Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech

Research Links w 2-17


Papers & Findings

A large scale citizen survey conducted in 36 Chinese cities found strong correlation between government transparency and citizen perceptions of public service equity. Perceptions of trust are equally important in open data initiatives, but a forthcoming article in Sociology argues that “open government initiatives routinely prize visibility over intelligibility and ignore the communicative basis of trust.” Trust also plays a significant role in Global Innovation Exchange’s sweeping report on the use of ICTs in fighting Ebola, including 9 case studies, and based on 130 interviews. The report’s insights on the “fog of information” are particularly compelling.

OECD research suggests that even when they have equal access to internet, a digital divide persists among teens in different countries, due to the different ways they use that internet (“Equal access does imply equal opportunities”). A reading of the 2016 Arab Development Report questions whether this dynamic, when coupled with repressive national policy and economic stagnation, could induce a second arab spring. The report notes the deterioration of many socio-economic indicators for arab youth, and commentary notes that “buildup of these issues, coupled with violent state response, as the catalyst not only larger mobilizations, but also more violent ones.”

Meanwhile, new quant research on the impact of human rights advocacy (+400 NGOs interacting with 130 countries from 1992–2004) finds that conditions for international NGO shaming to have impact— must be combined with pressure from national NGOs and criticism from third party states/individuals. And a Brookings report suggests despite conditionality of international funding, good governance won’t help countries access national financing (at least not in sub-saharan africa and in the context of the SDGs…)

Community & Commentary

2016 Open Data Inventory (ODIN) is out, with Sweden on top, and honorable mentions for Lithuania and Mexico. Average scores for the 122 countries covered rose slightly over previous reports, which the degree of coverage fell. The Open Government Partnership has meanwhile released piles of open gov stuffs, including an update to their database on open gov action plan commitments and consultations and also released a toolbox, with “more than 1200 tools, 180 use cases and 500 organizations, crowdsourced by the international community since April 2016.”

Non-profit with balls has released an method for assessing and comparing the ridiculous hoops and hurdles of grantmaking. You could argue that it’s more entertaining than useful, but that might just be useful too.

Uber has set up a new website to share ride hailing data, anonymized and to be populated “in the weeks ahead.”@mstem critiques the initiative for poor interaction with municipal transit data.

In the Methodological Weeds

Abt Associates ran an RCT evaluation of an interactive sms platform for reproductive health implemented in Kenya. The description they blogged highlights how sampling was built into use of the platform, and how they managed to get significant responses from a 6 question SMS survey, much better than typical web surveys (whoa). They also also describe positive results for using low value airtime incentives to increase response.

Academic Opps

Data Science Pop-up for quantitative researchers (San Fransisco, 22 Feb)

Data & Society is holding a workshop on Propaganda and Media Manipulation (May 19 in NYC, deadline to register is Feb 15).

Calls for Papers

Not so academic: creative researcher at the Office of Creative Research. (uber-multi-disciplinarity in NYC)

Miscellanea & Absurdum

Watch two AI bots have a conversation about god. Amazing. (Spoiler, both Vladimir and Estragon are briefly apotheosised before forgetting who they are and everything else).

Worse: Forced to watch child porn for their job, Microsoft employees developed PTSD, they say. (headline from McClatchy on social media’s hidden victims)

A Quartz summary of research on the gender pay gap highlights a “general dynamic—that gay men suffer a pay gap while lesbians receive a pay premium.”

Some Peso Traders Want Mexico to Buy Twitter and Shut It Down (headline from Bloomberg)


Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech