GovLab Blog

50th Anniversary of "I Have A Dream" (and the Twittersphere)

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The event, attended by over 250,000 people turned out to be a defining moment for the Civil Rights Movement. Fifty years later, the country has made great strides towards equality, but a lot remains to be done not just in terms of equality, but also in a wide range of social issues. While some of the issues of today are the same as the issues fifty years ago, new technologies and new ideas have quickly empowered us to react to these struggles in ways where we don’t yet fully understand its effect. The widespread adoption of the internet and social media have by no means replaced traditional marches like Dr. King’s, but rather it has augmented the form in which people participate in social movements. Going forward, it’s important to ask what is the effect of these new forms of activism. Will traditional marches like the one fifty years ago ever be replaced? Will online forms of protest ever match the effects of, for example, the 60’s anti-war movement? What would Dr. King make of the hundreds of thousands of people who tweet for a cause?
To commemorate the “I Have a Dream” speech and the August 28th March, we have created a visual which displays tweets about the 5oth anniversary. Click on the image below to see it.


GovLab Blog

RIP Red Burns

Sadly, Red Burns, founder of one our partner organizations -the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University passed away on August 23. As a tribute, numerous stories about Red’s life and inspirational impact are shared here.
GovLab Research Fellow Luis Daniel (ITP 2013) shared the following list that Red would present on the first day of her Applications to the incoming ITP class. (Transcribed by Chris Selleck, posted to the ITP Alumni list by Michael Colombo)

What I want you to know:
That there is a difference between the mundane and the inspired.
That the biggest danger is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge
That any human organization must inevitably juggle internal contradictions – the imperatives of efficiency and the countervailing human trade-offs
That the inherent preferences in organizations are efficiency, clarity, certainty, and perfection.
That human beings are ambiguous, uncertain, and imperfect.
That how you balance and integrate these contradictory characteristics is difficult
That imagination, not calculation, is the “difference” that makes the difference
That there is constant juggling between the inherent contradictions of a management imperative of efficiency and the human reality of ambiguity and uncertainty
That you are a new kind of professional – comfortable with analytical and creative modes of learning
That there is a knowledge shift from static knowledge to a dynamic searching paradigm
That creativity is not the game preserve of artists, but an intrinsic feature of all human activity
That in any creative endeavor you will be discomfited and that is part of learning
That there is a difference between long term success and short term flash
That there is a complex connection between social and technological trends. It is virtually impossible to unravel except by hindsight.
That you ask yourself what you want and then you work backwards.
In order to problem solve and observe, you ought to know how to: analyze, probe, question, hypothesize, synthesize, select, measure, communicate, imagine, initiate, reason, create
That organizations are really systems of cooperative activities and their coordination requires something intangible and personal that is largely a matter of relationships
What I hope for you:
That you combine that edgy mixture of self-confidence and doubt
That you have enough self-confidence to try new things
That you have enough self doubt to question
That you think of technology as a verb- not a noun
It is subtle but important difference
That you remember the issues are usually not technical
That you create opportunities to improvise.
That you provoke it. That you expect it.
That you make visible what, without you, might never have been seen
That you communicate emotion
That you create images that might take a writer ten pages to write
That you observe, imagine and create
That you look for the question, not the solution
That you are not seduced by speed and power
That you don’t see the world as a market, but rather a place that people live in – you are designing for people – not machines
That you have a stake in magic and mystery and art
That sometimes we fall back on Rousseau and separate mind from body
That you understand the value of pictures, words, and critical thinking
That poetry drives you, not hardware
That you are willing to risk, make mistakes, and learn from failure
That you develop a practice founded in critical reflection
That you build a bridge between theory and practice
That you embrace the unexpected
That you value serendipity
That you reinvent and re-imagine
That you listen. That you ask questions.That you speculate and experiment
That you play. That you are spontaneous.That you collaborate.
That you welcome students form other parts of the world and understand we don’t live in a monolithic world
That each day is magic for you
That you turn your thinking upside down
That you make whole pieces out of disparate parts
That you find what makes the difference
That your curiosity knows no bounds
That you understand what looks easy is hard
That you imagine and re-imagine
That you develop a moral compass
That you welcome loners, cellists, and poets
That you are flexible. That you are open.
That you can laugh at yourself. That you are kind.
That you consider why natural phenomena seduce us
That you engage and have a wonderful time
That this will be 2 years for you to expand- take advantage of it
Appolinaire said: – Come to the edge, -It’s too high, – Come to the edge, – We might fall, – Come to the Edge, – And he pushed them and they flew
GovLab Blog GovLab Index

The GovLab Index: The Data Universe

The GovLab Index: The Data Universe

Please find below the next installment in The GovLab Index series, brought to you by GovLab Research and inspired by Harper’s Index. The GovLab Index: The Data Universe, highlights global trends in Big Data and the creation of and sharing of digital information. Previous installments included The Networked PublicParticipation and Civic Engagement, and Trust in Institutions.
Click here to contribute to the new GovLab Index by suggesting additional stats and numerical summaries!

  • How much data exists in the digital universe as of 2012: 2.7 zetabytes*
  • Increase in the quantity of Internet data from 2005 to 2012: +1,696%
  • Percent of the world’s data created in the last two years: 90
  • Number of exabytes (=1 billion gigabytes) created every day in 2012: 2.5; that number doubles every month
  • Percent of the digital universe in 2005 created by the U.S. and western Europe vs. emerging markets: 48 vs. 20
  • Percent of the digital universe in 2012 created by emerging markets: 36
  • Percent of the digital universe in 2020 predicted to be created by China alone: 21
  • How much information in the digital universe is created and consumed by consumers (video, social media, photos, etc.) in 2012: 68%
  • Percent of which enterprises have liability or responsibility for (copyright, privacy, compliance with regulations, etc.): 80
  • Amount included in the Obama Administration’s 2-12 Big Data initiative: over $200 million
  • Amount the Department of Defense is investing annually on Big Data projects as of 2012: over $250 million
  • Data created per day in 2012: 2.5 quintillion bytes
  • How many terabytes* of data collected by the U.S. Library of Congress as of April 2011: 235
  • How many terabytes of data collected by Walmart per hour as of 2012: 2,560, or 2.5 petabytes*
  • Projected growth in global data generated per year, as of 2011: 40%
  • Number of IT jobs created globally by 2015 to support big data: 4.4 million (1.9 million in the U.S.)
  • Potential shortage of data scientists in the U.S. alone predicted for 2018: 140,000-190,000, in addition to 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions
  • Time needed to sequence the complete human genome (analyzing 3 billion base pairs) in 2003: ten years
  • Time needed in 2013: one week
  • The world’s annual effective capacity to exchange information through telecommunication networks in 1986, 2007, and (predicted) 2013: 281 petabytes, 65 exabytes, 667 exabytes
  • Projected amount of digital information created annually that will either live in or pass through the cloud: 1/3
  • Increase in data collection volume year-over-year in 2012: 400%
  • Increase in number of individual data collectors from 2011 to 2012: nearly double (over 300 data collection parties in 2012)

*1 zetabyte = 1 billion terabytes | 1 petabyte = 1,000 terabytes | 1 terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes | 1 gigabyte = 1 billion bytes


GovLab Blog

Improving Government through Civic Hacking

Hackstock for #LocalGov

Advances in new technology are opening up several new avenues through which citizens can now engage in areas previously the domain of the public sector. Initiatives such as hackathons are accelerating civic innovation by encouraging citizens with technical expertise to help redesign governmental architecture, improve government services, and create better cities. The emerging wave of civic innovation is also fueled by efforts at both the local and national level to make government data more open, accessible, and available for use by the public.
Hackstock for #LocalGov is the latest example of such civic hacking.  The hackathon will take place at the 99th Annual ICMA (International City/County Management Association) Conference in Boston on Sunday, September 22, 2013.  The event will focus on creating apps that improve government services to citizens, using sample datasets that will be provided by ICMA’s government members. Winning entries will be determined based on thoughtful use of civic data, quality of concept, analysis of community need, and collaboration with local government leaders.
Hackstock for #LocalGov is co-hosted by EsriICMA, and MindMixer. Developers, coders, and students in the New England area are encouraged to participate. Attendance is free, and you can register here.

GovLab Blog Ideas Lunch

"Small, n = me, data," Deborah Estrin Visits the GovLab

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 10.19.09 AMAs part of GovLab’s regular Ideas Luncheons (see posts on past speakers, Brian Behlendorf and Joel Gurin), Professor Deborah Estrin visited the GovLab on August 14th to discuss how increased access to “data about me” can be used to improve people’s lives. Deborah, a self-identified “marginal academic,” who likes to keep one foot in the real world and one in the academy, recently relocated from Los Angeles to New York City where she is a Professor of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College and a Professor of Computer Science at the new Cornell Tech campus. The embodiment of interdisciplinary thinking, Deborah has a diverse range of experience and expertise. She served as a co-Primary Investigator on many Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)- and National Science Foundation (NSF), funded projects, and founded, UCLA’s Center for Embedded Network Sensing (CENS). She is also one of the founders and leaders of the citizen science movement. Her latest venture involves the non-profit startup, Open mHealth.

