The GovLab Selected Readings on Blockchain Technologies and the Governance of Extractives


Curation by Andrew Young, Anders Pedersen, and Stefaan G. Verhulst

Readings developed together with NRGI, within the context of our joint project on Blockchain technologies and the Governance of Extractives. Thanks to Joyce Zhang and Michelle Winowatan for research support.

We need your help! Please share any additional readings on the use of Blockchain Technologies in the Extractives Sector with blockchange@thegovlab.org.  

Introduction

By providing new ways to securely identify individuals and organizations, and record transactions of various types in a distributed manner, blockchain technologies have been heralded as a new tool to address information asymmetries, establish trust and improve governance – particularly around the extraction of oil, gas and other natural resources. At the same time, blockchain technologies are been experimented with to optimize certain parts of the extractives value chain – potentially decreasing transparency and accountability while making governance harder to implement.

Across the expansive and complex extractives sector, blockchain technologies are believed to have particular potential for improving governance in three key areas:  

  • Beneficial ownership and illicit flows screening: The identity of those who benefit, through ownership, from companies that extract natural resources is often hidden – potentially contributing to tax evasion, challenges to global sanction regimes, corruption and money laundering.
  • Land registration, licensing and contracting transparency: To ensure companies extract resources responsibly and comply with rules and fee requirements, effective governance and a process to determine who has the rights to extract natural resources, under what conditions, and who is entitled to the land is essential.
  • Commodity trading and supply chain transparency: The commodity trading sector is facing substantive challenges in assessing and verifying the authenticity of for example oil trades. Costly time is spent by commodity traders reviewing documentation of often poor quality. The expectation of the sector is firstly to eliminate time spent verifying the authenticity of traded goods and secondly to reduce the risk premium on trades. Transactions from resources and commodities trades are often opaque and secretive, allowing for governments and companies to conceal how much money they receive from trading, and leading to corruption and evasion of taxation.

In the below we provide a selection of the nascent but growing literature on Blockchain Technologies and Extractives across six categories:

Selected Readings 

Blockchain Technologies and Extractives – Promise and Current Potential

Adams, Richard, Beth Kewell, Glenn Parry. “Blockchain for Good? Digital Ledger Technology and Sustainable Development Goals.” Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research. October 27, 2017.

  • This chapter in the Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research seeks to reflect and explore the different ways Blockchain for Good (B4G) projects can provide social and environmental benefits under the UN’s Sustainable Goals framework
  • The authors describe the main categories in which blockchain can achieve social impact: mining/consensus algorithms that reward good behavior, benefits linked to currency use in the form of “colored coins,” innovations in supply chain, innovations in government, enabling the sharing economy, and fostering financial inclusion.
  • The chapter concludes that with B4G there is also inevitably “Blockchain for Bad.” There is already critique and failures of DLTs such as the DAO, and more research must be done to identify whether DLTs can provide a more decentralized, egalitarian society, or if they will ultimately be another tool for control and surveillance by organizations and government.

Cullinane, Bernadette, and Randy Wilson. “Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry through Blockchain.” Official Journal of the Australian Institute of Energy News, p 9-10, December 2017.

  • In this article, Cullinane and Wilson explore blockchain’s application in the oil and gas industry “presents a particularly compelling opportunity…due to the high transactional values, associated risks and relentless pressure to reduce costs.”
  • The authors elaborate four areas where blockchain can benefit play a role in transforming the oil and gas industry:
    • Supply chain management
    • Smart contracts
    • Record management
    • Cross-border payments

Da Silva, Filipe M., and Ankita Jaitly. “Blockchain in Natural Resources: Hedging Against Volatile Prices.” Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., 2018.

  • The authors of this white paper assess the readiness of natural resources industries for blockchain technology application, identify areas where blockchain can add value, and outline a strategic plan for its adoption.
  • In particular, they highlight the potential for blockchain in the oil and gas industry to simplify payments, where for example, gas can be delivered directly to consumer homes using a blockchain smart contracting application.

Halford-Thompson, Guy. “Powered by Blockchain: Reinventing Information Management in the Energy Space.” BTL, May 12, 2017.

