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GovLab Blog Smarter Governance

The Wisdom of Crowds in Opening Government

In response to the widespread utopianism regarding the ability of crowdsourcing to provide solutions to difficult problems in both the public and private spheres, Maggie Koerth-Baker warns in this week’s New York Times Magazine that treating crowds, real or virtual, like sentient beings is misguided. With Wikipedia’s success and inescapability playing a large role, Koerth-Baker notes that, “over the last decade, we’ve come to think of virtual crowds as sources of wisdom that can’t be found in individuals.” Similarly, in the non-digital world, crowds are often treated as singular entities that, if mishandled or left to their own devices, are prone to irrationality and panic. Beyond questions of how technological mediation could possibly shift the character of a crowd from one defined by thoughtlessness and irresponsibility to one of intelligence and innovation, the underlying conceit, that crowds are entities, rather than groups of individual people, is “deeply flawed.” 

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Featured Examples of the Power of Open Data

A selection of the emerging coverage of various case studies on how open data is being used to create new business opportunities, increase government transparency or change the way drugs are developed:

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Opening Russia

Below we’ve copied a statement made by Prime Minister Medvedev at the Russian Government meeting on November 29th. He describes open government as a priority and he reasserts a commitment to join Open Government Partnership. The original Russian transcript is available here.

“Now, let’s talk about the quality of public administration and improving the efficiency of public service. We should focus on introducing transparency standards for government agencies to include public participation in drafting government documents, openness and availability of information for discussion, the ability of citizens to share their suggestions and actually take part in government decision-making. In late October, the State Duma passed in the first reading a draft law prepared by the Government which provides for the participation of representatives of public councils at ministries and departments in the work of contest and evaluation committees. Thus, civil society will get additional leverage on government human resources. We assume that this document will be adopted and come into force as early as next year. A performance assessment system for regional leaders has been introduced recently, which takes into account demographic, economic and social factors and the friendliness of the business environment. I have recently approved two lists of specific performance indicators. Importantly, the final assessment should reflect public opinion as well. The most successful regions will receive grants from the federal budget.