Online tools for engaging citizens in the legislative process

Andrew Mandelbaum  from “Around the world, parliaments, governments, civil society organizations, and even individual parliamentarians, are taking measures to make the legislative process more participatory. Some are creating their own tools — often open source, which allows others to use these tools as well — that enable citizens to markup legislation or share ideas on targeted subjects. Others are purchasing and implementing tools developed by private companies to good effect. In several instances, these initiatives are being conducted through collaboration between public institutions and civil society, while many compliment online and offline experiences to help ensure that a broader population of citizens is reached.
The list below provides examples of some of the more prominent efforts to engage citizens in the legislative process.
Implementer: Brazilian Chamber of Deputies
Additional Information: Case Study
Implementer: Estonian President & Civil Society
Project Name: Rahvakogu (The People’s Assembly)
Additional InformationEnhancing Estonia’s Democracy Through Rahvakogu
Implementer: Finnish Parliament
Project Name: Inventing Finland again! (Keksitään Suomi uudelleen!)
Additional Information: Democratic Participation and Deliberation in Crowdsourced Legislative Processes: The Case of the Law on Off-Road Traffic in Finland
Implementer: SmartGov – Démocratie Ouverte
Additional Information: OpeningParliament Case Study
Implementer: Government of Italy
Project Name: Public consultation on constitutional reform
Implementer: Basque Parliament
Additional Information: Participation in Parliament
United Kingdom
Implementer: Cabinet Office
Project Name: Open Standards Consultation
Additional Information: Open Policy Making, Open Standards Consulation; Final Consultation Documents
United States
Implementer: OpenGov Foundation
Project Name: The Madison Project
Tool: The Madison Project

Open Data is a Civil Right

Yo Yoshida, Founder & CEO, Appallicious in GovTech: “As Americans, we expect a certain standardization of basic services, infrastructure and laws — no matter where we call home. When you live in Seattle and take a business trip to New York, the electric outlet in the hotel you’re staying in is always compatible with your computer charger. When you drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I-5 doesn’t all-of-a-sudden turn into a dirt country road because some cities won’t cover maintenance costs. If you take a 10-minute bus ride from Boston to the city of Cambridge, you know the money in your wallet is still considered legal tender.

