Tag Archives: data

Serving citizens best by collaborating with them

by Craig Thomler

Government runs on rules. Policies, processes and procedures designed to address every contingency and plan for every possible risk in order to provide equity, stability and certainty.

However, as experience has shown time and time again, we cannot predict the future.

While we continually attempt to plan ahead, largely these plans are based on extrapolating past trends and experiences.

This has served us well in times of relatively stable and slow-changing societies and provides enormous capability to mobilise and focus resources towards a few large and separate goals.

However it doesn’t work as effectively during rapidly changing conditions where there are a myriad of interlocking issues. The approach can also neglect large and important changes, which are often discontinuous and almost totally unpredictable.

History is littered with enormous societal, economic and cultural shifts brought on by unpredictable innovations; gunpowder, the printing press, steam-power, radio, television and, most recently, the internet.

Each of these – and other – innovations profoundly changed how societies operated, destroying industries and creating a stream of new inventions, professions and both political and cultural challenges in their wake.

In hindsight we can often see very clearly how these changes unfolded and they can appear historically as an evolutionary process. However when living just before or during these enormous shifts it is virtually impossible for most individuals or organisations to predict outcomes ten, five, two or even a single year ahead.

I believe we are living in this type of time right now. The invention of the internet, progress in nano and bio technologies and in alternative – hopefully sustainable – sources of energy is in the process of increasingly rapidly reshaping our world. At the same time we are facing the consequences of previous disruptive innovations – most notably climate change, fuelled by enormous levels of fossil fuel use over two hundred years and population growth, fuelled by improvements in food technology and medicine.

This becomes a time of enormous challenge for governments. How do we extrapolate trends, develop policies, acknowledge and address risks which didn’t exist a few years ago?

How do we continue to serve the public appropriately when the time required to plan, develop and implement national infrastructure is greater than the effective lifespan of that infrastructure?

How do we let go of faltering systems to embrace new ways of developing and implementing policy without losing continuity of governance?

And how long can we continue to govern incrementally when living in an exponential world?

We’re in a place where there are many more questions than answers. Issues are ever more complex and multi-faceted and can no longer be in silos. Our organisations need to be more flexible and adaptive in response to an increasingly assertive community who often have better tools and information than the government departments servicing them.

Fortunately the disruptive technologies we are developing also allow us to approach many of these challenges collectively on a national and international scale.

We have the means to mobilise the brainpower of a nation – or many nations – using the internet and simple crowdsourcing tools.

We’ve already seen communities emerge online where companies ask their insolvable questions publicly, allowing scientists, academics and the general public to discuss and provide suggestions.

We’ve also seen governments willing to ask questions of their constituents, rather than rely on traditional stakeholders, academics and bureaucrats to have all the answers.

I hope over the coming years we see Australian governments embrace serendipity rather than attempt unsuccessfully to chain it. I hope we see bureaucrats and citizens working collaboratively to address major issues, working in adaptive and flexible configurations rather than rigid silos, stepping beyond ‘consultation’ towards participatory policy development and evolution.

This will require courage on the part of elected officials and senior public servants alike. It will require different types of leadership and thinking, better communications and a broader focus on connecting people over managing fixed resources.

Can we achieve this step from where we are today?

I’m optimistic that we can, but it will take significant work and pain to achieve.

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The Scary Economics of Crowdsourcing

Sourced with compliments from: http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/connectedweb/2009/11/the_scary_economics_of_crowdso.php

One of the emerging phenomena associated with Web 2.0 — and one of the themes of the Enterprise 2.0 conference, which I’m here in San Francisco to attend today and tomorrow — is the notion of ‘crowdsourcing’. This is the use of the Web to find people to complete work projects through an open competitive auction process. Dion Hinchcliffe had a long post on its relevance to enterprise here on ebizQ a few weeks ago and as I read through and explored some of the links I started to find it all rather scary:

“… idea generation, design work, execution of business processes, testing services, and even customer support. All of these can now be connected, often programmatically, directly to a company’s supply chain … most companies have ready access to crowdsourcing across a wide set of functional areas, to the extent that it’s often the easiest thing for them to try before going the more expensive outsourcing route.”

