Introducing the Digital Policy Model Canvas


Blog by Stefaan Verhulst: “…Yesterday, the National Digital Policy Network of the World Economic Forum, of which I am a member,  released a White Paper aimed at facilitating this process. The paper, entitled “Digital Policy Playbook 2017: Approaches to National Digital Governance,”  examines a number of case studies from around the world to develop a “playbook” that can help leaders in designing digital policies that maximize the forthcoming opportunities and effectively meet the challenges. It is the result of a series of extensive discussions and consultations held around the world, over , and attended by leading experts from various sectors and geographies…..

How can such insights be translated into a practical and pragmatic approach to policymaking? In order to find implementable solutions, we sought to develop a “Digital Policy Model Canvas” that would guide policy makers to derive specific policies and regulatory mechanisms in an agile and iterative manner – integrating both design thinking and evidence based policy making. This notion of a canvas is borrowed from the business world. For example, in Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur introduce the idea of a “Business Model Canvas” to generate new, innovative business models that can help companies–and others–go beyond legacy systems and approaches.

Applying this approach to the world of digital policymaking and innovation, we arrive at the “Digital Policy Model Canvas” represented in the accompanying figure.

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 6.08.24 AM

The design and implementation of such a canvas can be applied to a specific problem and/or geographic context, and would include the following steps…(More)”.

Who serves the poor ? surveying civil servants in the developing world


Worldbank working paper by Daniel Oliver Rogger: “Who are the civil servants that serve poor people in the developing world? This paper uses direct surveys of civil servants — the professional body of administrators who manage government policy — and their organizations from Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines, to highlight key aspects of their characteristics and experience of civil service life. Civil servants in the developing world face myriad challenges to serving the world’s poor, from limited facilities to significant political interference in their work. There are a number of commonalities across service environments, and the paper summarizes these in a series of ‘stylized facts’ of the civil service in the developing world. At the same time, the particular challenges faced by a public official vary substantially across and within countries and regions. For example, measured management practices differ widely across local governments of a single state in Nigeria. Surveys of civil servants allow us to document these differences, build better models of the public sector, and make more informed policy choices….(More)”.

Opportunities and risks in emerging technologies


White Paper Series at the WebFoundation: “To achieve our vision of digital equality, we need to understand how new technologies are shaping society; where they present opportunities to make people’s lives better, and indeed where they threaten to create harm. To this end, we have commissioned a series of white papers examining three key digital trends: artificial intelligence, algorithms and control of personal data. The papers focus on low and middle-income countries, which are all too often overlooked in debates around the impacts of emerging technologies.

The series addresses each of these three digital issues, looking at how they are impacting people’s lives and identifying steps that governments, companies and civil society organisations can take to limit the harms, and maximise benefits, for citizens.

Download the white papers

We will use these white papers to refine our thinking and set our work agenda on digital equality in the years ahead. We are sharing them openly with the hope they benefit others working towards our goals and to amplify the limited research currently available on digital issues in low and middle-income countries. We intend the papers to foster discussion about the steps we can take together to ensure emerging digital technologies are used in ways that benefit people’s lives, whether they are in Los Angeles or Lagos….(More)”.

Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation


Report by Samantha Bradshaw and Philip N. Howard: “Cyber troops are government, military or political party teams committed to manipulating public opinion over social media. In this working paper, we report on specific organizations created, often with public money, to help define and manage what is in the best interest of the public. We compare such organizations across 28 countries, and inventory them according to the kinds of messages, valences and communication strategies used. We catalogue their organizationalforms and evaluate their capacities in terms of budgets and staffing. This working paper summarizes the findings of the first comprehensive inventory of the major organizations behind social media manipulation. We find that cyber troops are a pervasive and global phenomenon. Many different countries employ significant numbers of people and resources to manage and manipulate public opinion online, sometimes targeting domestic audiences and sometimes targeting foreign publics.

