Case Notes by Mitchell B. Weiss and Sarah Mehta: “By April 7, 2020, over 1.4 million people worldwide had contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Governments raced to curb the spread of COVID-19 by scaling up testing, quarantining those infected, and tracing their possible contacts. It had taken Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and Ministry of Health (MOH) all of eight weeks to develop the world’s first nationwide deployment of a Bluetooth-based contact tracing system, TraceTogether, and deploy it in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. From late January to mid-March 2020, GovTech’s Jason Bay and his team raced to create a technology that would supplement the work of Singapore’s human contact tracers. Days after its launch, Singapore’s foreign minister announced plans to open source the technology. Now, in early April, TraceTogether was a beta for the world. Whether the system would really help in Singapore, and whether other countries should adopt it was still a wide-open question….(More)”.
Paper by Adrian Smith & Pedro Prieto Martín: “Digital platforms for urban democracy are analyzed in Madrid and Barcelona. These platforms permit citizens to debate urban issues with other citizens; to propose developments, plans, and policies for city authorities; and to influence how city budgets are spent. Contrasting with neoliberal assumptions about Smart Citizenship, the technopolitics discourse underpinning these developments recognizes that the technologies facilitating participation have themselves to be developed democratically. That is, technopolitical platforms are built and operate as open, commons-based processes for learning, reflection, and adaptation. These features prove vital to platform implementation consistent with aspirations for citizen engagement and activism….(More)”.
Paper by Robert M Gonzalez, Matthew Harvey and Foteini Tzachrista: “Empirical evidence on the effectiveness of grassroots monitoring is mixed. This paper proposes a previously unexplored mechanism that may explain this result. We argue that the presence of credible and effective top-down monitoring alternatives can undermine citizen participation in grassroots monitoring efforts. Building on Olken’s (2009) road-building field experiment in Indonesia; we find a large and robust effect of the participation interventions on missing expenditures in villages without an audit in place. However, this effect vanishes as soon as an audit is simultaneously implemented in the village. We find evidence of crowding-out effects: in government audit villages, individuals are less likely to attend, talk, and actively participate in accountability meetings. They are also significantly less likely to voice general problems, corruption-related problems, and to take serious actions to address these problems. Despite policies promoting joint implementation of top-down and bottom-up interventions, this paper shows that top-down monitoring can undermine rather than complement grassroots efforts….(More)”.
Essay collection edited by Nesta: “China is striding ahead of the rest of the world in terms of its investment in artificial intelligence (AI), rate of experimentation and adoption, and breadth of applications. In 2017, China announced its aim of becoming the world leader in AI technology by 2030. AI innovation is now a key national priority, with central and local government spending on AI estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
While Europe and the US are also following AI strategies designed to transform the public sector, there has been surprisingly little analysis of what practical lessons can be learnt from China’s use of AI in public services. Given China’s rapid progress in this area, it is important for the rest of the world to pay attention to developments in China if it wants to keep pace.
This essay collection finds that examining China’s experience of public sector innovation offers valuable insights for policymakers. Not everything is applicable to a western context – there are social, political and ethical concerns that arise from China’s use of new technologies in public services and governance – but there is still much that can be learned from its experience while also acknowledging what should be criticized and avoided….(More)”.
Podcast Episode by Jill Lepore: “In 1966, just as the foundations of the Internet were being imagined, the federal government considered building a National Data Center. It would be a centralized federal facility to hold computer records from each federal agency, in the same way that the Library of Congress holds books and the National Archives holds manuscripts. Proponents argued that it would help regulate and compile the vast quantities of data the government was collecting. Quickly, though, fears about privacy, government conspiracies, and government ineptitude buried the idea. But now, that National Data Center looks like a missed opportunity to create rules about data and privacy before the Internet took off. And in the absence of government action, corporations have made those rules themselves….(More)”.
Paper by Kevin Werbach: “Technology scholars, policy-makers, and executives in Europe and the United States disagree violently about what the digitally connected world should look like. They agree on what it shouldn’t: the Orwellian panopticon of China’s Social Credit System (SCS). SCS is a government-led initiative to promote data-driven compliance with law and social values, using databases, analytics, blacklists, and software applications. In the West, it is widely viewed as a diabolical effort to crush any spark of resistance to the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its corporate emissaries. This picture is, if not wholly incorrect, decidedly incomplete. SCS is the world’s most advanced prototype of a regime of algorithmic regulation. It is a sophisticated and comprehensive effort not only to expand algorithmic control, but also to restrain it. Understanding China’s system is crucial for resolving the great challenges we face in the emerging era of relentless data aggregation, ubiquitous analytics, and algorithmic control….(More)”.
