How Mobile Network Operators Can Help Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals Profitably

Press Release: “Today, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) released its second paper in a series focused on the promise of data for development (D4D). The paper, Leveraging Data for Development to Achieve Your Triple Bottom Line: Mobile Network Operators with Advanced Data for Good Capabilities See Stronger Impact to Profits, People and the Planet, will be presented at GSMA’s Mobile 360 Africa in Kigali.

“The mobile industry has already taken a driving seat in helping reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and this research reinforces the role mobile network operators in lower-income economies can play to leverage their network data for development and build a new data business safely and securely,” said Kate Wilson, CEO of the Digital Impact Alliance. “Mobile network operators (MNOs) hold unique data on customers’ locations and behaviors that can help development efforts. They have been reluctant to share data because there are inherent business risks and to do so has been expensive and time consuming.  DIAL’s research illustrates a path forward for MNOs on which data is useful to achieve the SDGs and why acting now is critical to building a long-term data business.”

DIAL worked with Altai Consulting on both primary and secondary research to inform this latest paper.  Primary research included one-on-one in-depth interviews with more than 50 executives across the data for development value chain, including government officials, civil society leaders, mobile network operators and other private sector representatives from both developed and emerging markets. These interviews help inform how operators can best tap into the shared value creation opportunities data for development provides.

Key findings from the in-depth interviews include:

  • There are several critical barriers that have prevented scaled use of mobile data for social good – including 1) unclear market opportunities, 2) not enough collaboration among MNOs, governments and non-profit stakeholders and 3) regulatory and privacy concerns;
  • While it may be an ideal time for MNOs to increase their involvement in D4D efforts given the unique data they have that can inform development, market shifts suggest the window of opportunity to implement large-scale D4D initiatives will likely not remain open for much longer;
  • Mobile Network Operators with advanced data for good capabilities will have the most success in establishing sustainable D4D efforts; and as a result, achieving triple bottom line mandates; and
  • Mobile Network Operators should focus on providing value-added insights and services rather than raw data and drive pricing and product innovation to meet the sector’s needs.

“Private sector data availability to drive public sector decision-making is a critical enabler for meeting SDG targets,” said Syed Raza, Senior Director of the Data for Development Team at the Digital Impact Alliance.  “Our data for development paper series aims to elevate the efforts of our industry colleagues with the information, insights and tools they need to help drive ethical innovation in this space….(More)”.

Exploring New Labscapes: Converging and Diverging on Social Innovation Labs

Essay by Marlieke Kieboom:”…The question ‘what is a (social innovation) lab?’ is as old as the lab community itself and seems to return at every (social innovation) lab gathering. It came up at the very first event of its kind (Kennisland’s Lab2: Lab for Labs, Amsterdam 2013) and has been debated at every consequent event ever since under hashtags like #socinnlabs, #sociallabs and #psilabs (see MaRs’s Labs for Systems Change — 2014, Nesta’s Labworks — 2015, EU Policy lab’s Lab Connections — 2016 and ESADE’s Labs for Social Innovation — 2017).

However, the concept has remained roughly the same since we saw the first wave of labs (Helsinki Design LabMindLab and Reos’ Change Labs) in the early 2010’s. Social innovation labs are permanent or short term structures/projects/events that use a variety of experimental methods to support collaboration between stakeholders to collectively address social challenges at a systemic level. Stakeholders range from citizens and community action groups to businesses, universities and public administrations. Their specific characteristics (e.g. developing experimental user-led research methods, building innovation capacity building, convening multi-disciplinary teams, working to reach scale) and shapes (public sector innovation labs, social innovations labs, digital service labs, policy labs) are well described in many publications (e.g. Lab Matters, 2014; Labs for Social Innovation, 2017).

As Nesta neatly shows innovation labs are part of a family, or a movement of connected experimental, innovative approaches like service design, behavioural insights, citizen engagement, and so on.

Spot the labs (Source:

So why does this question keep coming back? The roots of the confusion and debates may lie in the word ‘social’. The medical, technological, and business sectors know exactly what they aim for in their innovation labs. They are ‘controlled-for’ environments where experimentation leads to developing, testing and scaling futuristic (mostly for profit) products, like self-driving cars, cancer medicines, drug test strips and cultured meat. Some of these products contribute to a more just, equal, sustainable world, while others don’t.

