further embodied these ideas. Now, notions of “open government” and dramatically heightened levels of transparency have taken hold as zero-cost digital dissemination has become a reality. Many have advocated switching the “default” of government institutions so information and data are no longer available just “on demand” but rather are publicized as a matter of course in usable digital form.
As academic researchers point out, we don’t yet have a great deal of long-term, valid data for many of the experiments in this area to weigh civic outcomes and the overall advance of democracy. Anecdotally, though, it seems that more problems — from potholes to corruption — are being surfaced, enabling greater accountability. This “new fuel” of data also creates opportunities for businesses and organizations; and so-called “Big Data” projects frequently rely on large government datasets, as do “news apps.”
But are there other logical limits to open government in the digital age? If so, what are the rationales for these limits? And what are the latest academic insights in this area?
Most open-records laws, including the federal Freedom of Information Act, still provide exceptions that allow public institutions to guard information that might interfere with pending legal proceedings or jeopardize national security. In addition, the internal decision-making and deliberation processes of government agencies as well as documents related to personnel matters are frequently off limits. These exceptions remain largely untouched in the digital age (notwithstanding extralegal actions by WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, or confidential sources who disclose things to the press). At a practical level, experts say that the functioning of FOIA laws is still uneven, and some states continue to threaten rollbacks.
Limits of transparency?
A key moment in the rethinking of openness came in 2009, when Harvard University legal scholar Lawrence Lessig published an essay in The New Republic titled “Against Transparency.” In it, Lessig — a well-known advocate for greater access to information and knowledge of many kinds — warned that transparency in and of itself could lead to diminished trust in government and must be tied to policies that can also rebuild public confidence in democratic institutions.
In recent years, more political groups have begun leveraging open records laws as a kind of tool to go after opponents, a phenomenon that has even touched the public university community, which is typically subject to disclosure laws….

Privacy and openness
If there is a tension between transparency and public trust, there is also an uneasy balance between government accountability and privacy. A 2013 paper in the American Review of Public Administration, “Public Pay Disclosure in State Government: An Ethical Analysis,” examines a standard question of disclosure faced in every state: How much should even low-level public servants be subject to personal scrutiny about their salaries? The researchers, James S. Bowman and Kelly A. Stevens of Florida State University, evaluate issues of transparency based on three competing values: rules (justice or fairness), results (what does the greatest good), and virtue (promoting integrity.)…”

Open Government and Its Constraints

Blog entry by Panthea Lee: “Open government” is everywhere. Search the term and you’ll find OpenGovernment.orgOpenTheGovernment.orgOpen Government InitiativeOpen Gov Hub and the Open Gov Foundation; you’ll find open government initiatives for New York CityBostonKansasVirginiaTennessee and the list goes on; you’ll find dedicated open government plans for the White HouseState DepartmentUSAIDTreasuryJustice DepartmentCommerceEnergy and just about every other major federal agency. Even the departments of Defense and Homeland Security are in on open government.
And that’s just in the United States.
There is Open Government AfricaOpen Government in the EU and Open Government Data. The World Bank has an Open Government Data Toolkit and recently announced a three-year initiative to help developing countries leverage open data. And this week, over 1,000 delegates from over 60 countries are in London for the annual meeting of the Open Government Partnership, which has grown from 8 to 60 member states in just two years….
Many of us have no consensus or clarity on just what exactly “open government” iswhat we hope to achieve from it or how to measure our progress. Too often, our initiatives are designed through the narrow lenses of our own biases and without a concrete understanding of those they are intended for — both those in and out of government.
If we hope to realize the promise of more open governments, let’s be clear about the barriers we face so that we may start to overcome them.
Barrier 1: “Open Gov” is…?
Open government is… not new, for starters….
Barrier 2: Open Gov is Not Inclusive
The central irony of open government is that it’s often not “open” at all….
Barrier 3: Open Gov Lacks Empathy
Open government practitioners love to speak of “the citizen” and “the government.” But who exactly are these people? Too often, we don’t really know. We are builders, makers and creators with insufficient understanding of whom we are building, making and creating for…On the flip side, who do we mean by “the government?” And why, gosh darn it, is it so slow to innovate? Simply put, “the government” is comprised of individual people working in environments that are not conducive to innovation….
For open government to realize its potential, we must overcome these barriers.”