Expert Group to Eurostat releases its report on the re-use of privately-held data for Official Statistics


Blog by Stefaan Verhulst: “…To inform its efforts, Eurostat set up an expert group in 2021 on ‘Facilitating the use of new data sources for official statistics’ to reflect on opportunities offered by the data revolution to enhance the reuse of private sector data for official statistics”.

Data reuse is a particularly important area for exploration, both because of the potential it offers and because it is not sufficiently covered by current policies. Data reuse occurs when data collected for one purpose is shared and reused for another, often with resulting social benefit. Currently, this process is limited by a fragmented or outdated policy and regulatory framework, and often quite legitimate concerns over ethical challenges represented by sharing (e.g., threats to individual privacy).

Nonetheless, despite such hurdles, a wide variety of evidence supports the idea that responsible data reuse can strengthen and supplement official statistics, and potentially lead to lasting and positive social impact.

Having reviewed and deliberated about these issues over several months, the expert group issued its report this week entitled “Empowering society by reusing privately held data for official statistics”. It seeks to develop recommendations and a framework for sustainable data reuse in the production of official statistics. It highlights regulatory gaps, fragmentation of practices, and a lack of clarity regarding businesses’ rights and obligations, and it draws attention to the ways in which current efforts to reuse data have often led to ad-hoc, one-off projects rather than systematic transformation.

The report considers a wide variety of evidence, including historical, policy, and academic research, as well as the theoretical literature… (More)”.

Read the Eurostat report at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/cros/content/read-final-report_en

Aligning investment and values: How an Economic Value Atlas can map regional strategies


Report by Adie Tomer and Caroline George: “Traditional built environment and economic development practices are falling short in the face of a convergent set of environmental, economic, and social challenges. With each passing year, more communities find themselves vulnerable to extreme weather events; income disparities continue to rise, leaving too many households unable to afford essential services; and employers, especially many young and minority-owned businesses, often struggle to find talented workers and access financial capital. 

Public, private, and civic leaders increasingly recognize that achieving inclusive growth and designing resilient communities require more than recruiting out-of-town businesses or attempting to reduce highway congestion. Those leaders need a new kind of policy playbook—one that addresses the cross-sectoral challenges regions face and designs strategies across disciplines.  

An Economic Value Atlas, or EVA, is part of that playbook. An EVA is a regional engagement, value-setting, and measurement process culminating in an interactive regional map that indexes neighborhood-level, value-based performance metrics. The overall framework helps practitioners delve into geographic disparities in how the region is living up to its values—opening the door to more equitable, place-based decisionmaking for business, infrastructure, and land use purposes…

The EVA framework consists of five phases of work, each of which can be adjusted based on unique local conditions: 

  • The EVA’s leadership team sets a stakeholder table with a diverse collection of regional voices to serve as the board of directors for the EVA process. 
  • The leadership team and stakeholder table develop a shared vision—a collection of specific long-term goals a region would like to achieve. 
  • A research-driven team translates values into indicators and metrics using sets of categorical indicators and quantitative metrics that reflect the goals stakeholders would like to achieve. 
  • A coding team develops and launches EVA software, which uses dynamic and flexible data to benchmark neighborhood performance relative to regional goals. 
  • The leadership team works with government and civic leaders to inform and guide policy and investment decisions using EVA outputs

Critically, the EVA framework is designed to deliver results…(More)”

The digitalisation of social protection before and since the onset of Covid-19: opportunities, challenges and lessons


Paper by the Overseas Development Institute: “…discusses the main opportunities and challenges associated with digital social protection, drawing on trends pre-Covid and since the onset of the pandemic. It offers eight lessons to help social protection actors capitalise on technology’s potential in a risk-sensitive manner.

  • The response to Covid-19 accelerated the trend of increasing digitalisation of social protection delivery.
  • Studies from before and during the pandemic suggest that well-used technology holds potential to enhance provision for some service users, and played a notable role in rapid social protection expansion during Covid-19. It may also help reduce leakage or inclusion errors, lower costs and support improvements in programme design.
  • However, unless designed and implemented with careful mitigating measures, digitalisation may in some cases do more harm than good. Key concerns relate to potential risks and challenges of exclusion, protection and privacy violations, ‘technosolutionism’ and obscured transparency and accountability.
  • Ultimately, technology is a tool, and its outcomes depend on the needs it is expected to meet, the goals it is deployed to pursue, and the specific ways in which it is designed and implemented…(More)”.