  • According to Halford-Thompson, “oil and gas companies are exploring blockchain’s promise to revamp inefficient internal processes and achieve significant reductions in operating costs through the automation of record keeping and messaging, the digitization of the supply chain information flow, and the elimination of reconciliation, among many other data management use cases.”
  • The data reconciliation process, for one, is complex and can require significant time for completion. Blockchain technology could not only remove the need for some steps in the information reconciliation process, but also eliminate the need for reconciliation altogether in some instances.

Blockchain Technologies and the Governance of Extractives

(See also: Selected Readings of Blockchain Technologies and its Potential to Transform Governance)

Koeppen, Mark, David Shrier, and Morgan Bazilian. “Is Blockchain’s Future in Oil and Gas Transformative Or Transient? Deloitte, 2017.

  • In this report, the authors propose four areas that blockchain can improve for the oil and gas industry, which are:
    • Transparency and compliance: Employment of blockchain is predicted to significantly reduce cost related to compliance, since it securely makes information available to all parties involved in the supply chain.
    • Cyber threats and security: The industry faces constant digital security threat and blockchain provides a solution to address this issue.
    • Mid-volume trading/third party impacts: They argue that the “boundaries between asset classes will blur as cash, energy products and other commodities, from industrial components to apples could all become digital assets trading interoperably.”
    • Smart contract: Since the “sheer size and volume of contracts and transactions to execute capital projects in oil and gas have historically caused significant reconciliation and tracking issues among contractors, sub-contractors, and suppliers,” blockchain-enabled smart contracts could improve the process by executing automatically after all requirements are met, and boosting contract efficiency and protecting each party from volatile pricing.

Mawet, Pierre, and Michael Insogna. “Unlocking the Potential of Blockchain in Oil and Gas Supply Chains.” Accenture Energy Blog, November 21, 2016.

  • The authors propose three ways blockchain technology can boost productivity and efficiency in oil and gas industry:
    • “Greater process efficiency. Smart contracts, for example, can be held in a blockchain transaction with party compliance confirmed through follow-on transactions, reducing third-party supervision and paper-based contracting, thus helping reduce cost and overhead.”
    • “Compliance. Visibility is essential to improve supply chain performance. The immutable record of transactions can aid in product traceability and asset tracking.”
    • “Data transfer from IoT sensors. Blockchain could be used to track the unique history of a device, with the distributed ledger recording data transfer from multiple sensors. Data security in devices could be safeguarded by unique blockchain characteristics.”

Som, Indranil. “Blockchain: Radically Changing the Mining Paradigm.” Digitalist, September 27, 2017.

  • In this article, Som proposes three ways that the blockchain technology can “support leaner organizations and increased security” in the mining industry: improving cybersecurity, increasing transparency through smart contracts, and providing visibility into the supply chain.

Identity: Beneficial Ownership and Illicit Flows

(See also: Selected Readings on Blockchain Technologies and Identity).

de Jong, Julia, Alexander Meyer, and Jeffrey Owens. “Using blockchain for transparent beneficial ownership registers. International Tax Review, June 2017.

  • This paper discusses the features of blockchain and distributed ledger technology that can improve collection and distribution of information on beneficial ownership.
  • The FATF and OECD Global Forum regimes have identified a number of common problems related to beneficial ownership information across all jurisdictions, including:
    • “Insufficient accuracy and accessibility of company identification and ownership information;
    • Less rigorous implementation of customer due-diligence (CDD) measures by key gatekeepers such as lawyers, accountants, and trust and company service providers; and
    • Obstacles to information sharing such as data protection and privacy laws, which impede competent authorities from receiving timely access to adequate, accurate and up-to-date information on basic legal and beneficial ownership.”
  • The authors argue that the transparency, immutability, and security offered by blockchain makes it ideally suited for record-keeping, particularly with regards to the ownership of assets. Thus, blockchain can address many of the shortcomings in the current system as identified by the FATF and the OECD.
  • They go on to suggest that a global registry of beneficial ownership using blockchain technology would offer the following benefits:
    • Ensuring real-time accuracy and verification of ownership information
    • Increasing security and control over sensitive personal and commercial information
    • Enhancing audit transparency
    • Creating the potential for globally-linked registries
    • Reducing corruption and fraud, and increasing trust
    • Reducing compliance burden for regulate entities

Herian, Robert. “Trusteeship in a Post-Trust World: Property, Trusts Law and the Blockchain.” The Open University, 2016.

  • This working paper discusses the often overlooked topic of trusteeship and trusts law and the implications of blockchain technology in the space. 
  • “Smart trusts” on the blockchain will distribute trusteeship across a network and, in theory, remove the need for continuous human intervention in trust fund investments thus resolving key issues around accountability and the potential for any breach of trust.
  • Smart trusts can also increase efficiency and security of transactions, which could improve the overall performance of the investment strategy, thereby creating higher returns for beneficiaries.

Karsten, Jack and Darrell M. West (2018): “Venezuela’s “petro” undermines other cryptocurrencies – and international sanctions.” Brookings, Friday, March 9 2018,

  • This article discusses the Venezuelan government’s cryptocurrency, “petro,” which was launched as a solution to the country’s economic crisis and near-worthless currency, “bolívar”
  • Unlike the volatility of other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin, one petro’s price is pegged to the price of one barrel of Venezuelan oil – roughly $60
  • And rather than decentralizing control like most blockchain applications, the petro is subject to arbitrary discount factor adjustment, fluctuating oil prices, and a corrupt government known for manipulating its currency
  • The authors warn the petro will not stabilize the Venezuelan economy since only foreign investors funded the presale, yet (from the White Paper) only Venezuelan citizens can use the cryptocurrency to pay taxes, fees, and other expenses. Rather, they argue, the petro represents an attempt to create foreign capital out of “thin air,” which is not subject to traditional economic sanctions.  

Land Registration, Licensing and Contracting Transparency

Michael Graglia and Christopher Mellon. “Blockchain and Property in 2018: At the End of the Beginning.” 2018 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, March 19-23, 2018.

  • This paper claims “blockchain makes sense for real estate” because real estate transactions depend on a number of relationships, processes, and intermediaries that must reconcile all transactions and documents for an action to occur. Blockchain and smart contracts can reduce the time and cost of transactions while ensuring secure and transparent record-keeping systems.
  • The ease, efficiency, and security of transactions can also create an “international market for small real estate” in which individuals who cannot afford an entire plot of land can invest small amounts and receive their portion of rental payments automatically through smart contracts.
  • The authors describe seven prerequisites that land registries must fulfill before blockchain can be introduced successfully: accurate data, digitized records, an identity solution, multi-sig wallets, a private or hybrid blockchain, connectivity and a tech aware population, and a trained professional community
  • To achieve the goal of an efficient and secure property registry, the authors propose an 8-level progressive framework through which registries slowly integrate blockchain due to legal complexity of land administration, resulting inertia of existing processes, and high implementation costs.  
    • Level 0 – No Integration
    • Level 1 – Blockchain Recording
    • Level 2 – Smart Workflow
    • Level 3 – Smart Escrow
    • Level 4 – Blockchain Registry
    • Level 5 – Disaggregated Rights
    • Level 6 – Fractional Rights
    • Level 7 – Peer-to-Peer Transactions
    • Level 8 – Interoperability

Thomas, Rod. “Blockchain’s Incompatibility for Use as a Land Registry: Issues of Definition, Feasibility and Risk. European Property Law Journal, vol. 6, no. 3, May 2017.

  • Thomas argues that blockchain, as it is currently understood and defined, is unsuited for the transfer of real property rights because it fails to address the need for independent verification and control.
  • Under a blockchain-based system, coin holders would be in complete control of the recordation of the title interests of their land, and thus, it would be unlikely that they would report competing or contested claims.
  • Since land remains in the public domain, the risk of third party possessory title claims are likely to occur; and over time, these risks will only increase exponentially.
  • A blockchain-based land title represents interlinking and sequential transactions over many hundreds, if not thousands, of years, so given the misinformation that would compound over time, it would be difficult to trust the current title holder has a correctly recorded title
  • The author concludes that supporters of blockchain for land registries frequently overlook a registry’s primary function to provide an independent verification of the provenance of stored data.

Vos, Jacob, Christiaan Lemmen, and Bert Beentjes. “Blockchain-Based Land Registry: Panacea, Illusion or Something In Between? 2017 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, March 20-24, 2017.

  • The authors propose that blockchain is best suited for the following steps in land administration:
    • The issuance of titles
    • The archiving of transactions – specifically in countries that do not have a reliable electronic system of transfer of ownership
  • The step in between issuing titles and archiving transactions is the most complex – the registration of the transaction. This step includes complex relationships between the “triple” of land administration: rights (right in rem and/or personal rights), object (spatial unit), and subject (title holder). For the most part, this step is done manually by registrars, and it is questionable whether blockchain technology, in the form of smart contracts, will be able to process these complex transactions.
  • The authors conclude that one should not underestimate the complexity of the legal system related to land administration. The standardization of processes may be the threshold to success of blockchain-based land administration. The authors suggest instead of seeking to eliminate one party from the process, technologists should cooperate with legal and geodetic professionals to create a system of checks and balances to successfully implement blockchain for land administration.  
  • This paper also outlines five blockchain-based land administration projects launched in Ghana, Honduras, Sweden, Georgia, and Cook County, Illinois.

Commodity Trading and Supply Chain Transparency

Ahmed, Shabir. “Leveraging Blockchain to Revolutionise the Mining Industry.” SAP News, February 27, 2018.

  • In this article, Ahmed identifies seven key use cases for blockchain in the mining industry:
    • Automation of ore acquisition and transfer;
    • Automatic registration of mineral rights and IP;
    • Visibility of ore inventory at ports;
    • Automatic cargo hire process;
    • Process and secure large amounts of IoT data;
    • Reconciling amount produced and sent for processing;
    • Automatically execute procurement and other contracts.

Brooks, Michael. “Blockchain and the Fight Against Illicit Financial Flows.” The Policy Corner, February 19, 2018.

  • In this article, Brooks argues that, “Because of the inherent decentralization and immutability of data within blockchains, it offers a unique opportunity to bypass traditional tracking and transparency initiatives that require strong central governance and low levels of corruption. It could, to a significant extent, bypass the persistent issues of authority and corruption by democratizing information around data consensus, rather than official channels and occasional studies based off limited and often manipulated information. Within the framework of a coherent policy initiative that integrates all relevant stakeholders (states, transnational organizations, businesses, NGOs, other monitors and oversight bodies), a international supply chains supported by blockchain would decrease the ease with which resources can be hidden, numbers altered, and trade misinvoiced.”

Conflict Free Natural Resources.” Global Opportunity Report 2017. Global Opportunity Network, 2017.

  • In this entry from the Global Opportunity Report, and specifically toward the end of ensuring conflict-free natural resources, Blockchain is labeled as “well-suited for tracking objects and transactions, making it possible for virtually anything of value to be traced. This opportunity is about creating transparency and product traceability in supply chains.

Blockchain for Traceability in Minerals and Metals Supply Chains: Opportunities and Challenges.” RCS Global and ICMM, 2017.

  • This report is based on insights generated during the Materials Stewardship Round Table on the potential of BCTs for tracking and tracing metals and minerals supply chains, which subsequently informed an RCS Global research initiative on the topic.
  • Insight into two key areas is increasingly desired by downstream manufacturing companies from upstream producers of metals and minerals: provenance and production methods
  • In particular, the report offers five key potential advantages of using Blockchain for mineral and metal supply chain activities:
    • “Builds consensus and trust around responsible production standards between downstream and upstream companies.
    • The immutability of and decentralized control over a blockchain system minimizes the risk of fraud.
    • Defined datasets can be made accessible in real time to any third party, including downstream buyers, auditors, investors, etc. but at the same time encrypted so as to share a proof of fact rather than confidential information.
    • A blockchain system can be easily scaled to include other producers and supply chains beyond those initially involved.
    • Cost reduction due to the paperless nature of a blockchain-enabled CoC [Chain of Custody] system, the potential reduction of audits, and reduction in transaction costs.”

Van Bockstael, Steve. “The emergence of conflict-free, ethical, and Fair Trade mineral supply chain certification systems: A brief introduction.” The Extractives Industries and Society, vol. 5, issue 1, January 2018.

  • This introduction to a special section considers the emerging field of “‘conflict-free’, ‘fair’ and ‘transparently sourced and traded’ minerals” in global industry supply chains.
  • Van Bockstael describes three areas of practice aimed at increasing supply chain transparency:
    • “Initiatives that explicitly try to sever the links between mining or minerals trading and armed conflict of the funding thereof.”
    • “Initiatives, limited in number yet growing, that are explicitly linked to the internationally recognized ‘Fair Trade’ movement and whose aim it is to source artisanally mined minerals for the Western jewellry industry.”
    • “Initiatives that aim to provide consumers or consumer-facing industries with more ethical, transparent and fair supply chains (often using those concepts in fuzzy and interchangeable ways) that are not linked to the established Fair Trade movement” – including, among others, initiatives using Blockchain technology “to create tamper-proof supply chains.”

Global Governance, Standards and Disclosure Practices

Lafarre, Anne and Christoph Van der Elst. “Blockchain Technology for Corporate Governance and Shareholder Activism.” European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) – Law Working Paper No. 390/2018, March 8, 2018.

  • This working paper focuses on the potential benefits of leveraging Blockchain during functions involving shareholder and company decision making. Lafarre and Van der Elst argue that “Blockchain technology can lower shareholder voting costs and the organization costs for companies substantially. Moreover, blockchain technology can increase the speed of decision-making, facilitate fast and efficient involvement of shareholders.”
  • The authors argue that in the field of corporate governance, Blockchain offers two important elements: “transparency – via the verifiable way of recording transactions – and trust – via the immutability of these transactions.”
  • Smart contracting, in particular, is seen as a potential avenue for facilitating the ‘agency relationship’ between board members and the shareholders they represent in corporate decision-making processes.

Myung, San Jun. “Blockchain government – a next for of infrastructure for the twenty-first century.” Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, December 2018.

  • This paper argues the idea that Blockchain represents a new form of infrastructure that, given its core consensus mechanism, could replace existing social apparatuses including bureaucracy.
  • Indeed, Myung argues that blockchain and bureaucracy share a number of attributes:
    • “First, both of them are defined by the rules and execute predetermined rules.
    • Second, both of them work as information processing machines for society.
    • Third, both of them work as trust machines for society.”  
  • The piece concludes with five principles for replacing bureaucracy with blockchain for social organization: “1) introducing Blockchain Statute law; 2) transparent disclosure of data and source code; 3) implementing autonomous executing administration; 4) building a governance system based on direct democracy; and 5) making Distributed Autonomous Government (DAG).  

Peters, Gareth and Vishnia, Guy (2016): “Blockchain Architectures for Electronic Exchange Reporting Requirements: EMIR, Dodd Frank, MiFID I/II, MiFIR, REMIT, Reg NMS and T2S.” University College London, August 31, 2016.

  • This paper offers a solution based on blockchain architectures to the regulations of financial exchanges around the world for trade processing and reporting for execution and clearing. In particular, the authors give a detailed overview of EMIR, Dodd Frank, MiFID I/II, MiFIR, REMIT, Reg NMS and T2S.
  • The authors suggest the increasing amount of data from transaction reporting start to be incorporated on a blockchain ledger in order to harness the built-in security and immutability features of the blockchain to support key regulatory features.
  • Specifically, the authors suggest 1) a permissioned blockchain controlled by a regulator or a consortium of market participants for the maintenance of identity data from market participants and 2) blockchain frameworks such as Enigma to be used to facilitate required transparency and reporting aspects related to identities when performing pre- and post-trade reporting as well as for auditing.

Blockchain Technology and Competition Policy – Issues paper by the Secretariat,” OECD, June 8, 2018.

  • This OECD issues paper poses two key questions about how blockchain technology might increase the relevance of new disclosures practices:
    • “Should competition agencies be given permission to access blockchains? This might enable them to monitor trading prices in real-time, spot suspicious trends, and, when investigating a merger, conduct or market have immediate access to the necessary data without needing to impose burdensome information requests on parties.”
    • “Similarly, easy access to the information on a blockchain for a firm’s owners and head offices would potentially improve the effectiveness of its oversight on its own subsidiaries and foreign holdings. Competition agencies may assume such oversight already exists, but by making it easier and cheaper, a blockchain might make it more effective, which might allow for more effective centralised compliance programmes.”

Michael Pisa and Matt Juden. “Blockchain and Economic Development: Hype vs. Reality.” Center for Global Development Policy Paper, 2017.

  • In this Center for Global Development Policy Paper, the authors examine blockchain’s potential to address four major development challenges: (1) facilitating faster and cheaper international payments, (2) providing a secure digital infrastructure for verifying identity, (3) securing property rights, and (4) making aid disbursement more secure and transparent.
  • The authors conclude that while blockchain may be well suited for certain use cases, the majority of constraints in blockchain-based projects fall outside the scope of technology. Common constraints such as data collection and privacy, governance, and operational resiliency must be addressed before blockchain can be successfully implemented as a solution.

Industry-Specific Case Studies

Chohan, Usman. “Blockchain and the Extractive Industries: Cobalt Case Study,” University of New South Wales, Canberra Discussion Paper Series: Notes on the 21st Century, 2018.

  • In this discussion paper, the author studies the pilot use of blockchain in cobalt mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The project tracked the movement of cobalt from artisanal mines through its installation in devices such as smartphones and electric cars.
  • The project records cobalt attributes – weights, dates, times, images, etc. – into the digital ledger to help ensure that cobalt purchases are not contributing to forced child labor or conflict minerals. 

Chohan, Usman. “Blockchain and the Extractive Industries #2: Diamonds Case Study,” University of New South Wales, Canberra Discussion Paper Series: Notes on the 21st Century, 2018.

  • The second case study from Chohan investigates the application of blockchain technology in the extractive industry by studying Anglo-American (AAL) diamond DeBeer’s unit and Everledger’s blockchain projects. 
  • In this study, the author finds that AAL uses blockchain to track gems (carat, color, certificate numbers), starting from extraction and onwards, including when the gems change hands in trade transaction.
  • Like the cobalt pilot, the AAL initiative aims to help avoid supporting conflicts and forced labor, and to improve trading accountability and transparency more generally.

A Framework for Strengthening Data Ecosystems to Serve Humanitarian Purposes


Paper by Marc van den Homberg et al: “The incidence of natural disasters worldwide is increasing. As a result, a growing number of people is in need of humanitarian support, for which limited resources are available. This requires an effective and efficient prioritization of the most vulnerable people in the preparedness phase, and the most affected people in the response phase of humanitarian action. Data-driven models have the potential to support this prioritization process. However, the applications of these models in a country requires a certain level of data preparedness.
To achieve this level of data preparedness on a large scale we need to know how to facilitate, stimulate and coordinate data-sharing between humanitarian actors. We use a data ecosystem perspective to develop success criteria for establishing a “humanitarian data ecosystem”. We first present the development of a general framework with data ecosystem governance success criteria based on a systematic literature review. Subsequently, the applicability of this framework in the humanitarian sector is assessed through a case study on the “Community Risk Assessment and Prioritization toolbox” developed by the Netherlands Red Cross. The empirical evidence led to the adaption the framework to the specific criteria that need to be addressed when aiming to establish a successful humanitarian data ecosystem….(More)”.

Digitalization and Public Sector Transformations


Book by Jannick Schou and Morten Hjelholt: “This book provides a study of governmental digitalization, an increasingly important area of policymaking within advanced capitalist states. It dives into a case study of digitalization efforts in Denmark, fusing a national policy study with local institutional analysis. Denmark is often framed as an international forerunner in terms of digitalizing its public sector and thus provides a particularly instructive setting for understanding this new political instrument.

Advancing a cultural political economic approach, Schou and Hjelholt argue that digitalization is far from a quick technological fix. Instead, this area must be located against wider transformations within the political economy of capitalist states. Doing so, the book excavates the political roots of digitalization and reveals its institutional consequences. It shows how new relations are being formed between the state and its citizens.

Digitalization and Public Sector Transformations pushes for a renewed approach to governmental digitalization and will be of interest to scholars working in the intersections of critical political economy, state theory and policy studies…(More)”.

Social media and Government


Introduction to Special Issue of First Monday by Rodrigo Sandoval-Almazan and Andrea L. Kavanaugh: “The use of social media by public administration has been growing steadily, and fostering important transformations in organization, costs, citizen interaction and efficiency. Citizens are increasingly more informed about government activities, performance, and claims solutions. Citiizens and non-profit organizations are in greater communication with each other about government planning and response to complex and collective problems. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and WhatsApp, as well as related tools, such as commenting, liking, tagging and rating, change the distribution of information, power and resources. The growing maturity of public officials in the use of these tools not only creates new opportunities, but also engenders problems. Many politicians, public officials and public servants are seeking ways to adapt their daily operations and practices to make effective use of social media for interaction with non-governmental organizations and with citizens and to provide information and services more efficiently. The papers in this special issue on social media and government capture the current state of some of these opportunities and problems…

Engaging a community through social media-based topics and interactions by Andrea L. Kavanaugh, Ziqian Song

Public employees in social media communities: Exploring factors for internal collaboration using social network analysis by J. Ignacio Criado, Julián Villodre