What I found scary was the massive commoditization and deflation of costs that these crowdsourcing options were enabling. It’s now possible to go out and find brilliant designers working from Asia who will deliver high-quality creative work for a fraction of the price you’d pay your local design shop. Electronics manufacturers and games developers can tap the skills of teenagers as crowdsourced part-time helpdesk advisers. The systems are now sophisticated enough to make sure everyone gets paid a market rate for the work they put in, but those market rates are lowered by the global and fragmented scale of competition, in which anyone with the skills and available time can offer their services.

Wired magazine recently carried an article about a company that is harnessing crowdsourcing with automation and intelligent algorithms to build a multi-million dollar business. The Answer Factory: Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell has some very scary passages, such as:

“That’s not to say there isn’t any room for humans in Demand’s process. They just aren’t worth very much … It’s the online equivalent of day laborers waiting in front of Home Depot … Nearly every freelancer scrambles to load their assignment queue with titles they can produce quickly and with the least amount of effort — because pay for individual stories is so lousy, only a high-speed, high-volume approach will work. The average writer earns $15 per article for pieces that top out at a few hundred words, and the average filmmaker about $20 per clip, paid weekly via PayPal.”

If this is the future of work, it’s going to ruin quite a few people’s careers, even while it makes others. I don’t think it’s stoppable, and it’s going to be a scary ride.

The Power of the Human Jumbotron: A Lesson In Crowdsourcing

Sourced with compliments from http://sparxoo.com/2009/10/28/the-power-of-the-human-jumbotron-a-lesson-in-crowdsourcing/

When has the crowd been more exciting than the game? No, it’s not the wave, nor is it the “war paint” covering bare-chested men. It’s crowdsourcing: when everyone works collectively towards a single objective. Below there is a video of a soccer game where the power of the crowd created more compelling entertainment than the game itself:

Crowdsourcing has never been more apparent and pervasive than in the online world. Wikipedia is often the most cited example of crowdsourcing–as it has met extreme success since its inception in 2001. It has tapped into the collective knowledge of the world to create a comprehensive and awe-inspiring assortment of content.

To understand how more brands can incorporate crowdsourcing into their business model consider the following key characteristics that lead to successful crowdsourcing initiatives:

Set an objective — Before throwing in tons of money and time in to your project, what are you trying to create; who is going to get you there; and who is going to benefit? In Wikipedia’s case: create an online encyclopedia; those experts specialized in specific areas of study; all those with web access seeking more information knowledge in one site.

Rally the troops — When you tell 100 people you want to create a human jumbotron, they can get excited about it because 1) it’s unique and 2) it’s tangible. With two words, you can inspire and lay out a clearly defined objective.

Plan — A human jumbotron does not get up and running overnight. It takes time, training and planning to make a vision a reality. Consider Wikipedia, they have a solid foundation for which individuals can build an rich resource for information.

Work as a team — The human jumbotron exemplifies how no one person is of greater value than another. It is through the collective efforts of everyone that the human jumbotron was successful. If even one person was of greater value, it would dissolve the final outcome.

Have a pay-off — Sellaband is an example of a crowdsourcing website that has a financial pay-off for participants. Fans give money to their favorite bands so they can cut a record. Once the record is released, fans can even share a portion of the profits if the album is successful.

Leveraging the power of the crowds, even if it’s only to fact-check or spark a discussion on your blog, can be invaluable for your brand. Allowing users to participate in something greater than themselves is tremendously rewarding and the nature of the web as a connector and facilitator has made collaboration and crowdsourcing more possible than ever before.

Crowdsourcing and Regression Analysis of Polls; Can We Help Prove That Oklahomans Are Not That Dumb?

Sourced with compliments from

http://www.examiner.com/x-24816-Denver-New-Technology-Examiner~y2009m9d27-Crowdsourcing-and-Regression-Analysis-of-Polls-Can-We-Help-Prove-That-Oklahomans-Are-Not-That-Dumb

One of the great things about the new high-tech world we live in is that serious nerds can be celebrated and given a chance to shine. For my money, the best source of election information from last year was not a pundit, or a candidate, but a baseball stats geek who started doing some excellent technical and statistical analysis of polling data. That site is fivethirtyeight.com, and the guy is Nate Silver.