Collaborative Е-Rulemaking, Democratic Bots, and the Future of Digital Democracy

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)”.

Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP): Improving Drug Research Efficiency through Biomarker Data Sharing

Data Collaborative Case Study by Michelle Winowatan, Andrew Young, and Stefaan Verhulst: “Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) is a cross-sector data-sharing partnership in the United States between the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), multiple biopharmaceutical and life science companies, as well as non-profit organizations that seeks to improve the efficiency of developing new diagnostics and treatments for several types of disease. To achieve this goal, the partnership created a pre-competitive collaborative ecosystem where the biomedical community can pool data and resources that are relevant to the prioritized disease areas. A key component of the partnership is to make biomarkers data available to the medical research community through online portals.

Data Collaboratives Model: Based on our typology of data collaborative models, AMP is an example of the data pooling model of data collaboration, specifically a public data pool. Public data pools co-mingle data assets from multiple data holders — in this case pharmaceutical companies — and make those shared assets available on the web. Pools often limit contributions to approved partners (as public data pools are not crowdsourcing efforts), but access to the shared assets is open, enabling independent re-uses.

Data Stewardship Approach: Data stewardship is built into the partnership through the establishment of an executive committee, which governs the entire partnership, and a steering committee for each disease area, which governs each of the sub-projects within AMP. These committees consist of representatives from the institutional partners involved in AMP and perform data stewards function including enabling inter-institutional engagement as well as intra-institutional coordination, data audit and assessment of value and risk, communication of findings, and nurture the collaboration to sustainability….(Full Case Study)”.


Crosscope is revolutionizing the way practitioners and researchers are leveraging digital pathology to share and solve medical cases.

Since the 1900s cancer diagnosis has been limited to the subjective interpretation of what the pathologist could see under a microscope. To transform the way we perform pathology and cancer research, we are developing new tools to leverage powerful AI & perspectives of medical experts at the same time.

At Crosscope, we are building a place for the convergence of collective intelligence of our massive online medical community and AI. We are commited to developing cutting edge AI tools for better decision support in cancer care. We aim to be the largest database for tagged histopathology images which will contain a lot more information than genomics alone and will be crucial in early diagnosis of cancer….(More)”.

Pitfalls of Aiming to Empower the Bottom from the Top: The Case of Philippine Participatory Budgeting

Paper by Joy Aceron: “… explains why and how a reform program that opened up spaces for participatory budgeting was ultimately unable to result in pro-citizen power shifts that transformed governance. The study reviews the design and implementation of Bottom-Up Budgeting (BuB), the nationwide participatory budgeting (PB) program in the Philippines, which ran from 2012 to 2016 under the Benigno Aquino government. The findings underscore the importance of institutional design to participatory governance reforms. BuB’s goal was to transform local government by providing more space for civil society organizations (CSOs) to co-identify projects with the government and to take part in the budgeting process, but it did not strengthen CSO or grassroots capacity to hold their Local Government Units (LGUs) accountable.

The BuB design had features that delivered positive gains towards citizen empowerment, including: (1) providing equal seats for CSOs in the Local Poverty Reduction Action Team (LPRAT), which are formally mandated to select proposed projects (in contrast to the pre-existing Local Development Councils (LDCs), which have only 25 percent CSO representation); (2) CSOs identified their LPRAT representatives themselves (as opposed to local chief executives choosing CSO representatives, as in the LDCs); and (3) LGUs were mandated to follow participatory requirements to receive additional funding. However, several aspects of the institutional design shifted power from local governments to the central government. This had a “centralizing effect”…

This study argues that because of these design problems, BuB fell short in achieving its main political reform agenda of empowering the grassroots—particularly in enabling downward accountability that could have enabled lasting pro-citizen power shifts. It did not empower local civil society and citizens to become a countervailing force vis-à-vis local politicians in fiscal governance. BuB is a case of a reform that provided a procedural mechanism for civil society input into national agency decisions but was unable to improve government responsiveness. It provided civil society with ‘voice’, but was constrained in enabling ‘teeth’. Jonathan Fox (2014) refers to “voice” as citizen inputs, feedback and action, while “teeth” refer to the capacity of the state to respond to voice.

Finally, the paper echoes the results of other studies which find that PB programs become successful when complemented by other institutional and state democratic capacity-building reforms and when they are part of a broader progressive change agenda. The BuB experience suggests that to bolster citizen oversight, it is essential to invest sufficient support and resources in citizen empowerment and in creating an enabling environment for citizen oversight….(More)”.