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations: Beyond the Hype


WEF Report: “Decentralized autonomous organizations are disrupting whole sectors. From finance to social networking to philanthropy, these code-driven, community-governed entities are changing the way we work. Yet these organizations also confront challenges of cybersecurity, governance, and regulatory uncertainty. The Crypto Impact and Sustainability Accelerator and Wharton Blockchain and Digital Asset Project have teamed up with an international group of crypto experts, civil society leaders, and builders to examine this nascent, but critical, emerging form…(More)”.

From Knowing to Doing: Operationalizing the 100 Questions for Air Quality Initiative


Report by Jessica Seddon, Stefaan G. Verhulst and Aimee Maron: “…summarizes the September 2021 capstone event that wrapped up 100 Questions for Air Quality, led by GovLab and World Resources Institute (WR). This initiative brought together a group of 100 atmospheric scientists, policy experts, academics and data providers from around the world to identify the most important questions for setting a new, high-impact agenda for further investments in data and data science. After a thorough process of sourcing questions, clustering and ranking them – the public was asked to vote. The results were surprising: the most important question was not about what new data or research is needed, but on how we do more with what we already know to generate political will and investments in air quality solutions.

Co-hosted by Clean Air Fund, Climate and Clean Air Coalition, and Clean Air Catalyst, the 2021 roundtable discussion focused on an answer to that question. This conference proceeding summary reflects early findings from that session and offers a starting point for a much-needed conversation on data-to-action. The group of experts and practitioners from academia, businesses, foundations, government, multilateral organizations, nonprofits, and think tanks have not been identified so they could speak freely….(More)”.

New laws to strengthen Canadians’ privacy protection and trust in the digital economy


Press Release: “Canadians increasingly rely on digital technology to connect with loved ones, to work and to innovate. That’s why the Government of Canada is committed to making sure Canadians can benefit from the latest technologies, knowing that their personal information is safe and secure and that companies are acting responsibly.

Today, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, together with the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022, which will significantly strengthen Canada’s private sector privacy law, create new rules for the responsible development and use of artificial intelligence (AI), and continue advancing the implementation of Canada’s Digital Charter. As such, the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022 will include three proposed acts: the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act, and the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act.

The proposed Consumer Privacy Protection Act will address the needs of Canadians who rely on digital technology and respond to feedback received on previous proposed legislation. This law will ensure that the privacy of Canadians will be protected and that innovative businesses can benefit from clear rules as technology continues to evolve. This includes:

  • increasing control and transparency when Canadians’ personal information is handled by organizations;
  • giving Canadians the freedom to move their information from one organization to another in a secure manner;
  • ensuring that Canadians can request that their information be disposed of when it is no longer needed;
  • establishing stronger protections for minors, including by limiting organizations’ right to collect or use information on minors and holding organizations to a higher standard when handling minors’ information;
  • providing the Privacy Commissioner of Canada with broad order-making powers, including the ability to order a company to stop collecting data or using personal information; and
  • establishing significant fines for non-compliant organizations—with fines of up to 5% of global revenue or $25 million, whichever is greater, for the most serious offences.

The proposed Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act will enable the creation of a new tribunal to facilitate the enforcement of the Consumer Privacy Protection Act. 

The proposed Artificial Intelligence and Data Act will introduce new rules to strengthen Canadians’ trust in the development and deployment of AI systems, including:

  • protecting Canadians by ensuring high-impact AI systems are developed and deployed in a way that identifies, assesses and mitigates the risks of harm and bias;
  • establishing an AI and Data Commissioner to support the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry in fulfilling ministerial responsibilities under the Act, including by monitoring company compliance, ordering third-party audits, and sharing information with other regulators and enforcers as appropriate; and
  • outlining clear criminal prohibitions and penalties regarding the use of data obtained unlawfully for AI development or where the reckless deployment of AI poses serious harm and where there is fraudulent intent to cause substantial economic loss through its deployment…(More)”.