  •  The earliest reports of organized social media manipulation emerged in 2010, and by 2017 there are details on such organizations in 28 countries.
  • Looking across the 28 countries, every authoritarian regime has social media campaigns targeting their own populations, while only a few of them target foreign publics. In contrast, almost every democracy in this sample has organized social media campaigns that target foreign publics, while political‐party‐supported campaigns target domestic voters. 
  • Authoritarian regimes are not the only or even the best at organized social media manipulation. The earliest reports of government involvement in nudging public opinion involve democracies, and new innovations in political communication technologies often come from political parties and arise during high‐profile elections.
  • Over time, the primary mode for organizing cyber troops has gone from involving military units that experiment with manipulating public opinion over social media networks to strategic communication firms that take contracts from governments for social media campaigns….(More)”

The Global Open Data Index 2016/2017 – Advancing the State of Open Data Through Dialogue


Open Knowledge International: “The Global Open Data Index (GODI) is the annual global benchmark for publication of open government data, run by the Open Knowledge Network. Our crowdsourced survey measures the openness of government data according to the Open Definition.

By having a tool that is run by civil society, GODI creates valuable insights for government’s data publishers to understand where they have data gaps. It also shows how to make data more useable and eventually more impactful. GODI therefore provides important feedback that governments are usually lacking.

For the last 5 years we have been revising GODI methodology to fit the changing needs of the open data movement. This year, we changed our entire survey design by adding experimental questions to assess data findability and usability. We also improved our datasets definitions by looking at essential data points that can solve real world problems. Using more precise data definitions also increased the reliability of our cross-country comparison. See all about the GODI methodology here

In addition, this year shall be more than a mere measurement tool. We see it as a tool for conversation. To spark debate, we release GODI in two phases:

  1. The dialogue phase – We are releasing the data to the public after a rigorous review. Yet, like everyone, our work is not assessment in not always perfect. We give all users a chance to contest the index results for 30 days, starting May 2nd. In this period, users of the index can comment on our assessments through our Global Open Data Index forum. On June 2nd, we will review those comments and will change some index submissions if needed.
  2. The final results – on June 15 we will present the final results of the index. For the first time ever, we will also publish the GODI white paper. This paper will include our main findings and recommendations to advance open data publication….

… findings from this year’s GODI

  • GODI highlights data gaps. Open data is the final stage of an information production chain, where governments measure and collect data, process and share data internally, and publish this data openly. While being designed to measure open data, the Index also highlights gaps in this production chain. Does a government collect data at all? Why is data not collected? Some governments lack the infrastructure and resources to modernise their information systems; other countries do not have information systems in place at all.
  • Data findability is a major challenge. We have data portals and registries, but government agencies under one national government still publish data in different ways and different locations. Moreover, they have different protocols for license and formats. This has a hazardous impact – we may not find open data, even if it is out there, and therefore can’t use it. Data findability is a prerequisite for open data to fulfill its potential and currently most data is very hard to find.
  • A lot of ‘data’ IS online, but the ways in which it is presented are limiting their openness. Governments publish data in many forms, not only as tabular datasets but also visualisations, maps, graphs and texts. While this is a good effort to make data relatable, it sometimes makes the data very hard or even impossible for reuse. It is crucial for governments to revise how they produce and provide data that is in good quality for reuse in its raw form. For that, we need to be aware what is best raw data required which varies from data category to category.
  • Open licensing is a problem, and we cannot assess public domain status. Each year we find ourselves more confused about open data licences. On the one hand, more governments implement their unique open data license versions. Some of them are compliant with the Open Definition, but most are not officially acknowledged. On the other hand, some governments do not provide open licenses, but terms of use, that may leave users in the dark about the actual possibilities to reuse data. There is a need to draw more attention to data licenses and make sure data producers understand how to license data better….(More)”.