But what if these expectations of consistency were not always a given? What if cities, counties and states had absolutely zero coordination when it came to basic services? This is what it is like for us in the open data movement. There are so many important applications and products that have been built by civic startups and concerned citizens. However, all too often these efforts are confided to city limits, and unavailable to anyone outside of them. It’s time to start reimagining the way cities function and how local governments operate. There is a wealth of information housed in local governments that should be public by default to help fuel a new wave of civic participation.
Appallicious’ Neighborhood Score provides an overall health and sustainability score, block-by-block for every neighborhood in the city of San Francisco. The first time metrics have been applied to neighborhoods so we can judge how government allocates our resources, so we can better plan how to move forward. But, if you’re thinking about moving to Oakland, just a subway stop away from San Francisco and want to see the score for a neighborhood, our app can’t help you, because that city has yet to release the data sets we need.
In Contra Costa County, there is the lifesaving PulsePoint app, which notifies smartphone users who are trained in CPR when someone nearby may be in need of help. This is an amazing app—for residents of Contra Costa County. But if someone in neighboring Alameda County needs CPR, the app, unfortunately, is completely useless.
Buildingeye visualizes planning and building permit data to allow users to see what projects are being proposed in their area or city. However, buildingeye is only available in a handful of places, simply because most cities have yet to make permits publicly available. Think about what this could do for the construction sector — an industry that has millions of jobs for Americans. Buildingeye also gives concerned citizens access to public documents like never before, so they can see what might be built in their cities or on their streets.
Along with other open data advocates, I have been going from city-to-city, county-to-county and state-to-state, trying to get governments and departments to open up their massive amounts of valuable data. Each time one city, or one county, agrees to make their data publicly accessible, I can’t help but think it’s only a drop in the bucket. We need to think bigger.
Every government, every agency and every department in the country that has already released this information to the public is a case study that points to the success of open data — and why every public entity should follow their lead. There needs to be a national referendum that instructs that all government data should be open and accessible to the public.
Last May, President Obama issued an executive order requiring that going forward, any data generated by the federal government must be made available to the public in open, machine-readable formats. In the executive order, Obama stated that, “openness in government strengthens our democracy, promotes the delivery of efficient and effective services to the public, and contributes to economic growth.”
If this is truly the case, Washington has an obligation to compel local and state governments to release their data as well. Many have tried to spur this effort. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom created the Citizenville Challenge to speed up adoption on the local level. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has also been vocal in promoting open data efforts. But none of these initiatives could have the same effect of a federal mandate.
What I am proposing is no small feat, and it won’t happen overnight. But there should be a concerted effort by those in the technology industry, specifically civic startups, to call on Congress to draft legislation that would require every city in the country to make their data open, free and machine readable. Passing federal legislation will not be an easy task — but creating a “universal open data” law is possible. It would require little to no funding, and it is completely nonpartisan. It’s actually not a political issue at all; it is, for lack of a better word, and administrative issue.
Often good legislation is blocked because lawmakers and citizens are concerned about project funding. While there should be support to help cities and towns achieve the capability of opening their data, a lot of the time, they don’t need it. In 2009, the city and county of San Francisco opened up its data with zero dollars. Many other cities have done the same. There will be cities and municipalities that will need financial assistance to accomplish this. But it is worth it, and it will not require a significant investment for a substantial return. There are free online open data portals, like ckan, dkan and a new effort from Accela,, to centralize open data efforts.
When the UK Government recently announced a £1.5 million investment to support open data initiatives, its Cabinet Office Minister said, “We know that it creates a more accountable, efficient and effective government. Open Data is a raw material for economic growth, supporting the creation of new markets, business and jobs and helping us compete in the global race.”
We should not fall behind these efforts. There is too much at stake for our citizens, not to mention our economy. A recent McKinsey report found that making open data has the potential to create $3 trillion in value worldwide.
Former Speaker Tip O’Neil famously said, “all politics are local.” But we in the civic startup space believe all data is local. Data is reporting potholes in your neighborhood and identifying high crime areas in your communities. It’s seeing how many farmers’ markets there are in your town compared to liquor stores. Data helps predict which areas of a city are most at risk during a heat wave and other natural disasters. A federal open data law would give the raw material needed to create tools to improve the lives of all Americans, not just those who are lucky enough to live in a city that has released this information on its own.
It’s a different way of thinking about how a government operates and the relationship it has with its citizens. Open data gives the public an amazing opportunity to be more involved with governmental decisions. We can increase accountability and transparency, but most importantly we can revolutionize the way local residents communicate and work with their government.
Access to this data is a civil right. If this is truly a government by, of and for the people, then its data needs to be available to all of us. By opening up this wealth of information, we will design a better government that takes advantage of the technology and skills of civic startups and innovative citizens….”

Open Data (Updated and Expanded)

As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. We start our series with a focus on Open Data. To suggest additional readings on this or any other topic, please email

Data and its uses for GovernanceOpen data refers to data that is publicly available for anyone to use and which is licensed in a way that allows for its re-use. The common requirement that open data be machine-readable not only means that data is distributed via the Internet in a digitized form, but can also be processed by computers through automation, ensuring both wide dissemination and ease of re-use. Much of the focus of the open data advocacy community is on government data and government-supported research data. For example, in May 2013, the US Open Data Policy defined open data as publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users, and consistent with a number of principles focused on availability, accessibility and reusability.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)
Fox, Mark S. “City Data: Big, Open and Linked.” Working Paper, Enterprise Integration Laboratory (2013).

  • This paper examines concepts that underlie Big City Data using data from multiple cities as examples. It begins by explaining the concepts of Open, Unified, Linked, and Grounded data, which are central to the Semantic Web. Fox then explore Big Data as an extension of Data Analytics, and provide case examples of good data analytics in cities.
  • Fox concludes that we can develop the tools that will enable anyone to analyze data, both big and small, by adopting the principles of the Semantic Web:
    • Data being openly available over the internet,
    • Data being unifiable using common vocabularies,
    • Data being linkable using International Resource Identifiers,
    • Data being accessible using a common data structure, namely triples,
    • Data being semantically grounded using Ontologies.

