Realizing the Promise of Cognitive Computing Systems

I am launching a new project in the area of Cognitive Computing Systems. Below is a brief description of the effort. You can read a recent post that I did for Brookings here. If you are interested in collaborating on this project, please contact me.

Project Description

Every major technology player is investing serious financial and human capital into the development of Cognitive Computing Systems (CCSs). CCSs leverage artificial intelligence and machine intelligence techniques to build systems that can 1) learn from interactions, 2) analyze large datasets in an effective and efficient manner, and 3) increase the of precision of outcomes overtime through continuous process of analyzing and learning from data. Put more simply, CCSs are inspired by the potential to mimic how the human brain acquires, analyzes, and employs data to make decisions. Research and development efforts and emerging prototypes point to the fact that CCSs have significant potential to cause major disruptions in all facets of the public sector. In addition, if one considers CCSs along with other emerging technologies (e.g. autonomous vehicles or fully connected machine-to-machine networks), the magnitude of disruption is potentially greater. Public agencies need to take a more proactive approach towards 1) understanding the nature of CCSs, 2) appreciating their potential to enable agencies to increase performance and optimize resource allocations, and 3) charting pathways towards adopting, experimenting with, and implementing these systems. This project will focus on providing public managers with actionable insights on the above-mentioned three issues.

Today, CCSs are being designed to support human decision-makers by providing them evidence-based solutions through analyzing large quantities of data within a domain. In an ideal world, according to technology enthusiasts, these systems should be able to make decisions on their own, thereby removing some of the traditional concerns with human decision-makers (e.g. prejudice, errors, etc.). CCSs will also be networked with other such systems so as to conduct transactions without human intervention. While there is no doubting that the sophistication of these systems will increase over time and their costs will decrease making them affordable, serious public policy and management considerations must be addressed to fully leverage their potential. Our project will focus on studying how public agencies can take a proactive approach to preparing themselves for CCSs. We will not only study the technical and organizational issues associated with CCSs, but take a close look at the social and public policy issues.

Our research methodology will take a multi-prong approach. First, we will document lessons learned from several of our ongoing projects that include elements of CSSs (e.g. machine learning algorithms, data mining, sensor-networks, etc.). Second, we will collect case studies on various CSSs projects in the public sector. We will seek to collect cases beyond the US, and will also look at CSSs projects at various scales. Through the analysis of these cases we will seek to uncover issues and challenges associated with implanting CCSs. In addition, these cases will enable us to tease apart various common themes that various stakeholders within the CCSs face as they conceive of, launch, and manage these projects. Third, we will leverage our vast network of public sector CIOs, technology enthusiasts, futurists, and innovators to conduct in-depth interviews on CCSs in the public sphere. Our interviews will focus on technical, organizational, policy, and social dimensions of CCSs and their role in 1) transforming public agencies, 2) innovating policy design, implantation, and evaluation, and 3) the nature of data, analytics, and systems as a public good.

Funding

The IBM Center for the Business of Government has generously provided support for the first report from this project.

Salzburg Global Forum on the Future of Public Service

sgf Heading to Salzburg, Austria to spend a few days at the Schloss Leopoldskron to discuss the Future of Public Service hosted by the Salzburg Global Forum. For more details, please see here.

Familiar public services and institutions are in the early stage of radical renewal that may render them unrecognizable by 2050. New technologies and societal transformation are reconfiguring the interdependent world at unprecedented speed. New concepts and demands for more flexible and dynamic public service are emerging at all levels, from 'megapolitan' cities to supranational organizations.

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Challenges in Inter-Disciplinary Research, University of Ljubljana

logo_engI will be visiting the Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of Ljubljana from August 28-31. I will deliver one research seminar and connect with colleagues on several research projects. I have held a visiting professor appointment at the University of Ljubljana since 2009.

Challenges in Inter-Disciplinary Research: Strategies from Crafting Research Ideas to Publishing
In this presentation, I will share my experiences in executing inter-disciplinary research projects. Studying complex phenomenon requires us to undertake research that (1) draws on multiple disciplines, (2) engages a diverse group of stakeholders, (3) appreciates a plurality of research approaches, and (4) communicates to a diverse set of audiences. Executing inter-disciplinary research is no easy feat to accomplish. Researchers face daunting challenges from the onset, beginning with the inception of ideas, then continuing to the crafting of problem statements, executing the research process, and communicating the results via publications in academic and practitioner outlets. However, these challenges should not be viewed as an excuse to abandon inter-disciplinary research in favor of narrowly focused research exercises. I will present a method (process) for executing inter-disciplinary research that has served me well. Illustrative examples of research projects will be used to exemplify this process and outline strategies for researchers to consider when conducting inter-disciplinary research projects.

IÉSEG School of Management – March 5-13

IESEGLooking forward to returning to IÉSEG School of Management in March to collaborate with colleagues and deliver two research presentations. Thanks to Isabelle Fagnot for organizing the visit.