Citizens’ use of microblogging and government communication during emergencies: A case study on water contamination in Shanghai by Qianli Yuan, Mila Gascó

Hacktivism and distributed hashtag spoiling on Twitter: Tales of the #IranTalks by Mahdi M. Najafabadi, Robert J. Domanski

Information strategies and affective reactions: How citizens interact with government social media content by Nic DePaula, Ersin Dincelli

Towards an understanding of Twitter networks: The case of the state of Mexico by Rodrigo Sandoval-Almazán, David Valle-Cruz”

Feasibility Study of Using Crowdsourcing to Identify Critical Affected Areas for Rapid Damage Assessment: Hurricane Matthew Case Study


Paper by Faxi Yuan and Rui Liu at the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction: “…rapid damage assessment plays a critical role in crisis management. Collection of timely information for rapid damage assessment is particularly challenging during natural disasters. Remote sensing technologies were used for data collection during disasters. However, due to the large areas affected by major disasters such as Hurricane Matthew, specific data cannot be collected in time such as the location information.

Social media can serve as a crowdsourcing platform for citizens’ communication and information sharing during natural disasters and provide the timely data for identifying affected areas to support rapid damage assessment during disasters. Nevertheless, there is very limited existing research on the utility of social media data in damage assessment. Even though some investigation of the relationship between social media activities and damages was conducted, the employment of damage-related social media data in exploring the fore-mentioned relationship remains blank.

This paper for the first time, establishes the index dictionary by semantic analysis for the identification of damage-related tweets posted during Hurricane Matthew in Florida. Meanwhile, the insurance claim data from the publication of Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is used as a representative of real hurricane damage data in Florida. This study performs a correlation analysis and a comparative analysis of the geographic distribution of social media data and damage data at the county level in Florida. We find that employing social media data to identify critical affected areas at the county level during disasters is viable. Damage data has a closer relationship with damage-related tweets than disaster-related tweets….(More)”.

 

Improving journeys by opening data: The case of Transport for London (TfL)


Merlin Stone and Eleni Aravopoulou in The Bottom Line: “This case study describes how one of the world’s largest public transport operations, Transport for London (TfL), transformed the real-time availability of information for its customers and staff through the open data approach, and what the results of this transformation were. Its purpose is therefore to show what is required for an open data approach to work.

This case study is based mainly on interviews at TfL and data supplied by TfL directly to the researchers. It analyses as far as possible the reported facts of the case, in order to identify the processes required to open data and the benefits thereof.

The main finding is that achieving an open data approach in public transport is helped by having a clear commitment to the idea that the data belongs to the public and that third parties should be allowed to use and repurpose the information, by having a strong digital strategy, and by creating strong partnerships with data management organisations that can support the delivery of high volumes of information.

The case study shows how open data can be used to create commercial and non-commercial customer-facing products and services, which passengers and other road users use to gain a better travel experience, and that this approach can be valued in terms of financial/economic contribution to customers and organisations….(More)”.

Transitioning Towards a Knowledge Society: Qatar as a Case Study


Book by Julia Gremm, Julia Barth, Kaja J. Fietkiewicz and Wolfgang G. Stock: “The book offers a critical evaluation of Qatar’s path from oil- and gas-based industries to a knowledge-based economy. This book gives basic information about the region and the country, including the geographic and demographic data, the culture, the politics and the economy, the health care conditions and the education system. It introduces the concepts of knowledge society and knowledge-based development and adds factual details about Qatar by interpreting indicators of the development status. Subsequently, the research methods that underlie the study are described, which offers information on the eGovernment study analyzing the government-citizen relationship, higher education institutions and systems, its students and the students’ way into the labor market. This book has an audience with economists, sociologists, political scientists, geographers, information scientists and other researchers on the knowledge society, but also all researchers and practitioners interested in the Arab Oil States and their future….(More)”.

Participatory Budgeting: Does Evidence Match Enthusiasm?


Brian Wampler, Stephanie McNulty, and Michael Touchton at Open Government Partnership: “Participatory budgeting (PB) empowers citizens to allocate portions of public budgets in a way that best fits the needs of the people. In turn, proponents expect PB to improve citizens’ lives in important ways, by expanding their participation in politics, providing better public services such as in healthcare, sanitation, or education, and giving them a sense of efficacy.

Below we outline several potential outcomes that emerge from PB. Of course, assessing PB’s potential impact is difficult, because reliable data is rare and PB is often one of several programs that could generate similar improvements at the same time. Impact evaluations for PB are thus at a very early stage. Nevertheless, considerable case study evidence and some broader, comparative studies point to outcomes in the following areas:

Citizens’ attitudes: Early research focused on the attitudes of citizens who participate in PB, and found that PB participants feel empowered, support democracy, view the government as more effective, and better understand budget and government processes after participating (Wampler and Avritzer 2004; Baiocchi 2005; Wampler 2007).

Participants’ behavior: Case-study evidence shows that PB participants increase their political participation beyond PB and join civil society groups. Many scholars also expect PB to strengthen civil society by increasing its density (number of groups), expanding its range of activities, and brokering new partnerships with government and other CSOs. There is some case study evidence that this occurs (Baiocchi 2005; McNulty 2011; Baiocchi, Heller and Silva 2011; Van Cott 2008) as well as evidence from over 100 PB programs across Brazil’s larger municipalities (Touchton and Wampler 2014). Proponents also expect PB to educate government officials surrounding community needs, to increase their support for participatory processes, and to potentially expand participatory processes in complementary areas. Early reports from five counties in Kenya suggest that PB ther is producing at least some of these impacts.

Electoral politics and governance: PB can also promote social change, which may alter local political calculations and the ways that governments operate. PB may deliver votes to the elected officials that sponsor it, improve budget transparency and resource allocation, decrease waste and fraud, and generally improve accountability. However, there is very little evidence in this area because few studies have been able to measure these impacts in any direct way.

Social well-being: Finally, PB is designed to improve residents’ well-being. Implemented PB projects include funding for healthcare centers, sewage lines, schools, wells, and other areas that contribute directly to well-being. These effects may take years to appear, but recent studies attribute improvements in infant mortality in Brazil to PB (Touchton and Wampler 2014; Gonçalves 2014). Beyond infant mortality, the range of potential impacts extends to other health areas, sanitation, education, and poverty in general. We are cautious here because results from Brazil might not appear elsewhere: what works in urban Brazil might not in rural Indonesia….(More)”.

Randomized Controlled Trials: How Can We Know ‘What Works’?


Nick Cowen et al at Critical Review: “We attempt to map the limits of evidence-based policy through an interactive theoretical critique and empirical case-study. We outline the emergence of an experimental turn in EBP among British policymakers and the limited, broadly inductive, epistemic approach that underlies it. We see whether and how field professionals identify and react to these limitations through a case study of teaching professionals subject to a push to integrate research evidence into their practice. Results suggest that many of the challenges of establishing evidential warrant that EBP is supposed to streamline re-appear at the level of choice of locally effective policies and implementation…(More)”.

Where’s the evidence? Obstacles to impact-gathering and how researchers might be better supported in future


Clare Wilkinson at the LSE Impact Blog: “…In a recent case study I explore how researchers from a broad range of research areas think about evidencing impact, what obstacles to impact-gathering might stand in their way, and how they might be further supported in future.

Unsurprisingly the research found myriad potential barriers to gathering research impact, such as uncertainty over how impact is defined, captured, judged, and weighted, or the challenges for researchers in tracing impact back to a specific time-period or individual piece of research. Many of these constraints have been recognised in previous research in this area – or were anticipated when impact was first discussed – but talking to researchers in 2015 about their impact experiences of the REF 2014 data-gathering period revealed a number of lingering concerns.

A further hazard identified by the case study is the inequalities in knowledge around research impact and how this knowledge often exists in siloes. Those researchers most likely to have obvious impact-generating activities were developing quite detailed and extensive experience of impact-capturing; while other researchers (including those at early-career stages) were less clear on the impact agenda’s relevance to them or even whether their research had featured in an impact case study. Encouragingly some researchers did seem to increase in confidence once having experience of authoring an impact case study, but sharing skills and confidence with the “next generation” of researchers likely to have impact remains a possible issue for those supporting impact evidence-gathering.

So, how can researchers, across the board, be supported to effectively evidence their impact? Most popular amongst the options given to the 70 or so researchers that participated in this case study were: 1) approaches that offered them more time or funding to gather evidence; 2) opportunities to see best-practice examples; 3) opportunities to learn more about what “impact” means; and 4) the sharing of information on the types of evidence that could be collected….(More)”.