Enrico Carloni: e-Administration and Transparency: the diffusion of public information on the Internet

Notes from the research seminar e-Administration and Transparency: the diffusion of public information on the Internet, by Enrico Carloni, held at the Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, on May 27th, 2010.

e-Administration and Transparency: the diffusion of public information on the Internet
Enrico Carloni

Public administration as a glass house, where people can look through it and peek on the inside. In Italy, public transparency is a constitutional value, though it is not referred in this terms but using: impartiality, responsibility, democratic principles, politic responsibility or accountability. All these principles require transparency and that all citizens are knowledgeable of what the government is doing.

But, traditionally, in Italy, the de facto rule was secrecy. It is in 1990 that transparency is added in a reform of the Law that regulated the public administration. The right to transparency is strengthened in 2005 in the Italian Law for Digital Administration. In 2009, the ‘Brunetta’ Law regulates the publication of information on the Internet, including transparency as publicity online, instead of right of access to information, which was what was stated in 1990. Right of access vs. publicity online are quite different rights.

Right of access (law of 1990) required a “motivated” request, disclose direct interest, etc. In the end, this requisites implied an “access without transparency”, and the right of access was more of a monitoring device rather than a principle in itself.

In 2005, the law for Digital Administration (or Codice dell’amministrazione digitale) requires that transparency is guaranteed as a principle in itself, forcing a shift from right of access to publicity.

The new law uses an old device — open data and transparency of public information — that had been set up for efficiency purposes, and adds a new use for that old device: public information for transparency. This will, with time, be applied in the Operazione Trasparenza.

Advantages of the new model

  • Absence of mediation, any capable citizen can individually access all the information (Orsi Battaglini).
  • Increase and ease of availability, abandonment of the request-and-wait-for-a-response approach (Herz, 2009).
  • Possibility of new products, creation of new knowledge, really in line of transparency 2.0.

Risks of the new model

  • It is a system too weak in front of digital divides and knowledge divides in general.
  • Privacy hazards, from the glass house to the glass official.
  • Messy rooms: against maximum transparency, maximum opacity: the area of public information is fully open, but very limited.
  • Information overload
  • Biases of accountability, where transparency is used instrumentally: massive information on non-significant information, propaganda, etc.

Discussion

Blanca Torrubia: What are the limits of public information publicity? Who sets the rules of publicity? Who decides what is to become public information? A: The Law is very clear about that.

Ana Delgado: What happens if the information that is made available is wrong and this damages the citizen’s interests? A: This situation follows the usual legal paths of damages to third parties.

Ignasi Beltran: Is there a system to penalize misbehaviours? A: A way to penalize misbehaviours, by law, is firstly to penalize the responsible of that information. Another one is to assume the responsibilities that come from a lack of information (e.g. a citizen cannot be fined if they did not something that was not properly published). Citizens can also denounce misbehaviours and ask them to be corrected.

Ismael Peña-López: What does publicity exactly mean: open data or information? First hand raw data, or elaborated second hand information? A: Italy is in its transition from open information to open data. Traditionally, it was about opening documents, as the document was both content and container. The logic of the document and the logic of the data went together. And the inertia is still to high, so the logic of date is superseded by the logic of the document. As some new laws are designed with the logic of data, there are some pressures to push ahead the transition from document to data.

David Martínez: Has there been a constitutional evolution about the concept of transparency? Has it been more formally recognized as a right in itself? How do we monitor impartiality in public transparency? A: There has not been a change in the Constitution or the like, but there have been court rulings that have strengthened the new nature of the concept of transparency. But transparency still is not a principle in itself, but an enabler or an instrument to reach other principles (e.g. transparency for accountability).

Mònica Vilasau: How to monitor privacy? And how to cope with the trade-off between privacy and access? A: Access usually prevails on privacy. But the citizen can perform any “treatment” on their data. Some data, nevertheless, are private and cannot be published unless they are anonymised. On the other hand, if some public data are used to harm privacy of third parties, this can be treated as a law infringement, as it is like a non-consented use of private data.

Agustí Cerrillo: Does the CAD allows for an increased efficiency in public administration? What relevant information does get to the citizen? Wouldn’t it be better to keep the right of access, which allows for asking for further information, instead of right of publicity, which just provides public information on specific issues? A: Efficiency of the act, efficiency of the Administration, efficiency of a more transparent administration. The more the knowledge about the procedures of the public sector, the more likely to achieve higher levels of efficiency.

References

Enrico Carloni (2010). La “casa di vetro” e le riforme. Modelli e paradossi della trasparenza amministrativa (PDF file, 214 KB)

IPID ICT4D Posgraduate Conference 2010: Call for communications

We are proud to announce that the 2010 Annual Conference of the International Network for Postgraduate Students in the Area of ICT4D (IPID) will be held the 9th-10th September 2010 at Universitat Politècnica de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

This is a mainly academic conference, with all its procedures, but much more informal and constructive than usual. Its main purpose is twofold:

  • To let postgraduate students present short papers about their research in a supportive environment where they can gain positive feedback from other participants;
  • To provide an opportunity to discuss key themes of interest to ICT4D postgraduates. The conference organisers would be pleased to hear from potential participants about the themes they would like to have discussed.

