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

Roundup: gateways to mobilization online, declines and measures of free expression, accountability case studies, and the dead web.



Mobilization and reefer madness
Analysis of Pew survey data identifies “easy political activities on social media” that lead  to more demanding and active political engagement (at least for the predisposed). It’s like gateway drugs. Reefer madness for community mobilization! Citizens who feel a sense of ownership in government are more likely to engage and invest in accountability mechanisms, suggests experimental evidence from Uganda and Ghana. Experiments and data analysis suggest that winner-take-all models for crowdsourcing competitions generate better ideas in the first instance, but can have negative effects on repeat participation, suggesting that “fun” is important.

Democracy and expression, whoops.
A V-Dem working paper surveys five Latin American countries and suggests that more autocratic governments have less sophisticated mechanisms of internet control and censorship. Meanwhile, two centuries of data suggests that the most common cause of democratization might be autocratic rulers making a mistake.
In other news, things are looking bad for freedom of expression. This in a new metric from Article19 (my critique here), a collection of essays documenting the democratic threat posed by media capture,and the  ICFJ’s survey of tech in newsrooms (n> 2,700,12 languages, 130 countries) finds that journos aren’t ready for the digital revolution. Feeling overwhelmed?, take some comfort in MSI’s excellent documentation best practices for journalist safety in seven countries.

What we know about accountability
Open Knowledge commissioned research on how open data rankings are motivating governments (TL;DR: by being simple to talk about, see my summary and more general lit review). Development Pathways conducted a literature review of evidence on social accountability mechanisms in social protection programs, and found limited evidence, but implications that despite common practice in collecting citizen grievances, government response seems to be the weak link. Yep.
Meanwhile, a systematic review of research on participatory budgeting and health outcomes found that ethnographic case studies dominate, and that “robust methods … are scarce, particularly beyond Brazil.” A Research Briefing from MAVC (based on discussions between seven practitioners at a workshop) explores how participatory budgeting is being adopted in ” low- and middle-income countries where international donors are active.” Compared with well known modalities, it suggests that PB is increasingly: adopted at the local level in fragile governance contexts,  utilizing consensus-based decision-making models, and less likely to explicitly promote social justice.

Corruption numbers:
NRI researchers combed through 100 instances of corruption in natural resource procurement from 49 countries to identify 12 common red flags that might signal corruption. A meta-analytic review of 62 studies confirms that public reporting improves the quality of health care.

Case studies


GovEx Launches First International Open Data Standards Directory (Govt Technology)


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