Guidance Note: Statistical Disclosure Control


Centre for Humanitarian Data: “Survey and needs assessment data, or what is known as ‘microdata’, is essential for providing adequate response to crisis-affected people. However, collecting this information does present risks. Even as great effort is taken to remove unique identifiers such as names and phone numbers from microdata so no individual persons or communities are exposed, combining key variables such as location or ethnicity can still allow for re-identification of individual respondents. Statistical Disclosure Control (SDC) is one method for reducing this risk. 

The Centre has developed a Guidance Note on Statistical Disclosure Control that outlines the steps involved in the SDC process, potential applications for its use, case studies and key actions for humanitarian data practitioners to take when managing sensitive microdata. Along with an overview of what SDC is and what tools are available, the Guidance Note outlines how the Centre is using this process to mitigate risk for datasets shared on HDX. …(More)”.

De-risking custom technology projects


Paper by Robin Carnahan, Randy Hart, and Waldo Jaquith: “Only 13% of large government software projects are successful. State IT projects, in particular, are often challenged because states lack basic knowledge about modern software development, relying on outdated procurement processes.

State governments are increasingly reliant on modern software and hardware to deliver essential services to the public, and the success of any major policy initiative depends on the success of the underlying software infrastructure. Government agencies all confront similar challenges, facing budget and staffing constraints while struggling to modernize legacy technology systems that are out-of-date, inflexible, expensive, and ineffective. Government officials and agencies often rely on the same legacy processes that led to problems in the first place.

The public deserves a government that provides the same world-class technology they get from the commercial marketplace. Trust in government depends on it.

This handbook is designed for executives, budget specialists, legislators, and other “non-technical” decision-makers who fund or oversee state government technology projects. It can help you set these projects up for success by asking the right questions, identifying the right outcomes, and equally important, empowering you with a basic knowledge of the fundamental principles of modern software design.

This handbook also gives you the tools you need to start tackling related problems like:

  • The need to use, maintain, and modernize legacy systems simultaneously
  • Lock-in from legacy commercial arrangements
  • Siloed organizations and risk-averse cultures
  • Long budget cycles that don’t always match modern software design practices
  • Security threats
  • Hiring, staffing, and other resource constraints

This is written specifically for procurement of custom software, but it’s important to recognize that commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) is often custom and Software as a Service (SaaS) often requires custom code. Once any customization is made, the bulk of this advice in this handbook applies to these commercial offerings. (See “Beware the customized commercial software trap” for details.)

As government leaders, we must be good stewards of public money by demanding easy-to-use, cost-effective, sustainable digital tools for use by the public and civil servants. This handbook will help you do just that….(More)”

Concerns About Online Data Privacy Span Generations


Internet Innovations Alliance: “Are Millennials okay with the collection and use of their data online because they grew up with the internet?

In an effort to help inform policymakers about the views of Americans across generations on internet privacy, the Internet Innovation Alliance, in partnership with Icon Talks, the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), and the Millennial Action Project, commissioned a national study of U.S. consumers who have witnessed a steady stream of online privacy abuses, data misuses, and security breaches in recent years. The survey examined the concerns of U.S. adults—overall and separated by age group, as well as other demographics—regarding the collection and use of personal data and location information by tech and social media companies, including tailoring the online experience, the potential for their personal financial information to be hacked from online tech and social media companies, and the need for a single, national policy addressing consumer data privacy.

Download: “Concerns About Online Data Privacy Span Generations” IIA white paper pdf.

Download: “Consumer Data Privacy Concerns” Civic Science report pdf….(More)”

The effective and ethical development of Artificial Intelligence: an opportunity to improve our wellbeing


Paper by Toby Walsh, Neil Levy, Genevieve Bell, Anthony Elliott, James Maclaurin, Iven Mareels, Fiona Woods: “As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes more advanced its applications will become increasingly complex and will find their place in homes, work places and cities.

AI offers broad-reaching opportunities, but uptake also carries serious implications for human capital, social inclusion, privacy and cultural values to name a few. These must be considered to pre-empt responsible deployment.

This project examined the potential that Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies have in enhancing Australia’s wellbeing, lifting the economy, improving environmental sustainability and creating a more equitable, inclusive and fair society. Placing society at the core of AI development, the report analyses the opportunities, challenges and prospects that AI technologies present, and explores considerations such as workforce, education, human rights and our regulatory environment.

