E-Government Survey 2022

UN Report: “The United Nations E-Government Survey 2022 is the 12th edition of the United Nations’ assessment of the digital government landscape across all 193 Member States. The E-Government Survey is informed by over two decades of longitudinal research, with a ranking of countries based on the United Nations E-Government Development Index (EGDI), a combination of primary data (collected and owned by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) and secondary data from other UN agencies

This edition of the Survey includes data analysis in global and regional contexts, a study of local e-government development based on the United Nations Local Online Service Index (LOSI), consideration of inclusion in the hybrid digital society, and a concluding chapter that outlines the trends and developments related to the future of digital government. As wish all editions, it features extensive annexes on its data, methodology and related pilot study initiatives…(More)”.

Why Funders Should Go Meta

Paper by Stuart Buck & Anna Harvey: “We don’t mean the former Facebook. Rather, philanthropies should prefer to fund meta-issues—i.e., research and evaluation, along with efforts to improve research quality. In many cases, it would be far more impactful than what they are doing now.

This is true at two levels.

First, suppose you want to support a certain cause–economic development in Africa, or criminal justice reform in the US, etc. You could spend millions or even billions on that cause.

But let’s go meta: a force multiplier would be funding high-quality research on what works on those issues. If you invest significantly in social and behavioral science research, you might find innumerable ways to improve on the existing status quo of donations.

Instead of only helping the existing nonprofits who seek to address economic development or criminal justice reform, you’d be helping to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The result could be a much better set of investments for all donors.

Perhaps some of your initial ideas end up not working, when exhaustively researched. At worst, that’s a temporary embarrassment, but it’s actually all for the better—now you and others know to avoid wasting more money on those ideas. Perhaps some of your favored policies are indeed good ideas (e.g., vaccination), but don’t have anywhere near enough take-up by the affected populations. Social and behavioral science research (as in the Social Science Research Council’s Mercury Project) could help find cost-effective ways to solve that problem…(More)”.

All Democracy Is Global

Article by  Larry Diamond: “The world is mired in a deep, diffuse, and protracted democratic recession. According to Freedom House, 2021 was the 16th consecutive year in which more countries declined in freedom than gained. Tunisia, the sole democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring protests that began in 2010, is morphing into a dictatorship. In countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Hungary, and Turkey, elections have long ceased to be democratic. Autocrats in Algeria, Belarus, Ethiopia, Sudan, Turkey, and Zimbabwe have clung to power despite mounting public demands for democratization. In Africa, seven democracies have slid back into autocracy since 2015, including Benin and Burkina Faso.

Democracy is looking shaky even in countries that hold free and fair elections. In emerging-market behemoths such as Brazil, India, and Mexico, democratic institutions and norms are under attack. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has made threats of an autogolpe (self-coup) and a possible return to military rule if he does not win reelection in October. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has steadily chipped away at press freedoms, minority rights, judicial independence, the integrity of the civil service, and the autonomy of civil society. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has attempted to silence critics and remove democratic checks and balances.

Democratic prospects have risen and fallen in decades past, but they now confront a formidable new problem: democracy is at risk in the very country that has traditionally been its most ardent champion. Over the past dozen years, the United States has experienced one of the biggest declines in political rights and civil liberties of any country measured by the Freedom House annual survey. The Economist now ranks the United States as a “flawed democracy” behind Spain, Costa Rica, and Chile. U.S. President Donald Trump deserves much of the blame: he abused presidential power on a scale unprecedented in U.S. history and, after being voted out of office, propagated the “Big Lie” of election fraud and incited the violent rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. But American democracy was in peril before Trump assumed office, with rising polarization exposing acute flaws in American democratic institutions. The Electoral College, the representational structure of the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the brazen gerrymandering of House districts, and lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court have all made it possible for a political minority to exert prolonged outsize influence.

Can a country in the throes of its own democratic decay do anything to arrest the broader global decline? For many, the answer is no…(More)”.