Facebook’s AI team maps the whole population of Africa

Devin Coldewey at TechCrunch: “A new map of nearly all of Africa shows exactly where the continent’s 1.3 billion people live, down to the meter, which could help everyone from local governments to aid organizations. The map joins others like it from Facebook  created by running satellite imagery through a machine learning model.

It’s not exactly that there was some mystery about where people live, but the degree of precision matters. You may know that a million people live in a given region, and that about half are in the bigger city and another quarter in assorted towns. But that leaves hundreds of thousands only accounted for in the vaguest way.

Fortunately, you can always inspect satellite imagery and pick out the spots where small villages and isolated houses and communities are located. The only problem is that Africa is big. Really big. Manually labeling the satellite imagery even from a single mid-sized country like Gabon or Malawi would take a huge amount of time and effort. And for many applications of the data, such as coordinating the response to a natural disaster or distributing vaccinations, time lost is lives lost.

Better to get it all done at once then, right? That’s the idea behind Facebook’s Population Density Maps project, which had already mapped several countries over the last couple of years before the decision was made to take on the entire African continent….

“The maps from Facebook ensure we focus our volunteers’ time and resources on the places they’re most needed, improving the efficacy of our programs,” said Tyler Radford, executive director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, one of the project’s partners.

The core idea is straightforward: Match census data (how many people live in a region) with structure data derived from satellite imagery to get a much better idea of where those people are located.

“With just the census data, the best you can do is assume that people live everywhere in the district – buildings, fields, and forests alike,” said Facebook engineer James Gill. “But once you know the building locations, you can skip the fields and forests and only allocate the population to the buildings. This gives you very detailed 30 meter by 30 meter population maps.”

That’s several times more accurate than any extant population map of this size. The analysis is done by a machine learning agent trained on OpenStreetMap data from all over the world, where people have labeled and outlined buildings and other features.

First the huge amount of Africa’s surface that obviously has no structure had to be removed from consideration, reducing the amount of space the team had to evaluate by a factor of a thousand or more. Then, using a region-specific algorithm (because things look a lot different in coastal Morocco than they do in central Chad), the model identifies patches that contain a building….(More)”.

Crowdsourcing a Constitution

Case Study by Cities of Service: “Mexico City was faced with a massive task: drafting a constitution. Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, who oversaw the drafting and adoption of the 212-page document, hoped to democratize the process. He appointed a drafting committee made up of city residents and turned to the Laboratório para la Ciudad (LabCDMX) to engage everyday citizens. LabCDMX conducted a comprehensive survey and employed the online platform to solicit ideas for the new constitution. Several petitioners without a legal or political background seized on the opportunity and made their voices heard with successful proposals on topics like green space, waterway recuperation, and LGBTI rights in a document that will have a lasting impact on Mexico City’s governance….(More)”.

From Smart-Cities to Smart-Communities: How Can We Evaluate the Impacts of Innovation and Inclusive Processes in Urban Context?

Paper by Francesca De Filippi, Cristina Coscia and Roberta Guido: “Nowadays, through ICT supports and their applications, the concept of smart cities has evolved into smart communities, where the collaborative relationship between citizens and public administration generates multi-dimensional impacts: urban sites are living labs and agents of innovation and inclusion. As a first step, this article aims to critically review the state of the art of the assessment methods of these impacts through a set of synthetic indicators; the second step is to elaborate a specific framework to evaluate quality of life through a set of impact indicators for smart communities and inclusive urban processes. According to some referenced authors, cities and communities are smart if they perform well in six smart categories: smart economy; smart people; smart governance; smart mobility; smart environment; and smart living. Considering a recent experiment carried out in Turin (Italy), the authors propose a methodology, whose trial is ongoing, based on a hierarchical multiscale framework defining a set of smart community indicators….(More)”.

Revisiting the governance of privacy: Contemporary policy instruments in global perspective

Colin J. Bennett and Charles D. Raab at Regulation & Governance: “The repertoire of policy instruments within a particular policy sector varies by jurisdiction; some “tools of government” are associated with particular administrative and regulatory traditions and political cultures. It is less clear how the instruments associated with a particular policy sector may change over time, as economic, social, and technological conditions evolve.

In the early 2000s, we surveyed and analyzed the global repertoire of policy instruments deployed to protect personal data. In this article, we explore how those instruments have changed as a result of 15 years of social, economic and technological transformations, during which the issue has assumed a far higher global profile, as one of the central policy questions associated with modern networked communications.

We review the contemporary range of transnational, regulatory, self‐regulatory, and technical instruments according to the same framework, and conclude that the types of policy instrument have remained relatively stable, even though they are now deployed on a global scale.