For working on societal issues like climate change, immigration patterns or a drug overdose crisis, lab settings are and should be unmistakably more open and porous. Complex, systemic challenges are impossible to capture between four lab walls, nor should we even try as they arguably arose from isolated, closed, and disconnected socio-economic interactions. Value creation for these type of challenges therefore lies outside closed, competitive, measurable spaces: in forging new collaborations, open-sourcing methodologies, encouraging curious mindsets and diversifying social movements. Consequently social lab outcomes are less measurable and concrete, ranging from reframing existing (socio-cultural) paradigms, to designing new procurement procedures and policies, to delivering new (digital and non-digital) public services. Try to ‘randomize-control-trial’ that!…(More).

Smart Cities: Digital Solutions for a More Livable Future

Report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI): “After a decade of experimentation, smart cities are entering a new phase. Although they are only one part of the full tool kit for making a city great, digital solutions are the most powerful and cost-effective additions to that tool kit in many years. This report analyzes dozens of current applications and finds that cities could use them to improve some quality-of-life indicators by 10–30 percent.It also finds that even the most cutting-edge smart cities on the planet are still at the beginning of their journey. ƒ

Smart cities add digital intelligence to existing urban systems, making it possible to do more with less. Connected applications put real-time, transparent information into the hands of users to help them make better choices. These tools can save lives, prevent crime, and reduce the disease burden. They can save time, reduce waste, and even help boost social connectedness. When cities function more efficiently, they also become more productive places to do business. ƒ

MGI assessed how dozens of current smart city applications could perform in three sample cities with varying legacy infrastructure systems and baseline starting points. We found that these tools could reduce fatalities by 8–10 percent, accelerate emergency response times by 20–35 percent, shave the average commute by 15–20 percent, lower the disease burden by 8–15 percent, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10–15 percent, among other positive outcomes. ƒ

Our snapshot of deployment in 50 cities around the world shows that wealthier urban areas are generally transforming faster, although many have low public awareness and usage of the applications they have implemented. Asian megacities, with their young populations of digital natives and big urban problems to solve, are achieving exceptionally high adoption. Measured against what is possible today, even the global leaders have more work to do in building out the technology base, rolling out the full range of possible applications, and boosting adoption and user satisfaction. Many cities have not yet implemented some of the applications that could have the biggest potential impact. Since technology never stands still, the bar will only get higher. ƒ

The public sector would be the natural owner of 70 percent of the applications we examined. But 60 percent of the initial investment required to implement the full range of applications could come from private actors. Furthermore, more than half of the initial investment made by the public sector could generate a positive return, whether in direct savings or opportunities to produce revenue. ƒ

The technologies analyzed in this report can help cities make moderate or significant progress toward 70 percent of the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet becoming a smart city is less effective as an economic development strategy for job creation. ƒ Smart cities may disrupt some industries even as they present substantial market opportunities. Customer needs will force a reevaluation of current products and services to meet higher expectations of quality, cost, and efficiency in everything from mobility to healthcare.

Smart city solutions will shift value across the landscape of cities and throughout value chains. Companies looking to enter smart city markets will need different skill sets, creative financing models, and a sharper focus on civic engagement.

Becoming a smart city is not a goal but a means to an end. The entire point is to respond more effectively and dynamically to the needs and desires of residents. Technology is simply a tool to optimize the infrastructure, resources, and spaces they share. Few cities want to lag behind, but it is critical not to get caught up in technology for its own sake. Smart cities need to focus on improving outcomes for residents and enlisting their active participation in shaping the places they call home….(More)”.

Balancing Act: Innovation vs. Privacy in the Age of Data Portability

Thursday, July 12, 2018 @ 2 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, NY 11201

RSVP here.

The ability of people to move or copy data about themselves from one service to another — data portability — has been hailed as a way of increasing competition and driving innovation. In many areas, such as through the Open Banking initiative in the United Kingdom, the practice of data portability is fully underway and propagating. The launch of GDPR in Europe has also elevated the issue among companies and individuals alike. But recent online security breaches and other experiences of personal data being transferred surreptitiously from private companies, (e.g., Cambridge Analytica’s appropriation of Facebook data), highlight how data portability can also undermine people’s privacy.

The GovLab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering is pleased to present Jeni Tennison, CEO of the Open Data Institute, for its next Ideas Lunch, where she will discuss how data portability has been regulated in the UK and Europe, and what governments, businesses and people need to do to strike the balance between its risks and benefits.

