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

Roundup: e-gov is good for anti-corruption and less rigorous research is best for policy



E-government helps fight corruption. Or at least there’s a correlation between the maturity of e-government and service delivery, and the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures across countries, as shown in statistical analysis of four global data sets (N=102). Notably, the effect of e-government maturity on corruption control was shown to be significantly moderated by national cultures and political contexts. “While convincing evidence that affluent democracies can control corruption more effectively than other countries is presented, an examination of cultural moderation finds that national cultures characterized as having unequal power distribution and uncertainty avoidance have a decreased anti-corruption effect of e-government.” I.e.: e-government is not sufficient. Yup. Would have loved to see tests for whether e-gov maturity is actually a mediating variable here.

In other govtech news, US police departments are using social media interactively, and strict rules and management systems for government registries can have exclusionary effects, that human bureaucracy would otherwise have avoided, as shown by this case study work conducted in a Dutch municipality.

Social media and rumours: This study of 2012 hate rumors in Bangalore suggest that rumours are more believable on some social media than on others (as manifest through platform characteristics of “synchronicity and richness of expression”).

Useful Research

Over a decade of evidence-based campaigning in the Guatemalan health sector finds that the most rigorous research isn’t the most effective in getting policy-makers to respond. “…methods that involve communities in generating and presenting evidence, and that facilitate collective action in the process, are far more influential.” The project now uses a mix of surveys, complaint platforms, ethnographies and multi-media documentation. The report is summarized here by @fp2p.

This 13 bullet “benchmarking framework” for open data portal usability is based on a literature review of research on stakeholders’ ability to discover, access, and reuse information. (SciHub)

Case studies

EU has a new report out documenting how tech facilitates youth political participation, including and “inventory of 50 good practices and 12 case studies reflecting the diversity of youth work from across the EU.”

From oral traditions to digital networks, the history of tech and social associations in Iran.

Lessons from Copenhagen’s City Data Exchange (“creating a market place for  the exchange of data between public and private organizations”)

Community & Curation

Dan Rogger gives a nice overview of systems thinking in governance research.

The GovLab has curated Selected Readings on Blockchain Technologies and the Governance of Extractives

Resources and Data (OBEU) is a “Linked Data -based platform supporting the entire open data life-cycle of budget and spending datasets: from data creation to publishing and exploration.”

The Bank has released the 2018 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals, “an all-new visual guide to data and development”

In the Methodological Weeds

Pradeep Mutalik goes deeeeeeeep into the weeds on distinguishing correlation from causation, with math, and even finishes with some puzzles to help readers understand how hard it is to measure, and why.

Univ Michigan’s Institute for Social Research proposes a “passport”-based framework for handling responsible data issues related to administrative data. From the execsum:

Three main developments are recommended. First, language harmonization: establishing a common set of terms and definitions – that will evolve over time through collaboration within the research community – will allow different repositories to understand and integrate shared standards and technologies into their own processes. Second: develop a researcher passport, a durable and transferable digital identifier  issued by a central, community -recognized data steward. This passport will capture researcher attributes that emerged as common elements of user access requirements across repositories, including training, and those  attributes (e.g., academic degrees, institutional affiliation, citizenship status, and country of residence). Third: data custodians issue visas that  grant a passport holder access to particular datasets for a particular project  for a specific period of time. Like stamps This history is  integrated into the researcher’s credential, establishing the  researcher’s reputation as a trusted data steward.

Communicating results

This SSIR article makes a strong case against measuring impact, and encourages organizations to instead adopt smart processes for data collection with which to make actual decisions. Yes yes yes yes yes.

A new TAI report authored by @jedmiller diagnoses storytelling in the T/A field and makes recommendations for doing it better (designate staff, use templates, and distinguish b/w different kinds storytelling, among others).

The LSE Impact Blog suggests that social media might not be the best place to share your research results (it’s just easy and shiny), while this IJOC article critiques research on tech and political communication, noting that it has been to focused on weird countries, and should take a look at sub-saharan Africa.

Miscellanea and Absurdum

Uhoh. Response rates to surveys are plummeting all across the rich world. Nevertheless, a new survey from Open The Government shows that despite record low trust, US voters still believe that accountable government is possible.

This Int Journal of Communication article has content analysis on protest sign messages at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, this blogpost offers a framework for evaluating whether blockchain projects are hype or substance, and Uganda imposes social media tax ‘to stop gossip’ (BBC).

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