The Landscape of Big Data and Gender


Report by Data2X: “This report draws out six observations about trends in big data and gender:

– The current environment COVID-19 and the global economic recession is stimulating groundbreaking gender research.

– Where we’re progressing, where we’re lagging Some gendered topics—especially mobility, health, and social norms—are increasingly well-studied through the combination of big data and traditional data. However, worrying gaps remain, especially around the subjects of economic opportunity, human security, and public participation.

– Capturing gender-representative samples using big data continues to be a challenge, but progress is being made.

– Large technology firms generate an immense volume of gender data critical for policymaking, and researchers are finding ways to reuse this data safely.

– Data collaboratives that bring private sector data-holders, researchers, and public policymakers together in a formal, enduring relationship can help big data make a practical difference in the lives of women and girls….(More)”

How governments use evidence to make transport policy


Report by Alistair Baldwin, and Kelly Shuttleworth: “The government’s ambitious transport plans will falter unless policy makers – ministers, civil servants and other public officials – improve the way they identify and use evidence to inform their decisions.

This report compares the use of evidence in the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and New Zealand, and finds that England is an outlier in not having a coordinated transport strategy. This damages both scrutiny and coordination of transport policy.

The government has plans to reform bus services, support cycling, review rail franchising, and invest more than £60 billion in transport projects over the next five years. But these plans are not integrated. The Department for Transport should develop a new strategy integrating different modes of transport, rather than mode by mode, to improve political understanding of trade-offs and scrutiny of policy decisions.

The DfT is a well-resourced department, with significant expertise, responsibilities and a wide array of analysts. But its reliance on economic evidence means other forms of evidence can appear neglected in transport decision making – including social research, evaluation or engineering. Decision makers are often too attached to the importance of the Benefit-Cost Ratio at the expense of other forms of evidence.

The government needs to improve its attitude to evaluation of past projects. There are successes – like the evaluation of the Cycle City Ambition Fund – but they are outnumbered by failures – like the evaluation of projects in the Local Growth Fund.  For example, good practice from Highways England should be common across the transport sector, helped by providing dedicated funding to local authorities to properly evaluate projects….(More)”.

Covid-19 Data Cards: Building a Data Taxonomy for Pandemic Preparedness


Open Data Charter: “…We want to initiate the repair of the public’s trust through the building of a Pandemic Data Taxonomy with you — a network of data users and practitioners.

Building on feedback we got from our call to identify high value Open COVID-19 Data, we have structured a set of data cards, including key data types related to health issues, legal and socioeconomic impacts and fiscal transparency, within which are well-defined data models and dictionaries. Our target audience for this data taxonomy are governments. We are hoping this framework is a starting point towards building greater consistency around pandemic data release, and flag areas for better cooperation and standardisation within and between our governments and communities around the world.

We hope that together, with the input and feedback from a diverse group of data users and practitioners, we can have at the end of this public consultation and open-call, a document by a global collective, one that we can present to governments and public servants for their buy-in to reform our data infrastructures to be better prepared for future outbreaks.

In order to analyze the variables necessary to manage and investigate the different aspects of a pandemic, as exemplified by COVID-19, and based on a review of the type of data being released by 25 countries — we categorised the data in 4 major categories:

  • General — Contains the general concepts that all the files have in common and are defined, such as the METADATA, global sections of RISKS and their MITIGATION and the general STANDARDS required for the use, management and publication of the data. Then, a link to a spreadsheet, where more details of the precision, update frequency, publication methods and specific standards of each data set are defined.
  • Health Data — Describes how to manage and potentially publish the follow-up information on COVID-19 cases, considering data with temporal, geographical and demographic distribution along with the details for the study of the evolution of the disease.
  • Legal and Socioeconomic Impact Data — Contains the regulations, actions, measures, restrictions, protocols, documents and all the information regarding quarantine and the socio-economic impact as well as medical, labor or economic regulations for each data publisher.
  • Fiscal Data — Contains all budget allocations in accordance with the overall approved Pandemic budget, as well as the implemented adjustments. It also identifies specific allocations for facing prevention, detection, control, treatment and containment of the virus, as well as possible budget reallocations from other sectors or items derived from the actions mentioned above or by the derived economic constraints. It’s based on the recommendations made by GIFT and Open Contracting….(More)”

Liability of online platforms


European Parliament Think Tank: “Given the central role that online platforms (OPs) play in the digital economy, questions arise about their responsibility in relation to illegal/harmful content or products hosted in the frame of their operation. Against this background, this study reviews the main legal/regulatory challenges associated with OP operations and analyses the incentives for OPs, their users and third parties to detect and remove illegal/harmful and dangerous material, content and/or products. To create a functional classification which can be used for regulatory purposes, it discusses the notion of OPs and attempts to categorise them under multiple criteria. The study then maps and critically assesses the whole range of OP liabilities, taking hard and soft law, self-regulation and national legislation into consideration, whenever relevant. Finally, the study puts forward policy options for an efficient EU liability regime: (i) maintaining the status quo; (ii) awareness-raising and media literacy; (iii)promoting self-regulation; (iv) establishing co-regulation mechanisms and tools; (v) adoptingstatutory legislation; (vi) modifying OPs’ secondaryliability by employing two different models – (a) byclarifying the conditions for liability exemptionsprovided by the e-Commerce Directive or (b) byestablishing a harmonised regime of liability….(More)”.

