Innovation labs and co-production in public problem solving


Paper by Michael McGann, Tamas Wells & Emma Blomkamp: “Governments are increasingly establishing innovation labs to enhance public problem solving. Despite the speed at which these new units are being established, they have only recently begun to receive attention from public management scholars. This study assesses the extent to which labs are enhancing strategic policy capacity through pursuing more collaborative and citizen-centred approaches to policy design. Drawing on original case study research of five labs in Australia and New Zealand, it examines the structure of lab’s relationships to government partners, and the extent and nature of their activities in promoting citizen-participation in public problem solving….(More)”.

Lies, Deception and Democracy


Essay by Richard Bellamy: “This essay explores how far democracy is compatible with lies and deception, and whether it encourages or discourages their use by politicians. Neo-Kantian arguments, such as Newey’s, that lies and deception undermine individual autonomy and the possibility for consent go too far, given that no democratic process can be regarded as a plausible mechanism for achieving collective consent to state policies. However, they can be regarded as incompatible with a more modest account of democracy as a system of public equality among political equals.

On this view, the problem with lies and deception derives from their being instruments of manipulation and domination. Both can be distinguished from ‘spin’, with a working democracy being capable of uncovering them and so incentivising politicians to be truthful. Nevertheless, while lies and deception will find you out, bullshit and post truth disregard and subvert truth respectively, and as such prove more pernicious as they admit of no standard whereby they might be challenged….(More)”.

Machine Learning, Big Data and the Regulation of Consumer Credit Markets: The Case of Algorithmic Credit Scoring


Paper by Nikita Aggarwal et al: “Recent advances in machine learning (ML) and Big Data techniques have facilitated the development of more sophisticated, automated consumer credit scoring models — a trend referred to as ‘algorithmic credit scoring’ in recognition of the increasing reliance on computer (particularly ML) algorithms for credit scoring. This chapter, which forms part of the 2018 collection of short essays ‘Autonomous Systems and the Law’, examines the rise of algorithmic credit scoring, and considers its implications for the regulation of consumer creditworthiness assessment and consumer credit markets more broadly.

The chapter argues that algorithmic credit scoring, and the Big Data and ML technologies underlying it, offer both benefits and risks for consumer credit markets. On the one hand, it could increase allocative efficiency and distributional fairness in these markets, by widening access to, and lowering the cost of, credit, particularly for ‘thin-file’ and ‘no-file’ consumers. On the other hand, algorithmic credit scoring could undermine distributional fairness and efficiency, by perpetuating discrimination in lending against certain groups and by enabling the more effective exploitation of borrowers.

The chapter considers how consumer financial regulation should respond to these risks, focusing on the UK/EU regulatory framework. As a general matter, it argues that the broadly principles and conduct-based approach of UK consumer credit regulation provides the flexibility necessary for regulators and market participants to respond dynamically to these risks. However, this approach could be enhanced through the introduction of more robust product oversight and governance requirements for firms in relation to their use of ML systems and processes. Supervisory authorities could also themselves make greater use of ML and Big Data techniques in order to strengthen the supervision of consumer credit firms.

Finally, the chapter notes that cross-sectoral data protection regulation, recently updated in the EU under the GDPR, offers an important avenue to mitigate risks to consumers arising from the use of their personal data. However, further guidance is needed on the application and scope of this regime in the consumer financial context….(More)”.

The wisdom of crowds: What smart cities can learn from a dead ox and live fish


Portland State University: “In 1906, Francis Galton was at a country fair where attendees had the opportunity to guess the weight of a dead ox. Galton took the guesses of 787 fair-goers and found that the average guess was only one pound off of the correct weight — even when individual guesses were off base.

This concept, known as “the wisdom of crowds” or “collective intelligence,” has been applied to many situations over the past century, from people estimating the number of jellybeans in a jar to predicting the winners of major sporting events — often with high rates of success. Whatever the problem, the average answer of the crowd seems to be an accurate solution.

But does this also apply to knowledge about systems, such as ecosystems, health care, or cities? Do we always need in-depth scientific inquiries to describe and manage them — or could we leverage crowds?

This question has fascinated Antonie J. Jetter, associate professor of Engineering and Technology Management for many years. Now, there’s an answer. A recent study, which was co-authored by Jetter and published in Nature Sustainability, shows that diverse crowds of local natural resource stakeholders can collectively produce complex environmental models very similar to those of trained experts.

For this study, about 250 anglers, water guards and board members of German fishing clubs were asked to draw connections showing how ecological relationships influence the pike stock from the perspective of the anglers and how factors like nutrients and fishing pressures help determine the number of pike in a freshwater lake ecosystem. The individuals’ drawings — or their so-called mental models — were then mathematically combined into a collective model representing their averaged understanding of the ecosystem and compared with the best scientific knowledge on the same subject.

The result is astonishing. If you combine the ideas from many individual anglers by averaging their mental models, the final outcomes correspond more or less exactly to the scientific knowledge of pike ecology — local knowledge of stakeholders produces results that are in no way inferior to lengthy and expensive scientific studies….(More)”.