Key findings:

  1. AI offers major opportunities to improve our economic, societal and environmental wellbeing, while also presenting potentially significant global risks, including technological unemployment and the use of lethal autonomous weapons. Further development of AI must be directed to allow well-considered implementation that supports our society in becoming what we would like it to be – one centred on improving prosperity, reducing inequity and achieving continued betterment.
  2. Proactive engagement, consultation and ongoing communication with the public about the changes and effects of AI will be essential for building community awareness. Earning public trust will be critical to enable acceptance and uptake of the technology.
  3. The application of AI is growing rapidly. Ensuring its continued safe and appropriate development will be dependent on strong governance and a responsive regulatory system that encourages innovation. It will also be important to engender public confidence that the goods and services driven by AI are at, or above, benchmark standards and preserve the values that society seeks.
  4. AI is enabled by access to data. To support successful implementation of AI, there is a need for effective digital infrastructure, including data centres and structures for data sharing, that makes AI secure, trusted and accessible, particularly for rural and remote populations. If such essential infrastructure is not carefully and appropriately developed, the advancement of AI and the immense benefits it offers will be diminished.
  5. Successful development and implementation of AI will require a broad range of new skills and enhanced capabilities that span the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Building a talent base and establishing an adaptable and skilled workforce for the future will need education programs that start in early childhood and continue throughout working life and a supportive immigration policy.
  6. An independently led AI body that brings stakeholders together from government, academia and the public and private sectors would provide a critical mass of skills and institutional leadership to develop AI technologies, as well as promote engagement with international initiatives and to develop appropriate ethical frameworks….(More)”.

Understanding our Political Nature: How to put knowledge and reason at the heart of political decision-making


EU report by Rene Van Bavel et al: “Recognising that advances in behavioural, decision and social sciences demonstrate that we are not purely rational beings, this report brings new insights into our political behaviour and this understanding have the potential to address some of the current crises in our democracies. Sixty experts from across the globe working in the fields of behavioural and social sciences as well as the humanities, have contributed to the research that underpins this JRC report that calls upon evidence-informed policymaking not to be taken for granted. There is a chapter dedicated to each key finding which outlines the latest scientific thinking as well as an overview of the possible implications for policymaking. The key findings are:

  • Misperception and Disinformation: Our thinking skills are challenged by today’s information environment and make us vulnerable to disinformation. We need to think more about how we think.
  • Collective Intelligence: Science can help us re-design the way policymakers work together to take better decisions and prevent policy mistakes.
  • Emotions: We can’t separate emotion from reason. Better information about citizens’ emotions and greater emotional literacy could improve policymaking.
  • Values and Identities drive political behaviour but are not properly understood or debated.
  • Framing, Metaphor and Narrative: Facts don’t speak for themselves. Framing, metaphors and narratives need to be used responsibly if evidence is to be heard and understood.
  • Trust and Openness: The erosion of trust in experts and in government can only be addressed by greater honesty and public deliberation about interests and values.
  • Evidence-informed policymaking: The principle that policy should be informed by evidence is under attack. Politicians, scientists and civil society need to defend this cornerstone of liberal democracy….(More)”

The value of data in Canada: Experimental estimates


Statistics Canada: “As data and information take on a far more prominent role in Canada and, indeed, all over the world, data, databases and data science have become a staple of modern life. When the electricity goes out, Canadians are as much in search of their data feed as they are food and heat. Consumers are using more and more data that is embodied in the products they buy, whether those products are music, reading material, cars and other appliances, or a wide range of other goods and services. Manufacturers, merchants and other businesses depend increasingly on the collection, processing and analysis of data to make their production processes more efficient and to drive their marketing strategies.

The increasing use of and investment in all things data is driving economic growth, changing the employment landscape and reshaping how and from where we buy and sell goods. Yet the rapid rise in the use and importance of data is not well measured in the existing statistical system. Given the ‘lack of data on data’, Statistics Canada has initiated new research to produce a first set of estimates of the value of data, databases and data science. The development of these estimates benefited from collaboration with the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the United States and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In 2018, Canadian investment in data, databases and data science was estimated to be as high as $40 billion. This was greater than the annual investment in industrial machinery, transportation equipment, and research and development and represented approximately 12% of total non-residential investment in 2018….

Statistics Canada recently released a conceptual framework outlining how one might measure the economic value of data, databases and data science. Thanks to this new framework, the growing role of data in Canada can be measured through time. This framework is described in a paper that was released in The Daily on June 24, 2019 entitled “Measuring investments in data, databases and data science: Conceptual framework.” That paper describes the concept of an ‘information chain’ in which data are derived from everyday observations, databases are constructed from data, and data science creates new knowledge by analyzing the contents of databases….(More)”.