Jeni Tennison is the CEO of the Open Data Institute. She gained her PhD from the University of Nottingham then worked as an independent consultant, specialising in open data publishing and consumption, before joining the ODI in 2012. Jeni was awarded an OBE for services to technology and open data in the 2014 New Year Honours.

Before joining the ODI, Jeni was the technical architect and lead developer for She worked on the early linked data work on, including helping to engineer new standards for publishing statistics as linked data. She continues her work within the UK’s public sector as a member of the Open Standards Board.

Jeni also works on international web standards. She was appointed to serve on the W3C’s Technical Architecture Group from 2011 to 2015 and in 2014 she started to co-chair the W3C’s CSV on the Web Working Group. She also sits on the Advisory Boards for Open Contracting Partnership and the Data Transparency Lab.

Twitter handle: @JeniT

Research Shows Political Acumen, Not Just Analytical Skills, is Key to Evidence-Informed Policymaking

Press Release: “Results for Development (R4D) has released a new study unpacking how evidence translators play a key and somewhat surprising role in ensuring policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions. Translators — who can be evidence producers, policymakers, or intermediaries such as journalists, advocates and expert advisors — identify, filter, interpret, adapt, contextualize and communicate data and evidence for the purposes of policymaking.

The study, Translators’ Role in Evidence-Informed Policymaking, provides a better understanding of who translators are and how different factors influence translators’ ability to promote the use of evidence in policymaking. This research shows translation is an essential function and that, absent individuals or organizations taking up the translator role, evidence translation and evidence-informed policymaking often do not take place.

“We began this research assuming that translators’ technical skills and analytical prowess would prove to be among the most important factors in predicting when and how evidence made its way into public sector decision making,” Nathaniel Heller, executive vice president for integrated strategies at Results for Development, said. “Surprisingly, that turned out not to be the case, and other ‘soft’ skills play a far larger role in translators’ efficacy than we had imagined.”

Key findings include:

  • Translator credibility and reputation are crucial to the ability to gain access to policymakers and to promote the uptake of evidence.
  • Political savvy and stakeholder engagement are among the most critical skills for effective translators.
  • Conversely, analytical skills and the ability to adapt, transform and communicate evidence were identified as being less important stand-alone translator skills.
  • Evidence translation is most effective when initiated by those in power or when translators place those in power at the center of their efforts.

The study includes a definitional and theoretical framework as well as a set of research questions about key enabling and constraining factors that might affect evidence translators’ influence. It also focuses on two cases in Ghana and Argentina to validate and debunk some of the intellectual frameworks around policy translators that R4D and others in the field have already developed. The first case focuses on Ghana’s blue-ribbon commission formed by the country’s president in 2015, which was tasked with reviewing Ghana’s national health insurance scheme. The second case looks at Buenos Aires’ 2016 government-led review of the city’s right to information regime….(More)”.

Big Data and AI – A transformational shift for government: So, what next for research?

Irina Pencheva, Marc Esteve and Slava Jenkin Mikhaylov in Public Policy and Administration: “Big Data and artificial intelligence will have a profound transformational impact on governments around the world. Thus, it is important for scholars to provide a useful analysis on the topic to public managers and policymakers. This study offers an in-depth review of the Policy and Administration literature on the role of Big Data and advanced analytics in the public sector. It provides an overview of the key themes in the research field, namely the application and benefits of Big Data throughout the policy process, and challenges to its adoption and the resulting implications for the public sector. It is argued that research on the subject is still nascent and more should be done to ensure that the theory adds real value to practitioners. A critical assessment of the strengths and limitations of the existing literature is developed, and a future research agenda to address these gaps and enrich our understanding of the topic is proposed…(More)”.

Data Stewards: Data Leadership to Address 21st Century Challenges

Post by Stefaan Verhulst: “…Over the last two years, we have focused on the opportunities (and challenges) surrounding what we call “data collaboratives.” Data collaboratives are an emerging form of public-private partnership, in which information held by companies (or other entities) is shared with the public sector, civil society groups, research institutes and international organizations. …

For all its promise, the practice of data collaboratives remains ad hoc and limited. In part, this is a result of the lack of a well-defined, professionalized concept of data stewardship within corporations that has a mandate to explore ways to harness the potential of their data towards positive public ends.