How people decide what they want to know


Tali Sharot & Cass R. Sunstein in Nature: “Immense amounts of information are now accessible to people, including information that bears on their past, present and future. An important research challenge is to determine how people decide to seek or avoid information. Here we propose a framework of information-seeking that aims to integrate the diverse motives that drive information-seeking and its avoidance. Our framework rests on the idea that information can alter people’s action, affect and cognition in both positive and negative ways. The suggestion is that people assess these influences and integrate them into a calculation of the value of information that leads to information-seeking or avoidance. The theory offers a framework for characterizing and quantifying individual differences in information-seeking, which we hypothesize may also be diagnostic of mental health. We consider biases that can lead to both insufficient and excessive information-seeking. We also discuss how the framework can help government agencies to assess the welfare effects of mandatory information disclosure….(More)”.

Experimenting with Public Engagement Platforms in Local Government


Paper by Seongkyung Cho et al: “Cities are venues for experimentation with technology (e.g., smart cities) and democratic governance. At the intersection of both trends is the emergence of new online platforms for citizen engagement. There is little evidence to date on the extent to which these are being used or the characteristics associated with adopters at the leading edge. With rich data on civic engagement and innovation from a 2016 International City/County Management Association (ICMA) survey, we explore platform use in U.S. local governments and relationships with offline civic engagement, innovation, and local characteristics. We find that use of online participatory platforms is associated with offline participation, goals for civic engagement, and city size, rather than evidence that this is related to a more general orientation toward innovation….(More)”.

Data as infrastructure? A study of data sharing legal regimes


Paper by Charlotte Ducuing: “The article discusses the concept of infrastructure in the digital environment, through a study of three data sharing legal regimes: the Public Sector Information Directive (PSI Directive), the discussions on in-vehicle data governance and the freshly adopted data sharing legal regime in the Electricity Directive.

While aiming to contribute to the scholarship on data governance, the article deliberately focuses on network industries. Characterised by the existence of physical infrastructure, they have a special relationship to digitisation and ‘platformisation’ and are exposed to specific risks. Adopting an explanatory methodology, the article exposes that these regimes are based on two close but different sources of inspiration, yet intertwined and left unclear. By targeting entities deemed ‘monopolist’ with regard to the data they create and hold, data sharing obligations are inspired from competition law and especially the essential facility doctrine. On the other hand, beneficiaries appear to include both operators in related markets needing data to conduct their business (except for the PSI Directive), and third parties at large to foster innovation. The latter rationale illustrates what is called here a purposive view of data as infrastructure. The underlying understanding of ‘raw’ data (management) as infrastructure for all to use may run counter the ability for the regulated entities to get a fair remuneration for ‘their’ data.

Finally, the article pleads for more granularity when mandating data sharing obligations depending upon the purpose. Shifting away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, the regulation of data could also extend to the ensuing context-specific data governance regime, subject to further research…(More)”.

Pocket Democracy: Developing a User-Friendly App for Following Local Politics


Paper by Jenny Lindholm & Janne Berg: “Democratic innovations have been suggested as one way of increasing public participation in political processes. Civic technology may provide resources for improving transparency, publicity, and accountability in political processes. This paper is about the development of a smartphone application that provides users with information on municipal politics and representatives. We develop the application using a user-centered design approach. Thus, we establish its functions by hearing the end-users and considering their goals in the design process. We conducted three focus groups to find out what features end-users would like to see in an app. Six features were present in all three focus group discussions: receiving information, expressing opinions, creating/answering polls, receiving notifications, following issues and receiving emergency messages….(More)”.

Open Democracy and Digital Technologies


Paper by Hélène Landemore: “…looks at the connection between democratic theory and technological constraints, and argues for renovating our paradigm of democracy to make the most of the technological opportunities offered by the digital revolution. The most attractive normative theory of democracy currently available—Habermas’ model of a two-track deliberative sphere—is, for all its merits, a self-avowed rationalization of representative democracy, a system born in the 18th century under different epistemological, conceptual, and technological constraints. In this
paper I show the limits of this model and defend instead an alternative paradigm of democracy I call “open democracy,” in which digital technologies are assumed to make it possible to transcend a number of dichotomies, including that between ordinary citizens and democratic representatives.

Rather than just imagining a digitized version or extension of existing institutions and practices—representative democracy as we know it—I thus take the opportunities offered by the digital revolution (its technological “affordances,” in the jargon) to envision new democratic institutions and means of democratic empowerment, some of which are illustrated in the vignette with which this paper started. In other words, rather that start from what is— our electoral democracies, I start from what democracy could mean, if we reinvented it more or less from scratch today with the help of digital technologies.

The first section lays out the problems with and limits of our current practice and theory of democracy.


The second section traces these problems to conceptual design flaws partially induced by 18th century conceptual, epistemological, and technological constraints.


Section three lays out an alternative theory of democracy I call “open democracy,” which avoids some of these design flaws, and introduces the institutional features of this new paradigm that are specifically enabled by digital technologies: deliberation and democratic representation….(More)”.

Taming the Beast: Harnessing Blockchains in Developing Country Governments


Paper by Raúl Zambrano: “Amid pressing demands to achieve critical sustainable development goals, governments in developing countries face the additional complex task of embracing new digital technologies such as blockchains. This paper develops a framework interlinking development, technology, and government institutions that policymakers and development practitioners could use to address such a conundrum. State capacity and democratic governance are introduced as drivers in the overall analysis. With this in hand, blockchain technology is revisited from the perspective of governments in the Global South, identifying in the process key traits and proposing a new typology. An overview of the status of blockchain deployments in the Global South follows, complemented by a closer look at country examples to distill trends, patterns and risks. The paper closes with a discussion of the findings, highlighting both challenges and opportunities for governments. It also provides basic guidance to development practitioners interested in enhancing current programming using blockchains as an enabler….(More)”