research links w25 – 17

Findings

From the duh desk: 
A white paper from Cornell Law reviews e-government and rulemaking processes in the US, to find that an institutional “culture of risk adverseness” is much more obstructive to e-participation than is a lack of technological solutions.

What difference does it make?:
An article in Telecommunications Policy documents how mobiles have dramatically reshaped the political communication ecology in Ghana and deepened civic engagement, without affecting “the fundamental structures of political power and the levers of control.” Things look slightly better in a series of research briefs on open data and OGP processes produced by @ITforChange and @AllVoicesCount. The briefs describe incremental progress in all three countries, with significant reservations. Despite increasingly progressive open data practice and policy in the Philippines, for example, “the benefits to individual democratic citizenship are far more conclusive than the benefits to democracy as a whole.” Similarly, the increasingly participatory and inclusive nature of Uruguay’s OGP action plans are described as “gradually modifying” governance processes, through increased interaction and deliberation (though the research brief provides neither a narrative nor a theory to explain how this might be happening). Most optimistically, the brief on inclusive municipal technologies in Spain describes not only specific instances of “engaged and transformative citizenship,” but a proliferation of knowledge sharing and participatory strategies across the country. Here too however, details are light.

In other news, sorry, democracy does not cause innovationContinue reading “research links w25 – 17”

research links w 23-24 / 17

Findings

Research on nearly 3 decades of democratic innovation and e-participation in Latin America has some interesting findings (Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru). According to an Open Democracy blogpost (the actual project’s website is down): civil society participation programming uses tech more often than not, smaller countries are less prolific than large countries in terms of tech-driven innovations, and tech driven innovations are just as common at the national level as they are at the sub-national level. Though digital innovations are widespread, they only rarely facilitate decision-making (30%)  or are formalized in legislation or policy (less than 50%).

University of Maryland research on anti-Trump protests finds digital media commonalities among an exceptionally diverse group, suggesting something that approximates a “movement.”

A review of research on government social media use finds that it is generally quantitative, ignoring both users and impacts, while a library study in the UK suggests that Open Data makes it hard to archive well in the NHS, and a study of service delivery in Kenya found that it was improved by decentralization, but that the mediating effects of e-government initiatives were insignificant (275 respondents, 8 county govts).

Continue reading “research links w 23-24 / 17”

New evidence on the domestic policy influence of global performance assessments

Using a multilevel linear model to account for the hierarchical structure of our survey data, we find evidence that performance assessments yield greater policy influence when they make an explicit comparison of government performance across countries and allow assessed governments to participate in the assessment process. This finding is robust to a variety of tests, including country-fixed and respondent-fixed effects.

Whoa. That’s from a new AIDDATA working paper on global performance assessments (international measures of how well countries do at combating corruption, ensuing fair elections, opening data, or what have you).

Those findings aren’t shocking (that ranking countries can motivate govt actors in crude ways has become almost as much a platitude as the idea that participatory research enhances uptake), but their exciting because they are so clearly and directly relevant to the design of comparative assessments, and this study “feels” robust enough to carry some weight in conversations with the people who manage the  budgets and optics of such projects. Based on econometric analysis of data from the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey (n= 3,400 gov officials in 123 low and middle-income countries) and 103 different GPAs, the use of elite survey data is a smart way to get around the problems of measuring influence by policy outcome.

The treatment of GPA characteristics is a bit crude though. 8 independent variables are identified at the GPA level (bi-/multilateral, whether govt’s are involved, whether data is public, etc), but none of these address policy areas or types of norms. Dan Honig’s research has suggested how important this can be for mobilizing the soft power of GPAs, and my own work on OGP suggests that it’s critical.

research links w 22 – 17

Findings

An assessment of 100 Indian smart city initiatives supports previous findings regarding the lack of correlation between digital literacy, infrastructure citizen and participation in municipal e-government. A comparison of national log data with select case studies further suggests that national centralization of e-government services may have a negative consequence on citizen engagement, and high uptake rates in mid-sized cities are used to articulate a “theory of civic intimacy at play between citizens and governments and its relation to the scale of urban spread.”

Continue reading “research links w 22 – 17”

Measuring women’s empowerment: pushing composite indicator frameworks on projects?

While the framework remains unchanged, the characteristics and indicators that make up the index change from context to context, aiming to capture the characteristics of an ‘empowered woman’ in the socio-economic context of analysis. The index provides a concise, but comprehensive, measure of women’s empowerment, while also allowing breakdown of the analysis by level of change or the individual indicator.

That’s a description from the launch of Oxfam’s new ‘How To’ Guide to Measuring Women’s Empowerment. This is essentially a manageable algorithm, into which program staff can plug their data into in order to receive a single number representing a complex phenomenon. And while that makes a certain amount of principled sense (we’re all big fans of bespoke measurement approaches), it raises some questions too.

Continue reading “Measuring women’s empowerment: pushing composite indicator frameworks on projects?”