The case for lotteries as a tiebreaker of quality in research funding

Editorial at Nature: “Earlier this month, the British Academy, the United Kingdom’s national academy for humanities and social sciences, introduced an innovative process for awarding small research grants. The academy will use the equivalent of a lottery to decide between funding applications that its grant-review panels consider to be equal on other criteria, such as the quality of research methodology and study design.

Using randomization to decide between grant applications is relatively new, and the British Academy is in a small group of funders to trial it, led by the Volkswagen Foundation in Germany, the Austrian Science Fund and the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has arguably gone the furthest: it decided in late 2021 to use randomization in all tiebreaker cases across its entire grant portfolio of around 880 million Swiss francs (US$910 million).

Other funders should consider whether they should now follow in these footsteps. That’s because it is becoming clear that randomization is a fairer way to allocate grants when applications are too close to call, as a study from the Research on Research Institute in London shows (see go.nature.com/3s54tgw). Doing so would go some way to assuage concerns, especially in early-career researchers and those from historically marginalized communities, about the lack of fairness when grants are allocated using peer review.

The British Academy/Leverhulme small-grants scheme distributes around £1.5 million (US$1.7 million) each year in grants of up to £10,000 each. These are valuable despite their relatively small size, especially for researchers starting out. The academy’s grants can be used only for direct research expenses, but small grants are also typically used to fund conference travel or to purchase computer equipment or software. Funders also use them to spot promising research talent for future (or larger) schemes. For these reasons and more, small grants are competitive — the British Academy says it is able to fund only 20–30% of applications in each funding round…(More)”.

What competencies do public sector officials need to enhance national digital transformations?

Report by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development: “The Broadband Commission Working Group on AI Capacity Building has leveraged a multi-stakeholder leadership model to assess the critical capacity needs for public sector digital transformation, including from a developing country perspective. From interviews with policymakers, global and regional expert consultations and evaluation of current international practices, the Working Group has developed three competency domains and nine recommendations. The output is a competency framework for civil servants, spelling out the Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation Competencies needed today…(More)”

Innovation in the Public Sector: Smarter States, Services and Citizens

Book by Fatih Demir: “The book discusses smart governments and innovation in the public sector. In hopes of arriving at a clear definition of innovation in the field of public administration, the volume provides a wide survey of global policies and practices, especially those aimed at reducing bureaucracy and using information-communication technologies in public service delivery. Chapters look at current applications across countries and multiple levels of government, from public innovation labs in the UK to AI in South Korea. Providing concrete examples of innovation culture at work in public institutions, this volume will be of use to researchers and students studying new public management, public service delivery, and innovation as well as practitioners and professionals working in various public agencies…(More)”.

Accelerating Government Innovation With Leadership and Stimulus Funding

Paper by Jane Wiseman: “With the evolving maturity of innovation offices and digital teams comes the imperative for leaders and managers to provide pathways for these organizations to succeed and work together effectively, in terms of embracing new ideas and scaling those that prove effective beyond a prototype or pilot. The availability of a large, one-time infusion of federal funds to support state and local services and programs through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure law, and other recent laws provides State and local leaders with a unique opportunity to collaborate with their federal partners and promote innovation that improves the lives of their people. Data and innovation teams can help government be more efficient and effective in spending stimulus funds at the state and local level in the coming years.

In this new report, Jane Wiseman explores various ways that executives can leverage stimulus funding to incentivize success across multiple innovation and data roles, drive forward work from those roles into digital service development and delivery. Through close examination of multiple cases in the field, the author develops a framework with specific recommendations for how leaders can drive opportunities for innovators to complement each other to the benefit of public good, including key skills or characteristics that correlate to success.

This report is intended to help leaders of current government innovation groups, including chief data officers, chief digital officers, innovation team leaders, and similar groups, to learn from successful models that they can apply directly to their operations to be more effective. The report also provides lessons and recommendation for senior executives in government, such as a cabinet secretary, governor, county executive or mayor, to help them think through the possible models of effective practices to support the range of innovation roles, define success…(More)”.