How we can place a value on health care data


Report by E&Y: “Unlocking the power of health care data to fuel innovation in medical research and improve patient care is at the heart of today’s health care revolution. When curated or consolidated into a single longitudinal dataset, patient-level records will trace a complete story of a patient’s demographics, health, wellness, diagnosis, treatments, medical procedures and outcomes. Health care providers need to recognize patient data for what it is: a valuable intangible asset desired by multiple stakeholders, a treasure trove of information.

Among the universe of providers holding significant data assets, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) is the single largest integrated health care provider in the world. Its patient records cover the entire UK population from birth to death.

We estimate that the 55 million patient records held by the NHS today may have an indicative market value of several billion pounds to a commercial organization. We estimate also that the value of the curated NHS dataset could be as much as £5bn per annum and deliver around £4.6bn of benefit to patients per annum, in potential operational savings for the NHS, enhanced patient outcomes and generation of wider economic benefits to the UK….(More)”.

Review into bias in algorithmic decision-making


Interim Report by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (UK): The use of algorithms has the potential to improve the quality of decision- making by increasing the speed and accuracy with which decisions are made. If designed well, they can reduce human bias in decision-making processes. However, as the volume and variety of data used to inform decisions increases, and the algorithms used to interpret the data become more complex, concerns are growing that without proper oversight, algorithms risk entrenching and potentially worsening bias.

The way in which decisions are made, the potential biases which they are subject to and the impact these decisions have on individuals are highly context dependent. Our Review focuses on exploring bias in four key sectors: policing, financial services, recruitment and local government. These have been selected because they all involve significant decisions being made about individuals, there is evidence of the growing uptake of machine learning algorithms in the sectors and there is evidence of historic bias in decision-making within these sectors. This Review seeks to answer three sets of questions:

  1. Data: Do organisations and regulators have access to the data they require to adequately identify and mitigate bias?
  2. Tools and techniques: What statistical and technical solutions are available now or will be required in future to identify and mitigate bias and which represent best practice?
  3. Governance: Who should be responsible for governing, auditing and assuring these algorithmic decision-making systems?

Our work to date has led to some emerging insights that respond to these three sets of questions and will guide our subsequent work….(More)”.

Trusted data and the future of information sharing


 MIT Technology Review: “Data in some form underpins almost every action or process in today’s modern world. Consider that even farming, the world’s oldest industry, is on the verge of a digital revolution, with AI, drones, sensors, and blockchain technology promising to boost efficiencies. The market value of an apple will increasingly reflect not only traditional farming inputs but also some value of modern data, such as weather patterns, soil acidity levels and agri-supply-chain information. By 2022 more than 60% of global GDP will be digitized, according to IDC.

Governments seeking to foster growth in their digital economies need to be more active in encouraging safe data sharing between organizations. Tolerating the sharing of data and stepping in only where security breaches occur is no longer enough. Sharing data across different organizations enables the whole ecosystem to grow and can be a unique source of competitive advantage. But businesses need guidelines and support in how to do this effectively.   

This is how Singapore’s data-sharing worldview has evolved, according to Janil Puthucheary, senior minister of state for communications and information and transport, upon launching the city-state’s new Trusted Data Sharing Framework in June 2019.

The Framework, a product of consultations between Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), its Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), and industry players, is intended to create a common data-sharing language for relevant stakeholders. Specifically, it addresses four common categories of concerns with data sharing: how to formulate an overall data-sharing strategy, legal and regulatory considerations, technical and organizational considerations, and the actual operationalizing of data sharing.

For instance, companies often have trouble assessing the value of their own data, a necessary first step before sharing should even be considered. The framework describes the three general approaches used: market-, cost-, and income-based. The legal and regulatory section details when businesses can, among other things, seek exemptions from Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act.

The technical and organizational chapter includes details on governance, infrastructure security, and risk management. Finally, the section on operational aspects of data sharing includes guidelines for when it is appropriate to use shared data for a secondary purpose or not….(More)”.

Digital tools for Citizens’ Assemblies


Report by Alex Parsons: “… result of mySociety’s research into how digital tools can be used as part of the process of a Citizens’ Assembly.

We reviewed how Citizens’ Assemblies to date have approached technology, and explored where lessons can be learned from other deliberative or consultative activities.

While there is no unified Citizens’ Assembly digital service, there are a number of different tools that can be used to enhance the process – and that most of these are generic and well-tested products and services. We also tried to identify where innovative tools could be put to new uses, while always bearing in mind the core importance of the in-person deliberative nature of assemblies….(More)”.