Are blockchains decentralized?


Trail of Bits report: “Blockchains can help push the boundaries of current technology in useful ways. However, to make good risk decisions involving exciting and innovative technologies, people need demonstrable facts that are arrived at through reproducible methods and open data.

We believe the risks inherent in blockchains and cryptocurrencies have been poorly described and are often ignored—or even mocked—by those seeking to cash in on this decade’s gold rush.

In response to recent market turmoil and plummeting prices, proponents of cryptocurrency point to the technology’s fundamentals as sound. Are they?

Over the past year, Trail of Bits was engaged by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to examine the fundamental properties of blockchains and the cybersecurity risks associated with them. DARPA wanted to understand those security assumptions and determine to what degree blockchains are actually decentralized.

To answer DARPA’s question, Trail of Bits researchers performed analyses and meta-analyses of prior academic work and of real-world findings that had never before been aggregated, updating prior research with new data in some cases. They also did novel work, building new tools and pursuing original research.

The resulting report is a 30-thousand-foot view of what’s currently known about blockchain technology. Whether these findings affect financial markets is out of the scope of the report: our work at Trail of Bits is entirely about understanding and mitigating security risk.

The report also contains links to the substantial supporting and analytical materials. Our findings are reproducible, and our research is open-source and freely distributable. So you can dig in for yourself.

Key findings

  • Blockchain immutability can be broken not by exploiting cryptographic vulnerabilities, but instead by subverting the properties of a blockchain’s implementations, networking, and consensus protocols. We show that a subset of participants can garner undue, centralized control over the entire system:
    • While the encryption used within cryptocurrencies is for all intents and purposes secure, it does not guarantee security, as touted by proponents.
    • Bitcoin traffic is unencrypted; any third party on the network route between nodes (e.g., internet service providers, Wi-Fi access point operators, or governments) can observe and choose to drop any messages they wish.
    • Tor is now the largest network provider in Bitcoin; just about 55% of Bitcoin nodes were addressable only via Tor (as of March 2022). A malicious Tor exit node can modify or drop traffic….(More)”

Societal Readiness Thinking Tool


About: “…The thinking tool offers practical guidance for researchers who wish to mature the societal readiness of their work. The primary goal is to help researchers align their project activities with societal needs and expectations. The thinking tool asks reflective questions to stimulate thinking about how to integrate ideas about responsible research and innovation  into research practice, at different stages in the project life. We have designed the tool so that it is useful for researchers engaged in new as well as ongoing projects. Some of the reflective questions used in the tool are adapted from other RRI projects. References for these projects and a detailed account of the tool’s underlying methodology is available  here.   If your project involves several researchers, we recommend that the full team is involved in using the Societal Readiness Thinking Tool together, and that you reserve sufficient time for discussions along the way. Ideally, the team would use the tool from the from the earliest phases of the project and return at later stages thougout the project life. You can learn more about the tool’s RRI terminology  here…(More)”.

Evidence decision-making tool for policymakers


Repository by The Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) (via APO): “…outlines tools for education policy-makers to assess their confidence in a certain policy, program or initiative, and decide on next steps.

The evidence decision-making tool assists you to:

  • assess how confident you are that a certain policy, program or other initiative is likely to be effective in your context
  • decide on next steps, including how to implement the initiative given your level of confidence, and how to collect more evidence to increase your confidence in its effectiveness

The evidence decision-making tool can be used by an individual or a group, for example, in a planning workshop. It’s designed to be flexible, so you can use it to consider a change to an existing initiative or the introduction of something new…(More)”.

Digital Government Model


Report by USAID: “The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of digital government processes and tools. Governments with digital systems, processes, and infrastructure in place were able to quickly scale emergency response assistance, communications, and payments. At the same time, the pandemic accelerated many risks associated with digital tools, such as mis- and disinformation, surveillance, and the exploitation of personal data.

USAID and development partners are increasingly supporting countries in the process of adopting technologies to create public value– broadly referred to as digital government–while mitigating and avoiding risks. The Digital Government Model provides a basis for establishing a shared understanding and language on the core components of digital government, including the contextual considerations and foundational elements that influence the success of digital government investments…(More)”