Dialogues about Data: Building trust and unlocking the value of citizens’ health and care data


Nesta Report by Sinead Mac Manus and Alice Clay: “The last decade has seen exponential growth in the amount of data generated, collected and analysed to provide insights across all aspects of industry. Healthcare is no exception. We are increasingly seeing the value of using health and care data to prevent ill health, improve health outcomes for people and provide new insights into disease and treatments.

Bringing together common themes across the existing research, this report sets out two interlinked challenges to building a data-driven health and care system. This is interspersed with best practice examples of the potential of data to improve health and care, as well as cautionary tales of what can happen when this is done badly.

The first challenge we explore is how to increase citizens’ trust and transparency in data sharing. The second challenge is how to unlock the value of health and care data.

We are excited about the role for participatory futures – a set of techniques that systematically engage people to imagine and create more sustainable, inclusive futures – in helping governments and other organisations work with citizens to engage them in debate about their health and care data to build a data-driven health and care system for the benefit of all….(More)”.

Surveillance and the ‘New Normal’ of Covid-19: Public Health, Data, and Justice


Report by the Social Science Research Council: “The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the way nations around the world use technology in public health. As the virus spread globally, some nations responded by closing businesses, shuttering schools, limiting gatherings, and banning travel. Many also deployed varied technological tools and systems to track virus exposure, monitor outbreaks, and aggregate hospital data.

Some regions are still grappling with crisis-level conditions, and others are struggling to navigate the complexities of vaccine rollouts. Amid the upheavals, communities are adjusting to a new normal, in which mask-wearing has become as commonplace as seatbelt use and digital temperature checks are a routine part of entering public buildings.

Even as the frenzy of emergency responses begins to subside, the emergent forms of surveillance that have accompanied this new normal persist. As a consequence, societies face new questions about how to manage the monitoring systems created in response to the virus, what processes are required in order to immunize populations, and what new norms the systems have generated. How they answer these questions will have long-term impacts on civil liberties, governance, and the role of technology in society. The systems implemented amid the public health emergency could jeopardize individual freedoms and exacerbate harms to already vulnerable groups, particularly if they are adapted to operate as permanent social management tools. At the same time, growing public awareness about the impact of public health technologies could also provide a catalyst for strengthening democratic engagement and demonstrating the urgency of improving governance systems. As the world transitions in and out of pandemic crisis modes, there is an opportunity to think broadly about strengthening public health systems, policymaking, and the underlying structure of our social compacts.

The stakes are high: an enduring lesson from history is that moments of crisis often recast the roles of governments and the rights of individuals. Moments of crisis often recast the roles of governments and the rights of individuals.In this moment of flux, the Social Science Research Council calls on policymakers, technologists, data scientists, health experts, academics, activists, and communities around the world to assess the implications of this transformation and seize opportunities for positive social change. The Council seeks to facilitate a shift from reactive modes of crisis response to more strategic forms of deliberation among varied stakeholders. As such, it has convened discussions and directed research in order to better understand the intersection of governance and technologically enabled surveillance in conditions of public health emergencies. Through these activities, the Council aims to provide analysis that can help foster societies that are more resilient, democratic, and inclusive and can, therefore, better withstand future crises.

With these goals in mind, the Council convened a cross-disciplinary, multinational group of experts in the summer of 2020 to survey the landscape of human rights and social justice with regard to technologically driven public health practices. The resulting group—the Public Health, Surveillance, and Human Rights (PHSHR) Network—raised a broad range of questions about governance, social inequalities, data protection, medical systems, and community norms: What rules should govern the sharing of personal health data? How should the efficacy of public health interventions be weighed against the emergence and expansion of new forms of surveillance? How much control should multinational corporations have in designing and implementing nations’ public health technology systems? These are among the questions that pushed members to think beyond traditional professional, geographic, and intellectual boundaries….(More)”.

The Power of Virtual Communities


Report by The GovLab: “When India went into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on movement affected people’s access to medicine, food and other supplies that they relied upon. HIV/AIDS sufferers feared traveling to clinics and labs to pick up their medication. Needing help, many turned to HumanKind Global, a new network of thousands of volunteers who coordinate aid through a Facebook Group and WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook).

