Research Links (w24/16)


  • Making All Voices Count this week reported on their recent Learning Event, in a document that collects some useful schematics and tools for thinking about civic tech programming, and also captured some of the practitioner thinking about what it all means.

    A certain scepticism and sense of let-down has been expressed by some observers, but this may have more to do with the way civic technologies were described than their actual impacts on the ground.

    The report also includes some compelling thoughts on what “practitioners” want research to do (p42): get embedded in projects to contribute practically to the generation of useful info, and in-depth evaluations.

  • MAVC also released a couple of “Research Briefs” following up on the recent IDS bulletine article When Does the State Listen (rarely): one on Ghana (which argues that urgency surrounding policy moments can be a positive catalyst for collaboration with civil society [at least when interests and understanding of that urgency are aligned]) and one on Kenya (which argues that the explosion of Continue reading “Research Links (w24/16)”

Apples, oranges and open data

Open Knowledge International recently asked for feedback on survey questions for the 2016 Open Data Index. This is great, and has produced a modest but likely useful discussion to  improve Index processes for national research, as well as the resulting data. But regardless of how much effort goes into fine tuning the survey questions, there’s a fundamental problem underlying the idea of an international open data index. There’s a good argument to be made that you simply can’t compare the politics of #open across countries. Open Knowledge should think carefully about what this means when refining how they present the Index, and see what can be learned from the last 15 years of experience with international indices on human rights and governance. Continue reading “Apples, oranges and open data”

Research Links (w21-23/16)

jeez, long one. shouldn’t wait three weeks to put these up.

Papers / Findings

  • A lab experiment suggests that including participation mechanisms (particularly commenting) in design of regulatory schemes (agri-environmental in this case) can increase compliance (though this effect is short lived, and the authors suggest more participatory mechanisms might yield longer gains in compliance).
  • anti-discrimination algorithm: paper suggesting an algorithmic method for using big crime data to predict the results of “stop and frisk” tactics, and use them to combat police discrimination and corruption
  • Digital Advocacy: Study of Israeli NGOs and politicians provides evidence for a more nuanced understanding of digital advocacy (it’s not the tools that change the game, but individual NGOs’ relationships to digital tools directly impact thier advocacy impact).
    Continue reading “Research Links (w21-23/16)”

Quick Note: Using the Rhetoric of Civic Tech

There’s a recurrent obsession with self-naming and differentiation in international thinking  about how technology can facilitate some kind of betterness (nice overviews here and here).

Part of this is likely about fashion, funding and social prominence, but there’s also legitimate concerns about how our labels impact “the field”’s popular salience or ability to learn.

For me, the greatest annoyance has always been finding the right term when writing stuff, a label that’s inclusive (“open government” excludes private sector campaigns), precise (“tech for social good” isn’t) and concise (“technology for transparency and accountability initiatives” doesn’t roll of the tongue or keyboard, and the acronym, well, acronyms often make me want to cry). Continue reading “Quick Note: Using the Rhetoric of Civic Tech”

Can Millennials Save E-government?

Many analysts (including yours truly, in a book called “Government 2.0”) predicted that by 2016, digital government would already long be a reality. In practice, the “e-gov revolution” has been an exceedingly slow-moving one. Sure, technology has improved some processes, and scores of public services have moved online, but the public sector has hardly been transformed.

What initial e-gov efforts managed was to construct pretty storefronts—in the form of websites—as the entrance to government systems stubbornly built for the industrial age. Few fundamental changes altered the structures, systems and processes of government behind those websites.

That’s William D. Eggers* writing in Nextgov. He argues that the promise of e-gov is finally set to deliver due to market dynamics whereby the “consumers” of e-gov are now a bunch of millenials who are so accustomed to digital services that they won’t put up with crappy services from government (plus revolutions in govt, more tech savvy politicians, and the widespread adaption of agile approaches). Continue reading “Can Millennials Save E-government?”

What’s e-gov got to do with it?


Emily Shaw posted a great piece on the relevance of e-governance research for civic technology earlier this month. She argues that academic e-government research dwarfs the nearly non-existent academic interest in civic tech (as evidenced by 169,000 vs 185 hits on google scholar), and that civic technologists should care about research on e-government.

And in the civic tech world, we can certainly derive value from the wisdom of our e-government colleagues who’ve been working to understand what happens when government service meets the internet. To the extent that civic tech implementation requires at least an open mind—and better, an enthusiastic partnership—on the side of our government partners, it is best if we know where they’ve been coming from.

I think she’s absolutely right, but want to challenge a couple of the distinctions she makes, and look for more proactive ways that civic technologists might engage e-government learnings.   Continue reading “What’s e-gov got to do with it?”

Research Links (w20/16)

Papers / Findings