Human Decisions and Machine Predictions


NBER Working Paper by Jon Kleinberg, Himabindu Lakkaraju, Jure Leskovec, Jens Ludwig, and Sendhil Mullainatha: “We examine how machine learning can be used to improve and understand human decision-making. In particular, we focus on a decision that has important policy consequences. Millions of times each year, judges must decide where defendants will await trial—at home or in jail. By law, this decision hinges on the judge’s prediction of what the defendant would do if released. This is a promising machine learning application because it is a concrete prediction task for which there is a large volume of data available. Yet comparing the algorithm to the judge proves complicated. First, the data are themselves generated by prior judge decisions. We only observe crime outcomes for released defendants, not for those judges detained. This makes it hard to evaluate counterfactual decision rules based on algorithmic predictions. Second, judges may have a broader set of preferences than the single variable that the algorithm focuses on; for instance, judges may care about racial inequities or about specific crimes (such as violent crimes) rather than just overall crime risk. We deal with these problems using different econometric strategies, such as quasi-random assignment of cases to judges. Even accounting for these concerns, our results suggest potentially large welfare gains: a policy simulation shows crime can be reduced by up to 24.8% with no change in jailing rates, or jail populations can be reduced by 42.0% with no increase in crime rates. Moreover, we see reductions in all categories of crime, including violent ones. Importantly, such gains can be had while also significantly reducing the percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics in jail. We find similar results in a national dataset as well. In addition, by focusing the algorithm on predicting judges’ decisions, rather than defendant behavior, we gain some insight into decision-making: a key problem appears to be that judges to respond to ‘noise’ as if it were signal. These results suggest that while machine learning can be valuable, realizing this value requires integrating these tools into an economic framework: being clear about the link between predictions and decisions; specifying the scope of payoff functions; and constructing unbiased decision counterfactuals….(More)”

Power To The People! (And Settings for Using It Wisely?)


Public Agenda: “From its inception in Brazil in 1989, participatory budgeting (PB) has incorporated, to varying degrees, both direct and deliberative democracy.

In deliberative democracy, citizens become informed about an issue, talk about their concerns and goals, weigh different policy options and find common ground. They may give policy input to public officials, develop action ideas for implementation by other people and organizations or work to implement ideas themselves, or they may engage in some combination of the three. Advocates of deliberative democracy believe in the potential of citizens to be effective learners, advisors and volunteers.

In direct democracy, people have the opportunity to vote on policy questions through initiatives and referenda. Advocates of direct democracy believe in the potential of citizens to be effective public decision makers.

This white paper examines the extent to which North American PB processes are applying deliberative principles and practices, explore the tensions and challenges in making PB more deliberative, suggest questions for further research and offer recommendations for public officials and practitioners for improving their PB processes.

Boosting deliberative engagement in PB processes could have a variety of benefits for communities. First, higher levels of deliberation might produce greater empathy among citizens who hold different opinions or value different things about their communities—and greater understanding between residents and city staff. Second, more deliberative discussions would be more likely to bring to the surface issues of race, religion, class, immigration status and other differences that are always influential but seldom addressed in public life. Finally, the budget ideas produced might be more likely to represent compromises between different groups or opinions, and they might inspire greater efforts by participants to help implement them, beyond the decision to allocate public money.

PB organizers might improve the level and quality of deliberation in their processes in a number of ways:

1. Be more explicit about the importance of deliberation in the process…

2. Ensure participants have the chance to share their stories…

3. Connect the PB process to a broader discussion of city and/or district goals and priorities…

This report is the companion to “Brazil Has Reduced Inequality, Incrementally—Can We Do the Same?,” which focuses on the intersection of PB and economic inequality. Both draw on the data gathered by local PB researchers and by Public Agenda; on local evaluations of PB processes; and on interviews with public officials, also conducted by Public Agenda…(More)”.

Scaling accountability through vertically integrated civil society policy monitoring and advocacy


Working paper by Jonathan Fox: “…argues that the growing field of transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) needs a conceptual reboot, to address the limited traction gained so far on the path to accountability. To inform more strategic approaches and to identify the drivers of more sustainable institutional change, fresh analytical work is needed.

The paper makes the case for one among several possible strategic approaches by distinguishing between ‘scaling up’ and ‘taking scale into account’, going on to examine several different ways that ‘scale’ is used in different fields.

It goes on to explain and discuss the strategy of vertical integration, which involves multi-level coordination by civil society organisations of policy monitoring and advocacy, grounded in broad pro-accountability constituencies. Vertical integration is discussed from several different angles, from its roots in politcal economy to its relationship with citizen voice, its capacity for multi-directional communication, and its relationship with feedback loops.

To spell out how this strategy can empower pro accountability actors, the paper contrasts varied terms of engagement between state and society, proposing a focus on collaborative coalitions as an alternative to the conventional dichotomy between confrontation and constructive engagement.

The paper continues by reviewing existing multi-level approaches, summarising nine cases – three each in the Philippines, Mexico and India – to demonstrate what can be revealed when TPA initiatives are seen through the lens of scale.