Quantum Computing

Introduction by Roman Rietsche: “Quantum computing promises to be the next disruptive technology, with numerous possible applications and implications for organizations and markets. Quantum computers exploit principles of quantum mechanics, such as superposition and entanglement, to represent data and perform operations on them. Both of these principles enable quantum computers to solve very specific, complex problems significantly faster than standard computers. Against this backdrop, this fundamental gives a brief overview of the three layers of a quantum computer: hardware, system software, and application layer. Furthermore, we introduce potential application areas of quantum computing and possible research directions for the field of information systems…(More)”.

Changing Perceptions about Harm Can Temper Moral Outrage

Article by Jordan Wylie and Ana Gantman: “Comprehensive sex education works. Years of research show that it is much more effective than an abstinence-only approach at preventing teen pregnancy. In fact, abstinence-only programs may actually increase unplanned pregnancies and can contribute to harmful shaming and sexist attitudes.

Yet abstinence, or “sexual risk avoidance,” programs persist in the U.S. Why? Ultimately many people believe that teenagers should not have sex. If adolescents just abstain, they reason, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases will no longer be a problem. By contrast, comprehensive sex education operates under the premise that some young people do engage in sexual behavior, so it is worthwhile to help them understand how to avoid unwanted outcomes. For dedicated abstinence-only advocates, however, that approach is morally wrong.

Given the deeply held moral beliefs many people bring to this topic, it’s easy to think the debate over sex ed is doomed to a stalemate between those who want to ban it and those who want to promote it. And this is just one of several subjects where policy makers face a tough choice: ban or prohibit a potentially harmful activity, or allow it to continue while mitigating the harm. Mitigation options include needle-exchange programs that help people who use intravenous drugs lower their risk of contracting blood-borne illnesses. Another example is mandatory waiting periods for firearms purchases, which allow people to possess firearms but also reduce homicides.

These harm-reduction strategies are often effective, but they can be unpopular. That’s because issues like sexual behavior, drug use and gun ownership involve highly moralized opinions. Research shows that when people feel moral outrage toward a behavior, they are more likely to support policies that aim to completely stop that activity rather than make it safer.

But our research suggests that not all expressions of moral outrage are alike. Through a series of studies that involved surveying more than 1,000 Americans, we found that, in some cases, people base their moral opposition on the harm that an action causes. In those instances, if you can find ways to make an activity safer, you can also make it more morally acceptable…(More)”

Global Digital Governance Through the Back Door of Corporate Regulation

Paper by Orit Fischman Afori: “Today, societal life is increasingly conducted in the digital sphere, in which two core attributes are prominent: this sphere is entirely controlled by enormous technology companies, and these companies are increasingly deploying artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. This reality generates a severe threat to democratic principles and human rights. Therefore, regulating the conduct of the companies ruling the digital sphere is an urgent agenda worldwide. Policymakers and legislatures around the world are taking their first steps in establishing a digital governance regime, with leading proposals in the EU. Although it is understood that there is a necessity to adopt a comprehensive framework for imposing accountability standards on technology companies and on the operation of AI technologies, traditional perceptions regarding the limits of intervention in the private sector and contemporary perceptions regarding the limits of antitrust tools hinder such legal moves.

Given the obstacles inherent in the use of existing legal means for introducing a digital governance regime, this article proposes a new path of corporate governance regulations. The proposal, belonging to a “second wave” of regulatory models for the digital sphere, is based on the understanding that the current complex technological reality requires sophisticated and pragmatic legal measures for establishing an effective framework for digital governance norms. Corporate governance is a system of rules and practices by which companies are guided and controlled. Because the digital sphere is governed by private corporations, it seems reasonable to introduce the desired digital governance principles through a framework that regulates corporations. The bedrock of corporate governance is promoting principles of corporate accountability, which are translated into a wide array of obligations. In the last two decades, corporate accountability has evolved into a new domain of corporate social responsibility (CSR), promoting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) purposes not aimed at maximizing profits in the short term. The various benefits of the complex corporate governance mechanisms may be used to promote the desired digital governance regime that would be applied by the technology companies. A key advantage of the corporate governance mechanism is its potential to serve as a vehicle to promulgate norms in the era of multinational corporations. Because the digital sphere is governed by a few giant US companies, corporate governance may be leveraged to promote digital governance principles with a global reach in a uniform manner…(More)”