Foulonneau, Muriel, Sébastien Martin, and Slim Turki. “How Open Data Are Turned into Services?” In Exploring Services Science, edited by Mehdi Snene and Michel Leonard, 31–39. Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing 169. Springer International Publishing, 2014.

  • In this chapter, the authors argue that, considering the important role the development of new services plays as a motivation for open data policies, the impact of new services created through open data should play a more central role in evaluating the success of open data initiatives.
  • Foulonneau, Martin and Turki argue that the following metrics should be considered when evaluating the success of open data initiatives: “the usage, audience, and uniqueness of the services, according to the changes it has entailed in the public institutions that have open their data…the business opportunity it has created, the citizen perception of the city…the modification to particular markets it has entailed…the sustainability of the services created, or even the new dialog created with citizens.”

Goldstein, Brett, and Lauren Dyson. Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation. 1 edition. (Code for America Press: 2013).

  • This “cross-disciplinary survey of the open data landscape” features stories from practitioners in the open data space — including Michael Flowers, Brett Goldstein, Emer Colmeman and many others — discussing what they’ve accomplished with open civic data. The book “seeks to move beyond the rhetoric of transparency for transparency’s sake and towards action and problem solving.”
  • The book’s editors seek to accomplish the following objectives:
    • Help local governments learn how to start an open data program
    • Spark discussion on where open data will go next
    • Help community members outside of government better engage with the process of governance
    • Lend a voice to many aspects of the open data community.
  • The book is broken into five sections: Opening Government Data, Building on Open Data, Understanding Open Data, Driving Decisions with Data and Looking Ahead.

Granickas, Karolis. “Understanding the Impact of Releasing and Re-using Open Government Data.” European Public Sector Information Platform, ePSIplatform Topic Report No. 2013/08, (2013).

  • This paper examines the impact of open government data by exploring the latest research in the field, with an eye toward enabling  an environment for open data, as well as identifying the benefits of open government data and its political, social, and economic impacts.
  • Granickas concludes that to maximize the benefits of open government data: a) further research is required that structure and measure potential benefits of open government data; b) “government should pay more attention to creating feedback mechanisms between policy implementers, data providers and data-re-users”; c) “finding a balance between demand and supply requires mechanisms of shaping demand from data re-users and also demonstration of data inventory that governments possess”; and lastly, d) “open data policies require regular monitoring.”

Gurin, Joel. Open Data Now: The Secret to Hot Startups, Smart Investing, Savvy Marketing, and Fast Innovation, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014).

  • In this book, GovLab Senior Advisor and Open Data 500 director Joel Gurin explores the broad realized and potential benefit of Open Data, and how, “unlike Big Data, Open Data is transparent, accessible, and reusable in ways that give it the power to transform business, government, and society.”
  • The book provides “an essential guide to understanding all kinds of open databases – business, government, science, technology, retail, social media, and more – and using those resources to your best advantage.”
  • In particular, Gurin discusses a number of applications of Open Data with very real potential benefits:
    • “Hot Startups: turn government data into profitable ventures;
    • Savvy Marketing: understanding how reputational data drives your brand;
    • Data-Driven Investing: apply new tools for business analysis;
    • Consumer Information: connect with your customers using smart disclosure;
    • Green Business: use data to bet on sustainable companies;
    • Fast R&D: turn the online world into your research lab;
    • New Opportunities: explore open fields for new businesses.”

Jetzek, Thorhildur, Michel Avital, and Niels Bjørn-Andersen. “Generating Value from Open Government Data.” Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, 5. General IS Topics 2013.

  • In this paper, the authors “developed a conceptual model portraying how data as a resource can be transformed to value.”
  • Jetzek, Avital and Bjørn-Andersen propose a conceptual model featuring four Enabling Factors (openness, resource governance, capabilities and technical connectivity) acting on four Value Generating Mechanisms (efficiency, innovation, transparency and participation) leading to the impacts of Economic and Social Value.
  • The authors argue that their research supports that “all four of the identified mechanisms positively influence value, reflected in the level of education, health and wellbeing, as well as the monetary value of GDP and environmental factors.”