Case report by Giampiero Giacomello and Oltion Preka: “In an increasingly technology-dependent world, it is not surprising that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates are in high demand. This state of affairs, however, has made the public overlook the case that not only computing and artificial intelligence are naturally interdisciplinary, but that a huge portion of generated data comes from human–computer interactions, thus they are social in character and nature. Hence, social science practitioners should be in demand too, but this does not seem the case. One of the reasons for such a situation is that political and social science departments worldwide tend to remain in their “comfort zone” and see their disciplines quite traditionally, but by doing so they cut themselves off from many positions today. The authors believed that these conditions should and could be changed and thus in a few years created a specifically tailored course for students in Political Science. This paper examines the experience of the last year of such a program, which, after several tweaks and adjustments, is now fully operational. The results and students’ appreciation are quite remarkable. Hence the authors considered the experience was worth sharing, so that colleagues in social and political science departments may feel encouraged to follow and replicate such an example….(More)”
Data Collaborative Case Study by Michelle Winowatan, Andrew Young, and Stefaan Verhulst: “The Atlas of Inequality is a research initiative led by scientists at the MIT Media Lab and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. It is a project within the larger Human Dynamics research initiative at the MIT Media Lab, which investigates how computational social science can improve society, government, and companies. Using multiple big data sources, MIT Media Lab researchers seek to understand how people move in urban spaces and how that movement influences or is influenced by income. Among the datasets used in this initiative was location data provided by Cuebiq, through its Data for Good initiative. Cuebiq offers location-intelligence services to approved research and nonprofit organizations seeking to address public problems. To date, the Atlas has published maps of inequality in eleven cities in the United States. Through the Atlas, the researchers hope to raise public awareness about segregation of social mobility in United States cities resulting from economic inequality and support evidence-based policymaking to address the issue.
Data Collaborative Model: Based on the typology of data collaborative practice areas developed by The GovLab, the use of Cuebiq’s location data by MIT Media Lab researchers for the Atlas of Inequality initiative is an example of the research and analysis partnership model of data collaboration, specifically a data transfer approach. In this approach, companies provide data to partners for analysis, sometimes under the banner of “data philanthropy.” Access to data remains highly restrictive, with only specific partners able to analyze the assets provided. Approved uses are also determined in a somewhat cooperative manner, often with some agreement outlining how and why parties requesting access to data will put it to use….(More)”.
Andrew Young at Datastewards.net: “This week, as part of the Responsible Data for Children initiative (RD4C), the GovLab and UNICEF launched a new case study series to provide insights on promising practice as well as barriers to realizing responsible data for children.
Drawing upon field-based research and established good practice, RD4C aims to highlight and support responsible handling of data for and about children; 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.
RD4C launched in October 2019 with the release of the RD4C Synthesis Report, Selected Readings, and the RD4C Principles: Purpose-Driven, People-Centric, Participatory, Protective of Children’s Rights, Proportional, Professionally Accountable, and Prevention of Harms Across the Data Lifecycle.
The RD4C Case Studies analyze data systems deployed in diverse country environments, with a focus on their alignment with the RD4C Principles. This week’s release includes case studies arising from field missions to Romania, Kenya, and Afghanistan in 2019. The data systems examined are:
Essay by Oren Perez: “This article focuses on “deliberative e-rulemaking”: digital consultation processes that seek to facilitate public deliberation over policy or regulatory proposals [1, 2]. The main challenge of е-rulemaking platforms is to support an “intelligent” deliberative process that enables decision makers to identify a wide range of options, weigh the relevant considerations, and develop epistemically responsible solutions.
This article discusses and critiques two approaches to this challenge: The Cornell Regulation Room project and model of computationally assisted regulatory participation by Livermore et al. It then proceeds to explore two alternative approaches to e-rulemaking: One is based on the implementation of collaborative, wiki-styled tools. This article discusses the findings of an experiment, which was conducted at Bar-Ilan University and explored various aspects of a wiki-based collaborative е-rulemaking system. The second approach follows a more futuristic Approach, focusing on the potential development of autonomous, artificial democratic agents. This article critically discusses this alternative, also in view of the recent debate regarding the idea of “augmented democracy.”…(More)”.