Governing Mega-Scale IT Projects: The Global Public Sector Experience 

Information Technology (IT) projects are commonplace in the public sector. National, regional, and local governments continue to invest substantial resources into designing, developing, and maintaining information systems. The scale, scope, and potential impacts of IT projects continue to increase. Today, it is typical to find mega-scale IT projects in the public sector. Unfortunately, these projects seldom play out as planned. Mega-scale IT projects often fail to meet expectations, and when they fail, they do so magnificently. In this presentation, I will share lessons learned from a study of six mega-scale IT projects in the public sector. I will specifically call out governance issues associated with contracting, consultants, financing, human resources, leadership, and project management. [Flyer]

Designing Research Programs: Processes, Outputs, and Outcomes

I believe that research needs to be conducted in a manner that advances the greater public good, especially in fields that are of an applied nature (business, engineering, public policy, etc.). Research done with the sole intention of producing a journal article or conference paper is not good enough. Academia has a special responsibility to generate knowledge that advances society. In this talk, I will offer personal reflections on how to structure research programs to maximize several goals. First, to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the research process. Second, to maximize the potential that research outputs will be accepted by scholarly and practitioner communities. Third, to work with stakeholders to leverage the knowledge that is generated, to advance societal outcomes. I will share examples from a wide assortment of projects to elaborate on how scholars can build agile, responsive, and responsible research projects that have relevance beyond the ivory tower. I will pay particular attention to global research projects that are interdisciplinary in nature. In addition to sharing lessons about what works, I will openly share some of the trials and tribulations that I have encountered along the way. [Flyer]

Florida International University, Feb 24-26, 2016

FIU I will be visiting Florida International University later this month to deliver a research presentation at the Department of Public Administration in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.

Information Technologies, Public Management, and Public Policy: Reflections and a Way Forward 

FIU

The public sector continues to invest heavily in information technologies (IT). Investments in IT have skyrocketed in recent times at all levels of government, from local to regional and national. These investments have been fueled by a recognition that IT have the potential to transform how we design our public institutions, deliver public services, and govern responsibly. Alas, we must take a moment to assess whether these aspirations have been fully realized. There is limited evidence that investments in IT have delivered on their promised benefits. What is even more troubling is that for every success story, we have quite a few information technology project disasters that have squandered taxpayer dollars.

We do not need to despair; we need more serious engagement on the intricacies of how technologies are introduced, managed, and leveraged within the public sector. In this talk, I will draw on over four years of research to outline critical issues that limit our ability to exploit the potential of IT in the public sector. I will draw on past research projects that have spanned topics such as designing crowdsourcing platforms, building analytical capabilities to mine big data, managing mega-scale IT projects, performance management of IT units, and emerging technologies (e.g. automated vehicles, drones, etc.). I hope to inspire researchers to take the IT management more seriously in the context of public administration, public policy, and governance.

Victoria University of Wellington – School of Government

VictoriaI am visiting Victoria University of Wellington's School of Government this week. During my visit, I will deliver a presentation on strategic management of information systems in the public sector. I will also meet with faculty and staff to learn more about the various academic and research programs with the School of Government and the Victoria Business School.

Ideas to Retire Series @ Brookings Institution

logo_Artboard 1I co-designed a new project for the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution along with my colleague Gregory DawsonIdeas to Retire is a TechTank series of blog posts.  These posts identify outdated practices in public sector IT management and suggest new ideas for improved outcomes. I am happy to report that the series launched today!  You can find the introduction here. We will be featuring two ideas a week for the next 10 weeks.

Of the first two ideas featured, one is by James Keene (City Manager, Palo Alto, CA) co-authored with Jonathan Reichental (CIO, City of Palo Alto, CA). You can read about their idea here. The second idea is from David Bray (CIO, FCC).

Stay tuned for contributions from several other luminaries including Steve Kelman (Harvard University), John L. King (University of Michigan), Ramayya Krishnan (Carnegie Mellon University), Dan Chenok (IBM),  Alfred Ho (University of Kansas), Jane Fountain (University of Massachusetts), Marc Ott (City Manager, Austin, TX), Neal Myrick (Tableau Foundation), Ellen Lettvin (US Department of Education), Richard T. Watson (University of Georgia), José Esteves (IE Business School), and Jonathan Liebenau (London School of Economics), Phil Howard (University of Washington), among others.

Thanks to all contributors that participated in this project!

Enjoy #IdeastoRetire

 

Update – Recent Activities to Close out 2015

planning1015It has been a while since I updated my blog. Here is a run down of the main things I have worked on over the last two months.

Good news

Selected Interviews/Press Mentions

  1. Newcombe, T. “Learning to Share: How Cities Are Benefiting from the Sharing Economy,” Government Technology, December 14, 2015,
  2. Moore, J. “The 15 Most Innovative Agencies in Government,” NextGov, December 8, 2015,
  3. Keegan, M. “A Conversation with Dr. Kevin Desouza,” IBM Business of Government Radio Show, December 7, 2015
  4. Dovey, R. “Will City Regulators Treat Driverless Cars Like They’ve Treated Uber?Next City, October 28, 2015
  5. Koma, A. “Hawaii Moves Ahead with Audit of State IT Spending,” StateScoop.com, October 21, 2015

It has been a busy and productive 2015. Best wishes to you and your families for a peaceful and prosperous 2016.

University of Alaska Fairbanks – Data to Decisions Workshop

Workshop-flyer-3Heading to the University of Alaska Fairbanks today to deliver a talk at the Data to Decisions Visualization Workshop hosted by the NSF Sponsored Alaska EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program.

Beyond Modeling and Visualization: Towards Policy Design and Implementation

In this talk, I will highlight how technologies enable us to visualize policy options and simulate scenarios. Technologies, however, are no panacea when it comes to policy design and implementation. Deliberate decisions need to be made on how to structure the technology-enabled policy simulations to arrive at evidence-driven policy design, implementation, and evaluation. 

Please click here for my slides.

University of Florida and Bob Graham Center for Public Service

UFL I will be visiting the University of Florida later this week. The Bob Graham Center for Public Service is hosting my visit. I will deliver presentations to students across several Colleges including the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the College of Journalism and Communications. In addition, I will meet with research leaders and faculty across the University.