Kassen, Maxat. “A promising phenomenon of open data: A case study of the Chicago open data project.Government Information Quarterly (2013).

  • This paper uses the Chicago open data project to explore the “empowering potential of an open data phenomenon at the local level as a platform useful for promotion of civic engagement projects and provide a framework for future research and hypothesis testing.”
  • Kassen argues that “open data-driven projects offer a new platform for proactive civic engagement” wherein governments can harness “the collective wisdom of the local communities, their knowledge and visions of the local challenges, governments could react and meet citizens’ needs in a more productive and cost-efficient manner.”
  • The paper highlights the need for independent IT developers to network in order for this trend to continue, as well as the importance of the private sector in “overall diffusion of the open data concept.”

Keen, Justin, Radu Calinescu, Richard Paige, John Rooksby. “Big data + politics = open data: The case of health care data in England.Policy and Internet 5 (2), (2013): 228–243.

  • This paper examines the assumptions regarding open datasets, technological infrastructure and access, using healthcare systems as a case study.
  • The authors specifically address two assumptions surrounding enthusiasm about Big Data in healthcare: the assumption that healthcare datasets and technological infrastructure are up to task, and the assumption of access to this data from outside the healthcare system.
  • By using the National Health Service in England as an example, the authors identify data, technology, and information governance challenges. They argue that “public acceptability of third party access to detailed health care datasets is, at best, unclear,” and that the prospects of Open Data depend on Open Data policies, which are inherently political, and the government’s assertion of property rights over large datasets. Thus, they argue that the “success or failure of Open Data in the NHS may turn on the question of trust in institutions.”

Kulk, Stefan and Bastiaan Van Loenen. “Brave New Open Data World?International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research, May 14, 2012.

  • This paper examines the evolving tension between the open data movement and the European Union’s privacy regulations, especially the Data Protection Directive.
  • The authors argue, “Technological developments and the increasing amount of publicly available data are…blurring the lines between non-personal and personal data. Open data may not seem to be personal data on first glance especially when it is anonymised or aggregated. However, it may become personal by combining it with other publicly available data or when it is de-anonymised.”

Kundra, Vivek. “Digital Fuel of the 21st Century: Innovation through Open Data and the Network Effect.” Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard College: Discussion Paper Series, January 2012,

  • In this paper, Vivek Kundra, the first Chief Information Officer of the United States, explores the growing impact of open data, and argues that, “In the information economy, data is power and we face a choice between democratizing it and holding on to it for an asymmetrical advantage.”
  • Kundra offers four specific recommendations to maximize the impact of open data: Citizens and NGOs must demand open data in order to fight government corruption, improve accountability and government services; Governments must enact legislation to change the default setting of government to open, transparent and participatory; The press must harness the power of the network effect through strategic partnerships and crowdsourcing to cut costs and provide better insights; and Venture capitalists should invest in startups focused on building companies based on public sector data.

Noveck, Beth Simone and Daniel L. Goroff. “Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data.” The Aspen Institute Philanthropy & Social Innovation Publication Number 13-004. 2013.

  • This report is focused on “obtaining better, more usable data about the nonprofit sector,” which encompasses, as of 2010, “1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States with $1.51 trillion in revenues.”
  • Toward that goal, the authors propose liberating data from the Form 990, an Internal Revenue Service form that “gathers and publishes a large amount of information about tax-exempt organizations,” including information related to “governance, investments, and other factors not directly related to an organization’s tax calculations or qualifications for tax exemption.”
  • The authors recommend a two-track strategy: “Pursuing the longer-term goal of legislation that would mandate electronic filing to create open 990 data, and pursuing a shorter-term strategy of developing a third party platform that can demonstrate benefits more immediately.”

