Workshop Open Government Data at UNU Institute, Macau

The Centre for E-Governance participated in a workshop in Macau, which was hosted by the UNU (Institute for Computing and Society). The goal of the workshop was to exchange knowledge and ideas on Open Government Data (OGD), but also on aspects of the e-society and ICT for democratic or social development. The Centre for E-Governance presented current projetcs in the area of OGD and Smart Cities. City University Hong Kong gave insights into study results in the area of civic online engagement. UNU presented a study on the usage of OGD by several cases in different international contexts.

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Participating institutions

  • UNU-Institute for Computing and Society, Macau
  • Center for E-Governance of Danube University Krems, Austria
  • City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Digital Asia Hub, Hong Kong

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The data driven policy cycle

In a first input by Peter Parycek, the data driven policy cycle was presented. Crucial in this cycle is the integratin of people and their input, which is achieved by the data they provide. Parycek also gave some insight into the Austrian Data landscape. Austria established central databases for all levels of administration and is special with its solution of protecting personal information as well as its data road map as a basis for the data market in Austria. This future project will include data portals, technology providers and intermediaries to create the infrstructure and analytical tools.  However, data shall be used for analysis if it respects privacy and security regulations. Governments also often lack the information of their own data. Data maps can help and provide information on what data can be used for further analysis. Besides government data, there is a lot of external data including open, second and third party data. However, it was also pointed out that open data has to be seen in the specific context, as sometimes data that could really make a difference is not provided. Furthermore, the GovLabAustria is meant to be an innovation network that brings together science, administration, business and civil society, and hopefully lead to new solutions, f.i. in the are of automated decision making or computation of legislation.

Cities are becoming smarter

Malgorzata Goraczek presented the Smartgov project of the Centre for E-Governance, which deals with the questions how cities in Europe can become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, specifically in the are of mobility. For trhis project, data is used for analytical purposes next to so called fuzzy cognitive maps, which help people and decision makers to better understand the interrelation of entitites and how changing some aspects can influence the bigger picture.

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Selected exposure in social media – Does participation lead to a stronger echo chamber?

Marko Skoric from the Department of Media and Communciation at City University Hong Kong presented some intriguing results in the area of civic online engagement and social media. Summing up the results of a cross-sectional quantitative study and some tendencies in the field, social media are ego-centric networks, however humans can only deal with a limited number of meaningful relations (f.i. Dunbar’s number, which is at 150. However, there is also a current trend of people looking for smaller networks and way to communicate. Reserach also has found out that while social media increases the chances for expressing opinions, people that are more politically active seem to be more likely to shield themselves from conflicting or different opinions and are more likely to unfriend people in these networks as well. Thus, doe epression mainly affects the expresser (Pingee 2007), and are you more likely to affect yourself than other? Is the Facebook-type social media more or less gone? The results lead to an interesting discussion, and questions like whether we should put more pressure on providers arose.

Social movements and their usage of Open Government Data

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Michael Best from UNU presented work based on the dissertation work of student A. Meng, who looked at how social movements and civil societies use open data to promote their agenda and to target elite members of society. In the Dominican Republic, the technoctratic movement of making better use of OGD can be seen as an attack on current governments. OGD is, however, also used under the neoliberal argument of making governments more efficient and effective, so there are different  contexts, and the same argument can also be taken on by non-neoliberal movements. In Chile, OGD was not used as a strategy in movements towards increasing government attentions in the student movement. Here, one relied on demonstrations and similar activist tactics. In Hong Kong, people used OGD and traditional activism side by side, but rallies and occupation were the main means to put pressure on governments. OGD was mainly used for mobilisation. Concluding, whether OGD has an effect on marginalised communities and whether it can be helpful in reaching their goals depends on the context. Data intermediaries are intermediating between OGD and the government, but not between OGD and the marginalised groups. The challenge of understanding and accessing data can be supported by visualizations and similar methods. But design can only help within a certain range and cannot diminish inequality. It seems that, based on these case studies, OGD cannot really close the gap between the government and marginalised groups. This power gap could only be closed by making the data “hot” (hot in the sense of supporting critical thinking and making it useful). In this sense, it is important to not only visualise the data but also to visualise how the data is being perceived.

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Additionally, discussions were held about e-governmetn services and their implementation in differnet countries, the implementation of cross-border projects, electronic identification, automatized decision making and smartphone usage by marginalised groups. With view to the developing countries, innovation in e-government might not per se lead to benefits for the whole society, and can also increase existing social or digital gaps.

We were happy to be able to participate in a broad and critical exchange on different aspects of ICT and social challenges. Thank you once more to all participants and our hosts!

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