Date: January 14, 2019
Shaping the Future of Autonomous Systems in Society
Emerging technologies are fundamentally impacting and transforming all aspects of our society. I am particularly concerned with how technological innovations impact 1) the design of our public institutions, 2) the apparatuses through which we shape, implement, and evaluate public policies, and 3) our governance frameworks for public goods. All indications suggest that we are moving toward a world where autonomous systems will dictate how we interface and interact with other agents and objects in our society. We can take advantage of emerging technologies to make our societies more livable, just, resilient, and sustainable. To realize this future, we need active and sustained engagement by scholars across a myriad of disciplines, especially public policy and management.
Public policy and governance scholars have largely been absent when it comes to engineering efforts related to the design and deployment of autonomous systems and policy debates that will shape their impact on our society. In this talk, I will outline why we need active engagement by public policy and management scholars during phases of autonomous systems development and implementation. Examples will be drawn from over a dozen research engagements that have studied emerging technologies in the public sector, from predictive analytic systems to blockchain, social media platforms, and machine learning algorithms. I will outline key governance dilemmas and policy challenges confronting public agencies as they try to keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovations.
ICMA Press Release (October 23, 2018) - "ICMA has selected its inaugural group of research fellows, recognizing outstanding action-oriented research approaches to deal with local governments’ most pressing issues. Fellowships will fund four thought leaders to study topics ranging from equity measures for managing urban performance to developing successful innovation training programs for local officials, adding to ICMA’s vast knowledge base of research and leading practices in local government leadership and management. "
To read the full press release is available here.
Heading to the University of Pennsylvania next week to attend the Democracy in the Crosshairs: Cyber Interference, Dark Money and Foreign Influence conference. The two-day event is a closed session. The conference is organized by the Center for Ethics & Rule of Law and the UPenn Law School. I co-authored a paper with Atif Ahmad (University of Melbourne) for the conference.
Weaponizing Information Systems for Political Disruption: The Actor, Lever,Effects, and Response Taxonomy (ALERT)
Information systems continue to be used by actors who want to undermine public institutions and disrupt political systems. In recent times, actors have engaged in acts of cyber warfare ranging from attempts to compromise voting systems, spread false propaganda, use dark networks to illicitly fund campaigns, and even attack public infrastructure via technologies. Initial analysis points to the fact that most of these attempts have been successful in achieving their intended objectives. Given this reality, we expect them to intensify and be more creative in the future. In this paper, we take a critical look at the concept of weaponizing information systems for political disruption. Our analysis focuses on two specific forms of information systems enabled disruption. The first is direct attacks on information systems infrastructures employed in various facets of political campaigns and the election processes. The second is attacks that target public infrastructure and services, which impact trust in government and public institutions of the nation and indirectly impact political stability and governance regimes. We outline an Actor, Lever, Effects, and Response Taxonomy (ALERT) to understand the nuances associated with various types of options individuals, organizations, and nations have when it comes to weaponizing information systems for political gain and to cause public unrest.
Conference schedule is available here.
An article I co-authored with Gregory S. Dawson (Arizona State University) and James S. Denford (Royal Military College of Canada) appears in the current issue of the Cutter Business Technology Journal.
We focus our article on a fundamental organizational question: in a medium-to-large organization, should data governance be centralized or decentralized (or, possibly, federated)? There are pros and cons for both centralization and decentralization. The overall business strategy needs to be considered: in some conglomerates of disparate business lines, there may be little commonality to the information being managed by the various divisions. However, decentralization still causes duplication of effort and risks inconsistencies across the enterprise. The authors give concrete examples that link the IT governance modality — centralized or decentralized — with performance outcomes. They generally favor a centralized model and provide the reader with specific recommendations on how to centralize data governance in organizations and how to implement this model successfully.
The article is available here.
I will deliver a seminar at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet next week.
The Public Sector in a World of Autonomous Systems
Emerging technologies are fundamentally impacting and transforming all aspects of our society. I am particularly concerned with how technological innovations impact 1) the design of our public institutions, 2) the apparatuses through which we shape, implement, and evaluate public policies, and 3) our governance frameworks for public goods. All indications suggest that we are moving toward a world where autonomous systems will dictate how we interface and interact with other agents and objects in our society. We can take advantage of emerging technologies to make our societies more livable, just, resilient, and sustainable. We need bold imagination and action to shape the future we want. This talk will outline how the public sector can take a leadership role in the design, development, and deployment of autonomous systems.
September 26, 2018: 13.30-14.30
New working paper available from IZA - Institute for Labor Economics.
What Do Parents Value in a Child Care Provider? Evidence from Yelp Consumer Reviews - IZA Discussion Paper No. 11741. Click here to download.
This paper exploits novel data and empirical methods to examine parental preferences for
child care. Specifically, we analyze consumer reviews of child care businesses posted on the
website Yelp.com. A key advantage of Yelp is that it contains a large volume of unstructured
information about a broad set of child care programs located in demographically and
economically diverse communities. Thus our analysis relies on a combination of theoryand
data-driven methodologies to organize and classify the characteristics of child care
that are assessed by parents. We also use natural language processing techniques to
examine the affect and psychological tones expressed in the reviews. Our main results are
threefold. First, we find that consumers overall are highly satisfied with their child care
provider, although those in higher-income markets are substantially more satisfied than
their counterparts in lower-income markets. Second, the program characteristics most
commonly evaluated by consumers relate to safety, quality of the learning environment,
and child-teacher interactions. However, lower- and higher-income consumers evaluate
different characteristics in their reviews. The former is more likely to comment on a
program’s practical features, such as its pricing and accessibility, while the latter is more
likely to focus on the learning environment. Finally, we find that consumers in lowerincome
markets are more likely to display negative psychological tones such as anxiety and
anger in their reviews, particularly when discussing the nature of their interactions with
program managers and their child’s interactions with teachers.
Our recent research on blockchain continues to be published on Brookings TechTank. See below for links to recent articles:
- How China’s local governments and academia propel blockchain business
- Is China leading the blockchain innovation race?
- How blockchain could improve election transparency
- Blockchain and U.S. state governments: An initial assessment
External coverage: ZDNet
I am looking forward to participating in the Mechanics for the Future: How Can Governments Transform Themselves? session at the Salzburg Global Forum.
Governments worldwide are under pressure to meet complex needs as populations age, countries urbanize, and technology transforms lives and work. They have lead responsibility to prepare their societies for a radically changing world, yet face shrinking budgets and declining trust in the public sector. The machinery of government has changed, requiring governments to transform themselves, both in terms of the methodology they use and the people needed to implement the change. What is the role of government in driving innovation? How can countries and cities learn from each other? How can governments recruit and retain the best people in public service with the right skills? How can governments better harness the market, and strengthen constructive partnerships with civil society and the private sector? What types of public communication work best to rebuild public trust?
See here for a list of attendees.
As part of the meeting, I will be leading a discussion on the potential for advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to transform how we govern. We will employ a case study that I co-authored with Richard T. Watson (Regents Professor and the J. Rex Fuqua Distinguished Chair for Internet Strategy, University of Georgia). The case study takes place in a country, Intelligensia, and is focused on deploying AI systems to modernize the national healthcare system and improve quality of life outcomes.
I will be spending time at the Università Bocconi during March 2018 as a Visiting Professor. I will deliver several lectures as part of the Innovation and Big Data in the Public Sector course taught by my colleague, Prof. Maria Cucciniello. In addition, I will be working on several research projects with colleagues in Milan.