Robinson, David G., Harlan Yu, William P. Zeller, and Edward W. Felten, “Government Data and the Invisible Hand.” Yale Journal of Law & Technology 11 (2009),

  • This paper proposes a new approach to online government data that “leverages both the American tradition of entrepreneurial self-reliance and the remarkable low-cost flexibility of contemporary digital technology.”
  • “In order for public data to benefit from the same innovation and dynamism that characterize private parties’ use of the Internet, the federal government must reimagine its role as an information provider. Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each end-user need, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that ‘exposes’ the underlying data.”
Ubaldi, Barbara. “Open Government Data: Towards Empirical Analysis of Open Government Data Initiatives.” OECD Working Papers on Public Governance. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, May 27, 2013.

  • This working paper from the OECD seeks to provide an all-encompassing look at the principles, concepts and criteria framing open government data (OGD) initiatives.
  • Ubaldi also analyzes a variety of challenges to implementing OGD initiatives, including policy, technical, economic and financial, organizational, cultural and legal impediments.
  • The paper also proposes a methodological framework for evaluating OGD Initiatives in OECD countries, with the intention of eventually “developing a common set of metrics to consistently assess impact and value creation within and across countries.”

Worthy, Ben. “David Cameron’s Transparency Revolution? The Impact of Open Data in the UK.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, November 29, 2013.

  • In this article, Worthy “examines the impact of the UK Government’s Transparency agenda, focusing on the publication of spending data at local government level. It measures the democratic impact in terms of creating transparency and accountability, public participation and everyday information.”
  • Worthy’s findings, based on surveys of local authorities, interviews and FOI requests, are disappointing. He finds that:
    • Open spending data has led to some government accountability, but largely from those already monitoring government, not regular citizens.
    • Open Data has not led to increased participation, “as it lacks the narrative or accountability instruments to fully bring such effects.”
    • It has also not “created a new stream of information to underpin citizen choice, though new innovations offer this possibility. The evidence points to third party innovations as the key.
  • Despite these initial findings, “Interviewees pointed out that Open Data holds tremendous opportunities for policy-making. Joined up data could significantly alter how policy is made and resources targeted. From small scale issues e.g. saving money through prescriptions to targeting homelessness or health resources, it can have a transformative impact. “

Zuiderwijk, Anneke, Marijn Janssen, Sunil Choenni, Ronald Meijer and Roexsana Sheikh Alibaks. “Socio-technical Impediments of Open Data.” Electronic Journal of e-Government 10, no. 2 (2012).

  • This paper to seeks to identify the socio-technical impediments to open data impact based on a review of the open data literature, as well as workshops and interviews.
  • The authors discovered 118 impediments across ten categories: 1) availability and access; 2) find-ability; 3) usability; 4) understandability; 5) quality; 6) linking and combining data; 7) comparability and compatibility; 8) metadata; 9) interaction with the data provider; and 10) opening and uploading.

Zuiderwijk, Anneke and Marijn Janssen. “Open Data Policies, Their Implementation and Impact: A Framework for Comparison.” Government Information Quarterly 31, no. 1 (January 2014): 17–29.

  • In this article, Zuiderwijk and Janssen argue that “currently there is a multiplicity of open data policies at various levels of government, whereas very little systematic and structured research [being] done on the issues that are covered by open data policies, their intent and actual impact.”
  • With this evaluation deficit in mind, the authors propose a new framework for comparing open data policies at different government levels using the following elements for comparison:
    • Policy environment and context, such as level of government organization and policy objectives;
    • Policy content (input), such as types of data not publicized and technical standards;
    • Performance indicators (output), such as benefits and risks of publicized data; and
    • Public values (impact).

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Did we miss anything? Please submit reading recommendations to or in the comments below.

Habermas and the Garants : Narrowing the gap between policy and practice in French organisation – citizen engagement

New paper by Judy Burnside-Lawry, Carolyne Lee and Sandrine Rui: “This article draws on a case study of organisation–citizen engagement during railway infrastructure planning in southwest France, to examine the nature of participatory democracy, both conceptually —as elucidated by Habermas and others— and empirically, as recently practised within the framework of a model established in one democratically governed country.
We analyse roles played by the state organisation responsible for building railway infrastructure; the National Commission for Public Debate; and the Garants, who oversee and facilitate the participatory process as laid down by the French law of Public Debate. We conclude by arguing that despite its normative aspects and its lack of provision for analysis of power relations, Habermas’s theory of communicative action can be used to evaluate the quality of organisation –citizen engagement, potentially providing a basis for informing actual models of democratic participation.”