Today, each attempt to establish a cross-sector partnership built on the analysis of private-sector data requires significant and time-consuming efforts, and businesses rarely have personnel tasked with undertaking such efforts and making relevant decisions.

As a consequence, the process of establishing data collaboratives and leveraging privately held data for evidence-based policy making and service delivery is onerous, generally one-off, not informed by best practices or any shared knowledge base, and prone to dissolution when the champions involved move on to other functions.

By establishing data stewardship as a corporate function, recognized and trusted within corporations as a valued responsibility, and by creating the methods and tools needed for responsible data-sharing, the practice of data collaboratives can become regularized, predictable, and de-risked….

To take stock of current practice and scope needs and opportunities we held a small yet in-depth kick-off event at the offices of the Cloudera Foundation in San Francisco on May 8th 2018 that was attended by representatives from Linkedin, Facebook, Uber, Mastercard, DigitalGlobe, Cognizant, Streetlight Data, the World Economic Forum, and Nethope — among others.

Four Key Take Aways

The discussions were varied and wide-ranging.

Several reflected on the risks involved — including the risks of NOT sharing or collaborating on privately held data that could improve people’s lives (and in some occasions save lives).

Others warned that the window of opportunity to increase the practice of data collaboratives may be closing — given new regulatory requirements and other barriers that may disincentivize corporations from engaging with third parties around their data.

Ultimately four key take aways emerged. These areas — at the nexus of opportunities and challenges — are worth considering further, because they help us better understand both the potential and limitations of data collaboratives….(More)”

Data Ethics Framework

Introduction by Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to the UK’s Data Ethics Framework: “Making better use of data offers huge benefits, in helping us provide the best possible services to the people we serve.

However, all new opportunities present new challenges. The pace of technology is changing so fast that we need to make sure we are constantly adapting our codes and standards. Those of us in the public sector need to lead the way.

As we set out to develop our National Data Strategy, getting the ethics right, particularly in the delivery of public services, is critical. To do this, it is essential that we agree collective standards and ethical frameworks.

Ethics and innovation are not mutually exclusive. Thinking carefully about how we use our data can help us be better at innovating when we use it.

Our new Data Ethics Framework sets out clear principles for how data should be used in the public sector. It will help us maximise the value of data whilst also setting the highest standards for transparency and accountability when building or buying new data technology.

We have come a long way since we published the first version of the Data Science Ethical Framework. This new version focuses on the need for technology, policy and operational specialists to work together, so we can make the most of expertise from across disciplines.

We want to work with others to develop transparent standards for using new technology in the public sector, promoting innovation in a safe and ethical way.

This framework will build the confidence in public sector data use needed to underpin a strong digital economy. I am looking forward to working with all of you to put it into practice…. (More)”

The Data Ethics Framework principles

1.Start with clear user need and public benefit

2.Be aware of relevant legislation and codes of practice

3.Use data that is proportionate to the user need

4.Understand the limitations of the data

5.Ensure robust practices and work within your skillset

6.Make your work transparent and be accountable

7.Embed data use responsibly

The Data Ethics Workbook

Digital Government Review of Colombia

OECD Report: “This review analyses the shift from e-government to digital government in Colombia. It looks at the governance framework for digital government, the use of digital platforms and open data to engage and collaborate with citizens, conditions for a data-driven public sector, and policy coherence in a context of significant regional disparities. It provides concrete policy recommendations on how digital technologies and data can be harnessed for citizen-driven policy making and public service delivery…(More)”.

Is ‘Innovocracy’ Hurting the Public Sector?

Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene at Governing: “Tom Shack has an unusual background for his job. Most state comptrollers have worked exclusively in finance and accounting. Before becoming comptroller of Massachusetts in 2015, Shack went to law school, taught college courses in entrepreneurship, and became an assistant district attorney.

When Shack took over the comptroller’s office, which has administrative and audit oversight over every state government agency, he quickly recognized an issue that he’s been trying to address ever since.

“One of the things I noticed right away, when working for government, is that there’s complete risk-aversion,” he says. “You have to be able to manage risk and avoid it when necessary.”

That tendency, he says, holds back innovation and progress. He and his staff have even made up a word for the phenomenon: “innovocracy, which in our vernacular means that though the government has come up with great innovative ideas, it then imposes a bureaucratic framework, thus crushing any entrepreneurial spirit associated with the idea.”

Take technology. Shack is frustrated by the typical approach to investing in new government IT….(More)”.