GovLab Blog

Get Ready for the Next Wave of Open Gov Conferences

Conferences and convenings that focus on how to transform governance using advances in science and technology are being held around the world in increasing numbers. At GovLab, we’re not only interested in taking part in some of these emerging venues and conversations, we also aim to capture and study them as to analyze new ways of designing environments of knowledge production and exchange. Toward that end, GovLab Research has started to keep a log of forthcoming events, shared below. Please let us know which ones we are missing; we’ll update these on a regular basis on our newly designed events page along with a compilation of Internet Governance events.

August 14-16, 2013 Vivo Conference
September 10, 2013 Data Transparency 2013
September 16-19, 2013 IFIP E-Government Conference (EGOV) 2013 and IFIP ePart Conference
September 16-18, 2013 Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon)
 October 22-25, 2013 International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV2013)
October 31 – November 1, 2013 The Open Governance Partnership Annual Conference
November 18-19, 2013 International Open Data Dialog (ODD)
November 27-29, 2013 World Forum for Democracy
January 6-9, 2014 Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS)
February 15-19, 2014 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2014)
March 4-7, 2014 iConference
May 21-23, 2014 Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government (CeDEM)
June 5-6, 2014 Personal Democracy Forum
June 12-13, 2014 European Conference on eGovernment (ECEG 2014)
TBD 2014 TransparencyCamp
TBD 2014 Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (dg.o)


GovLab Blog

Open Government – What's in a Name?

Christina Rogawski and Andrew Young also contributed to this blog.
“Open government” is a central concept to the work at the GovLab, and one where we try to follow developments closely. Even a quick scan of our GovLab Digest over the past several months shows a range of posts on what open government means – across ideas such as Internet connectivity and bandwidth, providing APIs and software development kits (SDKs) to developers, connecting citizens with their government, improving the way people and governments interact, as an ongoing, open conversation between governments and citizens, and giving people opportunities to take action based on what they learn through transparency.

GovLab Blog Ideas Lunch

Understanding Open Data with Joel Gurin

Presentation by Joel Gurin

Joel Gurin recently joined the GovLab as Senior Advisor, and on July 17th, he spoke to the organization about his work on open data and its impacts on individuals, organizations, and society. Joel previously served as Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for two years and then as Senior Consumer Advisor at the FCC through September 2012. In that role, he chaired the White House Task Force on Smart Disclosure, which studied how the government can provide data to help consumers make choices in complex markets.
Joel spoke to the GovLab about open data in the context of current understanding and use, developments in the field, and how open data is influencing individual and organizational behavior. The talk began with Joel offering a broad definition of open data: it includes data that is both intended and available for public use, regardless of its source, as long as it is reusable, available either for free or at low cost, and accessible by the public. In that sense, he takes a view of open data that goes beyond open government data, although he notes that government is still the most important open data source.
Most notable is the level of intentionality embedded in open data: it is “data with a mission,” and is made available so that it can be used for some public purpose. Joel pointed out that this is a marked difference from ‘big data’: while the two terms often have some overlap, big data is often classified or proprietary in nature. Open data is about getting information out to the public, which is based on the idea that information is power. Joel explained that, therefore, the more computable that information is, the more powerful it is.
Joel then went on to describe several trends he has noticed in the open data space, along with some great examples in the field. The concept of liberating governmental data has picked up steam recently with the Open Data Policy unveiled by President Obama in May 2013. This Executive Order dictates that federal agencies must make their data truly open, machine-readable, reusable, timely, and developed in consultation with data users.
With regards to Smart Disclosure and consumer empowerment, good examples in the field include Compare The Market and Investors and companies are also becoming smarter about where to invest and whom to partner with: websites such as Duedil and Capital Cube provide in-depth information based on open data. Another trend is that brands are becoming defined by online reputation, and companies such as PublikDemand and are focused on data from consumer complaints or other sources that can affect a company’s reputation. Open data also has remarkable potential for problem-solving using collaborative intelligence: Joel used the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation as an example to illustrate how open data is being seen as accelerating research. Lastly, the transparency afforded by open data is leading to increasing accountability: for example, I Paid a Bribe is a site in India that uses citizen reporting to uncover corruption.
Openness is one of the key components in the GovLab’s focus on institutional innovation and re-imagining governance structures to make them more effective and legitimate, and it was a pleasure to hear Joel’s insights as a pioneer in the field. We look forward to reading his book, “Open Data Now,” due to be published in January. Joel also blogs about open data at and can be followed on Twitter as @JoelGurin.