Selected Readings on Big Data

The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of big data was originally published in 2014.

Big Data refers to the wide-scale collection, aggregation, storage, analysis and use of data. Government is increasingly in control of a massive amount of raw data that, when analyzed and put to use, can lead to new insights on everything from public opinion to environmental concerns. The burgeoning literature on Big Data argues that it generates value by: creating transparency; enabling experimentation to discover needs, expose variability, and improve performance; segmenting populations to customize actions; replacing/supporting human decision making with automated algorithms; and innovating new business models, products and services. The insights drawn from data analysis can also be visualized in a manner that passes along relevant information, even to those without the tech savvy to understand the data on its own terms (see The GovLab Selected Readings on Data Visualization).

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Australian Government Information Management Office. The Australian Public Service Big Data Strategy: Improved Understanding through Enhanced Data-analytics Capability Strategy Report. August 2013.

  • This Big Data Strategy produced for Australian Government senior executives with responsibility for delivering services and developing policy is aimed at ingraining in government officials that the key to increasing the value of big data held by government is the effective use of analytics. Essentially, “the value of big data lies in [our] ability to extract insights and make better decisions.”
  • This positions big data as a national asset that can be used to “streamline service delivery, create opportunities for innovation, identify new service and policy approaches as well as supporting the effective delivery of existing programs across a broad range of government operations.”

Bollier, David. The Promise and Peril of Big Data. The Aspen Institute, Communications and Society Program, 2010.

  • This report captures insights from the 2009 Roundtable exploring uses of Big Data within a number of important consumer behavior and policy implication contexts.
  • The report concludes that, “Big Data presents many exciting opportunities to improve modern society. There are incalculable opportunities to make scientific research more productive, and to accelerate discovery and innovation. People can use new tools to help improve their health and well-being, and medical care can be made more efficient and effective. Government, too, has a great stake in using large databases to improve the delivery of government services and to monitor for threats to national security.
  • However, “Big Data also presents many formidable challenges to government and citizens precisely because data technologies are becoming so pervasive, intrusive and difficult to understand. How shall society protect itself against those who would misuse or abuse large databases? What new regulatory systems, private-law innovations or social practices will be capable of controlling anti-social behaviors–and how should we even define what is socially and legally acceptable when the practices enabled by Big Data are so novel and often arcane?”

Boyd, Danah and Kate Crawford. “Six Provocations for Big Data.” A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society. September 2011

  • In this paper, Boyd and Crawford raise challenges to unchecked assumptions and biases regarding big data. The paper makes a number of assertions about the “computational culture” of big data and pushes back against those who consider big data to be a panacea.
  • The authors’ provocations for big data are:
    • Automating Research Changes the Definition of Knowledge
    • Claims to Objectivity and Accuracy are Misleading
    • Big Data is not always Better Data
    • Not all Data is Equivalent
    • Just Because it is accessible doesn’t make it ethical
    • Limited Access to Big Data creates New Digital Divide

The Economist Intelligence Unit. Big Data and the Democratisation of Decisions. October 2012.

  • This report from the Economist Intelligence Unit focuses on the positive impact of big data adoption in the private sector, but its insights can also be applied to the use of big data in governance.
  • The report argues that innovation can be spurred by democratizing access to data, allowing a diversity of stakeholders to “tap data, draw lessons and make business decisions,” which in turn helps companies and institutions respond to new trends and intelligence at varying levels of decision-making power.

Manyika, James, Michael Chui, Brad Brown, Jacques Bughin, Richard Dobbs, Charles Roxburgh, and Angela Hung Byers. Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition, and Productivity.  McKinsey & Company. May 2011.

  • This report argues that big data “will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus, and that “leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data.” 
  • The report offers five broad ways in which using big data can create value:
    • First, big data can unlock significant value by making information transparent and usable at much higher frequency.
    • Second, as organizations create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to sick days, and therefore expose variability and boost performance.
    • Third, big data allows ever-narrower segmentation of customers and therefore much more precisely tailored products or services.
    • Fourth, big sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision-making.
    • Finally, big data can be used to improve the development of the next generation of products and services.

The Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government. “From Data to Decisions II: Building an Analytics Culture.” October 17, 2012.

  • This report discusses strategies for better leveraging data analysis to aid decision-making. The authors argue that, “Organizations that are successful at launching or expanding analytics program…systematically examine their processes and activities to ensure that everything they do clearly connects to what they set out to achieve, and they use that examination to pinpoint weaknesses or areas for improvement.”
  • While the report features many strategies for government decisions-makers, the central recommendation is that, “leaders incorporate analytics as a way of doing business, making data-driven decisions transparent and a fundamental approach to day-to-day management. When an analytics culture is built openly, and the lessons are applied routinely and shared widely, an agency can embed valuable management practices in its DNA, to the mutual benet of the agency and the public it serves.”

TechAmerica Foundation’s Federal Big Data Commission. “Demystifying Big Data: A Practical Guide to Transforming the Business of Government.” 2013.

  • This report presents key big data imperatives that government agencies must address, the challenges and the opportunities posed by the growing volume of data and the value Big Data can provide. The discussion touches on the value of big data to businesses and organizational mission, presents case study examples of big data applications, technical underpinnings and public policy applications.
  • The authors argue that new digital information, “effectively captured, managed and analyzed, has the power to change every industry including cyber security, healthcare, transportation, education, and the sciences.” To ensure that this opportunity is realized, the report proposes a detailed big data strategy framework with the following steps: define, assess, plan, execute and review.

World Economic Forum. “Big Data, Big Impact: New Possibilities for International Development.” 2012.

  • This report examines the potential for channeling the “flood of data created every day by the interactions of billions of people using computers, GPS devices, cell phones, and medical devices” into “actionable information that can be used to identify needs, provide services, and predict and prevent crises for the benefit of low-income populations”
  • The report argues that, “To realise the mutual benefits of creating an environment for sharing mobile-generated data, all ecosystem actors must commit to active and open participation. Governments can take the lead in setting policy and legal frameworks that protect individuals and require contractors to make their data public. Development organisations can continue supporting governments and demonstrating both the public good and the business value that data philanthropy can deliver. And the private sector can move faster to create mechanisms for the sharing data that can benefit the public.”

Prospects for Online Crowdsourcing of Social Science Research Tasks: A Case Study Using Amazon Mechanical Turk

New paper by Catherine E. Schmitt-Sands and Richard J. Smith: “While the internet has created new opportunities for research, managing the increased complexity of relationships and knowledge also creates challenges. has a Mechanical Turk service that allows people to crowdsource simple tasks for a nominal fee. The online workers may be anywhere in North America or India and range in ability. Social science researchers are only beginning to use this service. While researchers have used crowdsourcing to find research subjects or classify texts, we used Mechanical Turk to conduct a policy scan of local government websites. This article describes the process used to train and ensure quality of the policy scan. It also examines choices in the context of research ethics.”

The Effective Use of Crowdsourcing in E-Governance

Paper by Jayakumar Sowmya and Hussain Shafiq Pyarali: “The rise of Web 2.0 paradigm has empowered the Internet users to share information and generate content on social networking and media sharing platforms such as wikis and blogs. The trend of harnessing the wisdom of public using Web 2.0 distributed networks through open calls is termed as ‘Crowdsourcing’. In addition to businesses, this powerful idea of using collective intelligence or the ‘wisdom of crowd’ applies to different situations, such as in governments and non-profit organizations which have started utilizing crowdsourcing as an essential problem -solving tool. In addition, the widespread and easy access to technologies such as the Internet, mobile phones and other communication devices has resulted in an exponential growth in the use of crowdsourcing for government policy advocacy, e-democracy and e-governance during the past decade. However, utilizing collective intelligence and efforts of public to find solutions to real life problems using web 2.0 tools does come with its share of associated challenges and limitations. This paper aims at identifying and examining the value-adding strategies which contribute to the success of crowdsourcing in e-governance. The qualitative case study analysis and emphatic design methodology are employed to evaluate the effectiveness of the identified strategic and functional components, by analyzing the characteristics of some of the notable cases of crowdsourcing in e-governance and the findings are tabulated and discussed. The paper concludes with the limitations and the implications for future research”.