While the labels remain the same, however, the conceptual foundations for their legitimation and justification are shifting as greater emphases on accountability, risk, ethics, and the social/political value of privacy have gained purchase. Our analysis demonstrates both continuity and change within the governance of privacy, and displays how we would have tackled the same research project today.

As a broader case study of regulation, it highlights the importance of going beyond technical and instrumental labels. Change or stability of policy instruments does not take place in isolation from the wider conceptualizations that shape their meaning, purpose, and effect…(More)”.

Making a Smart City a Fairer City: Chicago’s Technologists Address Issues of Privacy, Ethics, and Equity, 2011-2018

Case study by Gabriel Kuris and Steven S. Strauss at Innovations for Successful Societies: “In 2011, voters in Chicago elected Rahm Emanuel, a 51-year-old former Chicago congressman, as their new mayor. Emanuel inherited a city on the upswing after years of decline but still marked by high rates of crime and poverty, racial segregation, and public distrust in government. The Emanuel administration hoped to harness the city’s trove of digital data to improve Chicagoans’ health, safety, and quality of life. During the next several years, Chief Data Officer Brett Goldstein and his successor Tom Schenk led innovative uses of city data, ranging from crisis management to the statistical targeting of restaurant inspections and pest extermination. As their teams took on more-sophisticated projects that predicted lead-poisoning risks and Escherichia coli outbreaks and created a citywide network of ambient sensors, the two faced new concerns about normative issues like privacy, ethics, and equity. By 2018, Chicago had won acclaim as a smarter city, but was it a fairer city? This case study discusses some of the approaches the city developed to address those challenges and manage the societal implications of cutting-edge technologies….(More)”.

Reduced‐Boundary Governance: The Advantages of Working Together

Introduction by Jeremy L. Hall and R. Paul Battaglio of Special Issue of the Public Administration Review: “Collaboration, cooperation, and coproduction are all approaches that reflect the realization that creative solutions look beyond traditional, organizational, and structural boundaries to overcome various capacity deficiencies while working toward shared goals….One of the factors complicating measurement and analysis in multistakeholder approaches to solving problems and delivering services is the inherently intergovernmental and intersectoral nature of the work. Performance now depends on accumulated capacity across organizations, including a special form of capacity—the ability to work together collaboratively. Such activity within a government has been referred to as “whole of government” approaches or “joined up government” (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). We have terms for work across levels of government (intergovernmental relations) and between government and the public and private sectors (intersectoral relations), but on the whole, the creative, collaborative, and interactive activities in which governments are involved today transcend even these neat categories and classifications. We might call this phenomenon reduced‐boundary governance. Moving between levels of government or between sectors often changes the variables that are available for analysis, or at least introduces validity issues associated with differences in measurement and estimation (see Brandsen and Honingh 2016; Nabatchi, Sancino, and Sicilia 2017). Sometimes data are not available at all. And, of course, collaboration or pooling of resources typically occurs in an ad hoc or one‐off basis that is limited to a single problem, a single program, or a single defined period of time, further complicating study and knowledge accumulation.

Increasingly, public service is accomplished together rather than alone. Boundaries between organizations are becoming blurred in new approaches to solving public problems (Christensen and Lægreid 2007). PAR is committed to better understanding the circumstances under which collaboration, cooperation, and coproduction occurs. What are the necessary antecedents? What are the deterrents? We are interested in the challenges that organizations face as they pursue collaborative action that transcends boundaries. And, of course, we are interested in the efficiency and performance gains that are achieved as a result of those efforts, as well as in their long‐term sustainability.

In this issue, we feature a series of articles that highlight research that focuses on working together, through collaboration, coproduction, or cooperation. The issue begins with a look at right‐sizing the use of volunteerism in public and nonprofit organizations given their limitations and possibilities (Nesbit, Christensen, and Brudney 2018). Uzochukwu and Thomas (2018) then explore coproduction using a case study of Atlanta to better understand who uses it and why. Klok et al. (2018) presents a fascinating look at intermunicipal cooperation through polycentric regional governance in the Netherlands, with an eye toward the costs and effectiveness of those arrangements. McGuire, Hoang, and Prakash (2018) look at the effectiveness of voluntary environmental programs in pollution reduction. Using different policy tools as lenses for analysis, Jung, Malatesta, and LaLonde (2018) ask whether work release programs are improved by working together or working alone. Finally, Yi et al. (2018) explore the role of regional governance and institutional collective action in promoting environmental sustainability. Each of these pieces explores unique dimensions of working together, or governing beyond traditional boundaries….(More)”.