Mahita Nagaraj, 39, a self-employed digital marketing professional and single mother based in Bangalore, created the group in March 2020. In just four weeks, HumanKind Global volunteers delivered lifesaving HIV medicines to more than 170 people across India. It has since grown to more than 50,000 members. Answering more than 25,000 requests for help, these volunteers have coordinated blood donations, delivered life-saving medication and provided people stranded at home with enough food to eat.

HumanKind Global is an online group, a form of human organization that is expanding at a remarkable scale and speed. Online groups exist for many reasons. Some offer lifesaving support while others enable people—whether they life next door or across an ocean—to trade articles, jokes, photographs, insults, ideas, advice, information, and sometimes misinformation. The space in which contemporary online groups are active is at once global and local, intimate and vast. A post can reach two million people, or spark a conversation between just two. Governed by their own members and the policies of the platforms on which they are hosted, these groups have diverse rules that seek to create a space in which their members can connect supported by feelings of belonging, intimacy and trust.

Online groups like HumanKind Global can be found on many platforms. There are discussion groups on Reddit, artist colonies on LEGO Mindstorms, player groups on gaming platforms like Twitch, or parenting groups in which members go online to organize real-life meetings through MeetUp. But in this report we study Facebook Groups, specifically, as one category of online group….(More)”. (See also: https://virtual-communities.thegovlab.org/)

Copenhagen Manual


About: “The Copenhagen Manual is a helping hand for those who are in a position to further data-informed strategies for public sector development or have been given the responsibility for preparing, analysing or communicating a survey on public sector innovation.

Like other instruction manuals, the Copenhagen Manual offers examples of use, handy tips and general warnings. The manual discusses setting strategic goals, communication, reaching respondents, adapting the questionnaire and defining public sector innovation.

Internationally comparable data

The manual offers an opportunity to mirror public sector innovation capacity by way of internationally comparable data. The Copenhagen Manual, with emphasis on the ‘open’ in Copenhagen is:

  • the result of an open co-creation process that welcomed the participation of all interested parties
  • based on the open sharing of a multitude of experiences, good and bad
  • open to interpretation, making it usable in different national contexts and open to continuous discussion of added practical experience as actors from more countries conduct surveys on public sector innovation…(More)”.

Designing Data Trusts. Why We Need to Test Consumer Data Trusts Now


Policy Brief by Aline Blankertz: “Data about individuals, about their preferences and behaviors, has become an increasingly important resource for companies, public agencies, and research institutions. Consumers carry the burden of having to decide which data about them is shared for which purpose. They want to make sure that data about them is not used to infer intimate details of their private life or to pursue other undesirable purposes. At the same time, they want to benefit from personalized products and innovation driven by the same data. The complexity of how data is collected and used overwhelms consumers, many of whom wearily accept privacy policies and lose trust that those who gain effective control over the data will use it for the consumers’ benefit.

At the same time, a few large companies accumulate and lock in vast amounts of data that enable them to use insights across markets and across consumers. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has given data rights to consumers to assert their interests vis-a-vis those companies, but it gives consumers neither enough information nor enough power to make themselves heard. Other organizations, especially small businesses or start-ups, do not have access to the data (unless individual consumers laboriously exercise their right to portability), which often inhibits competition and innovation. Governments across Europe would like to tackle the challenge of reconciling productive data use with privacy. In recent months, data trusts have emerged as a promising solution to enable data-sharing for the benefit of consumers.

The concept has been endorsed by a broad range of stakeholders, including privacy advocates, companies and expert commissions. In Germany, for example, the data ethics commission and the commission competition law 4.0 have recommended further exploring data trusts, and the government is incorporating the concept into its data strategy.

There is no common understanding yet what consumer data trusts are and what they do. In order for them to address the problems mentioned, it is helpful to use as a working definition: consumer data trusts are intermediaries that aggregate consumers’ interests and represent them vis-à-vis data-using organizations. Data trusts use more technical and legal expertise, as well as greater bargaining power, to negotiate with organizations on the conditions of data use to achieve better outcomes than those that individual consumers can achieve. To achieve their consumer-oriented mission, data trusts should be able to assign access rights, audit data practices, and support enforcement. They may or may not need to hold data…(More)”.

Future of Vulnerability: Humanity in the Digital Age


Report by the Australian Red Cross: “We find ourselves at the crossroads of humanity and technology. It is time to put people and society at the centre of our technological choices. To ensure that benefits are widely shared. To end the cycle of vulnerable groups benefiting least and being harmed most by new technologies.

There is an agenda for change across research, policy and practice towards responsible, inclusive and ethical uses of data and technology.
People and civil society must be at the centre of this work, involved in generating insights and developing prototypes, in evidence-based decision-making about impacts, and as part of new ‘business as usual’.

The Future of Vulnerability report invites a conversation around the complex questions that all of us collectively need to ask about the vulnerabilities frontier technologies can introduce or heighten. It also highlights opportunities for collaborative exploration to develop and promote ‘humanity first’ approaches to data and technology….(More)”.