It concludes with a set of broad analytical questions for discussion, followed by testable hypotheses proposed to inform future research agendas.(Download the paper here, and a short summary here)…(More)”

Innovation Labs: 10 Defining Features


Essay by Lidia Gryszkiewicz, Tuukka Toivonen, & Ioanna Lykourentzou: “Innovation labs, with their aspirations to foster systemic change, have become a mainstay of the social innovation scene. Used by city administrations, NGOs, think tanks, and multinational corporations, labs are becoming an almost default framework for collaborative innovation. They have resonance in and across myriad fields: London’s pioneering Finance Innovation Lab, for example, aims to create a system of finance that benefits “people and planet”; the American eLab is searching for the future of the electricity sector; and the Danish MindLab helps the government co-create better social services and solutions. Hundreds of other, similar initiatives around the world are taking on a range of grand challenges (or, if you prefer, wicked problems) and driving collective social impact.

Yet for all their seeming popularity, labs face a basic problem that closely parallels the predicament of hub organizations: There is little clarity on their core features, and few shared definitions exist that would make sense amid their diverse themes and settings. …

Building on observations previously made in the SSIR and elsewhere, we contribute to the task of clarifying the logic of modern innovation labs by distilling 10 defining features. …

1. Imposed but open-ended innovation themes…

2. Preoccupation with large innovation challenges…

3. Expectation of breakthrough solutions…

4. Heterogeneous participants…

5. Targeted collaboration…

6. Long-term perspectives…

7. Rich innovation toolbox…

8. Applied orientation…

9. Focus on experimentation…

10. Systemic thinking…

In a recent academic working paper, we condense the above into this definition: An innovation lab is a semi-autonomous organization that engages diverse participants—on a long-term basis—in open collaboration for the purpose of creating, elaborating, and prototyping radical solutions to pre-identified systemic challenges…(More)”

Reframing Data Transparency


“Recently, the Centre for Information Policy Leadership (“CIPL”) at Hunton & Williams LLP, a privacy and information policy think tank based in Brussels, London and Washington, D.C., and Telefónica, one of the largest telecommunications company in the world, issued a joint white paper on Reframing Data Transparency (the “white paper”). The white paper was the outcome of a June 2016 roundtable held by the two organizations in London, in which senior business leaders, Data Privacy Officers, lawyers and academics discussed the importance of user-centric transparency to the data driven economy….The issues explored during the roundtable and in the white paper include the following:

  • The transparency deficit in the digital age. There is a growing gap between traditional, legal privacy notices and user-centric transparency that is capable of delivering understandable and actionable information concerning an organization’s data use policies and practices, including why it processes data, what the benefits are to individuals and society, how it protects the data and how users can manage and control the use of their data.
  • The impact of the transparency deficit. The transparency deficit undermines customer trust and customers’ ability to participate more effectively in the digital economy.
  • Challenges of delivering user-centric transparency. In a connected world where there may be no direct relationship between companies and their end users, both transparency and consent as a basis for processing are particularly challenging.
  • Transparency as a multistakeholder challenge. Transparency is not solely a legal issue, but a multistakeholder challenge, which requires engagement of regulators, companies, individuals, behavioral economists, social scientists, psychologists and user experience specialists.
  • The role of data protection authorities (“DPAs”). DPAs play a key role in promoting and incentivizing effective data transparency approaches and tools.
  • The role of companies. Data transparency is a critical business issue because transparency drives digital trust as well as business opportunities. Organizations must innovate on how to deliver user-centric transparency. Data driven companies must research and develop new approaches to transparency that explain the value exchange between customers and companies and the companies’ data practices, and create tools that enable their customers to exercise effective engagement and control.
  • The importance of empowering individuals. It is crucial to support and enhance individuals’ digital literacy, which includes an understanding of the uses of personal data and the benefits of data processing, as well as knowledge of relevant privacy rights and the data management tools that are available to them. Government bodies, regulators and industry should be involved in educating the public regarding digital literacy. Such education should take place in schools and universities, and through consumer education campaigns. Transparency is the foundation and sine qua non of individual empowerment.
  • The role of behavioral economists, social scientists, psychologists and user experience specialists. Experts from these disciplines will be crucial in developing user-centric transparency and controls….(More)”.