Organizational Innovation in Public Services: Forms and Governance

New edited book by Pekka Valkama, Stephen James Bailey, Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko: “Reforming public services has become an integral part of instituting austerity measures as governments around the world struggle to balance the books in the wake of the financial crisis. Vital public services and government departments have been given the seemingly impossible task of delivering better services to the public while receiving less funding. This excellent and highly original collection brings together contributors from across the globe to explore and analyse innovational methods aimed at helping overburdened and under-funded public services cope with the demands of austerity and continue to deliver high quality services to the public. In the process this book develops new theoretical models and analyses case studies to provide an important and timely insight into how to reform public services across the globe…
Table of Contents:
1. Contexts and Challenges of Organisational Innovation in Public Services
2. Supporting Organisational Innovation in the Public Sector: Creative Councils in England
3. Analysis Organisational Innovation in Public Services: Conceptual and Theoretical Issues
4. Agentifcation Processes and Agency Governance: Organisational Innovation at a Global Scale?
5. Corporatisation as Organisational Innovation
6. Mutulatisation and Public Services
7. Organisational Innovation in Public Procurement in Scotland: The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT)
8. Outsourcing Public Services: Process Innovation in Dutch Municipalities
9. Governance of Public Service Companies: Australian Cases and Examples
10. Governance of Social Enterprises as Producers of Public Services
11. Championing and Governing UK Public Service Mutuals
12. Improving Governance Arrangements for Academic Entrepreneurships
13. Governance and Accountability of Joint Ventures: A Swedish Case Study
14. Contractual Governance: A Social Learning Perspective
15. Lessons for the Governance of Organisational Innovations”

The New Eye of Government: Citizen Sentiment Analysis in Social Media

New paper by R. Arunachalam and S. Sarkar: “Governments across the world facing unique challenges today than ever before. In recent time, Arab Spring
phenomenon is an example of how Governments can be impacted if they ignore citizen sentiment. It is a growing trend that Governments are trying to move closer to the citizen-centric model, where the priorities and services would be driven according to citizen needs rather than Government capability. Such trends are
forcing the Governments in rethinking and reshaping their policies in citizen interactions. New disruptive technologies like cloud, mobile etc. are opening new opportunities to the Governments to enable innovations in such interactions.
The advent of Social Media is a recent addition to such disruptive socio-technical enablers. Governments are fast realizing that it can be a great vehicle to get closer to the citizens. It can provide deep insight in what citizens want. Thus, in the current gloomy climate of world economy today, Governments can reorganize and reprioritize the allocation limited funds, thereby creating maximum impact on citizens’ life. Building such insight is a non-trivial task because of the huge
volume of information that social media can generate. However, Sentiment Analysis or Opinion Mining can be a useful vehicle in this journey.
In this work, we presented a model and case study to analyze citizen sentiment from social media in helping the Governments to take decisions.”

Collaboration Between Government and Outreach Organizations: A Case Study of the Department of Veterans Affairs

“In this report, Drs. Lael Keiser and Susan Miller examine the critical role of non-governmental outreach organizations in assisting government agencies to determine benefit eligibility of citizens applying for services.  Many non-profits and other organizations help low-income applicants apply for Social Security, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps).
Some outreach organizations help veterans navigate the complexity of the veterans disability benefits program.  These organizations include the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as state government-run veterans agencies.  Drs. Keiser and Miller interviewed dozens of managers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and outreach organizations about their interactions in helping veterans.  They found “there is indeed effective collaboration” and that these organizations serve a key role for veterans in processing their claims.  These organizations also help lighten the workload of VA benefit examiners by ensuring the paperwork is in order in advance, as well as serving as a communications conduit.
Drs. Keiser and Miller found variations in the effectiveness of the relationships between VA and outreach organization staffs and identified best practices for increasing effectiveness.  These lessons can be applied to other agencies that interactive frequently with outreach organizations that assist citizens in navigating the complexity of applying for various government benefit programs.
Listen to the interview on Federal News Radio.”