Ways to participate:

  • If you are a postgraduate student — master, PhD — in ICT4D, this is your place. Come and share your research, whatever the stage of development it is in. You’ll get guidance and support, and will meet with other people like you struggling in this new discipline.
  • If you are a scholar and want to be aware of the cutting edge research on ICT4D, this is your place too: the ideas presented in the conference are always thrilling in many ways. You might want to organize a workshop and/or be part of our senior board that’ll help too in providing some structured feedback to the students presenting their research.
  • If you are a practitioner or a policy-maker in ICT4D, we saved room for you too. Though the event is academic in its essence, you’ll see plenty of applied work and theoretical background to base that applied work.

Important data:

Please stay tuned to IPID’s blog, where we will publish a link to the registration form. Fees will not be higher than 140€ and we are working to keep them at 0€. Fees will include all meals and materials during the event (coffee breaks, lunch and dinner for days 9th and 10th). Accomodation in Barcelona will cost you circa 50€ if you find place on a students residence (we’re working on that too).

Please send any inquieries to ipid2010@ictlogy.net and, please, spread the word!

Social networking sites: a window to the community

On May 17th, 2010, I was invited by the Xarxa Òmnia, a Spanish telecentre network, to impart a conference within the events of the Safer Internet Day.

That was certainly a difficult speech, likely one of the most difficult ones, as the audience was quite Internet-savvy — they’ve been attending and/or organizing activities in the telecentre for years — and, on the other hand, not eager to listen to reality-distant theories.

Thus, I came in with the sole idea of reassuring and bringing some confidence to people that are increasingly using the Internet while still fighting against their — most of the times well founded — reluctances. In this train of though, my points were:

  • The Internet is not a geek thing;
  • being online will not disconnect you from other people but, on the contrary, will extend your social network;
  • there is not an Internet or a social networking site, but plenty of them, depending on how you use and combine the zillion useful applications that are out there for you to benefit from them.
If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3381">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3381</a>

 

I made up an “Aunt Marjorie” and explained how she spends a simple day: wakes up and reads the papers, goes to the bank, to the doctor’s, etc. Most examples are framed in Spanish, but can easily be extrapolated to many other contexts.

Pros:

  • Multiple and plural sources of information;
  • e-commerce and e-banking;
  • e-administration;
  • and e-health;
  • online communities of interest;
  • e-learning;
  • specialized or vertical social networking sites;
  • when online extends to offline, and the online extension of traditional communites;
  • e-participation, e-democracy;
  • cyberactivism;
  • multipurpose, horizontal, leisure or personal social networking sites.

Cons:

  • Information overload;
  • echo chambers;
  • new media literacies;
  • phishing, pharming and other similar types of cybercrime;
  • new information literacies;
  • privacy;
  • security;
  • identity.

I want to very sincerely thank Elvira Mora and Fadwa El Harrak for their kind invitation and confidence :)

See also

For a very good summary in Catalan: Peña defensa les possibilitats d’internet i adverteix dels seus riscos.

ICT4HD. Round Table. What is the role of private companies on Research in ICT4D?

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Round Table. What is the role of private companies on Research in ICT4D?

Vanessa Frías-Martínez, Telefónica I+D

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379</a>

Jorge Lang, Intel Iberia

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379</a>

Miriam Catalán de Domingo, Thales Alenia Space

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379</a>

Santiago Porto, External Consultant in Business and Development at AECID and Director of IMSD Master

Javier Guillén Álvarez, Albentia Systems

[I could not attend this session… but at least I got the slides ;) ]

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)

ICT4HD. Eric Brewer: Contributions of Technical Research on ICT4D

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Eric Brewer: Contributions of Technical Research on ICT4D

Traditional development has a very top-down approach, with international agencies funding projects, often with sting and debt attached, difficult to manage (e.g. corruption) and usually with little role for high technology. This just does not fit ICT4D projects’ necessities and way of proceeding.

Cellphones’ evolution was very different: driven by bottom-up demand, because of the ease of use (voice), a dire need for communications (work, remittances…).

Remittances to Africa are circa US$40B and imply much more money than the one involved in aid. This should give an idea about the power of microloans. The Grameen Bank is owned entirely by the poor and has loaned more than US$3.9B. It is mainly used for very short run (up to 6 months) loans, aimed for instance at buying a goat that will pay back the loan with its milk, or paying for seeds that will pay back the loan once harvested. Loans are chained one to the next one and create an important funding and cash flow.

Grameen Telecom allows people to buy phones and rent them to their neighbours. The project covers 50,000-68,000 villages and 60M. The most important thing is that it scales and that the owner (the ‘phone lady’) is indeed interested in the maintenance of the equipment and the sustainability of the system.

Another example: I.T.Mountain.BPO for medical transcription: voice in, text out for medical issues.

The real digital divide is between urban and rural areas: for instance, the mobile phone is an urban phenomenon, as many rural areas have no cellular coverage.

We need to bring connectivity to rural areas, and here is where WiFi comes to the rescue.

Rural connectivity

It has already been demonstrated that the problem is not distance, but line of sight: you can send a signal as far as you can (literally) see. We need to find natural towers (e.g. mountains, hills) to be able to see further.

Aravind Eye Hospital Network: doctors stay at the hospital, patients stay at their homes. 4-5Mb/s per link, video-conferencing — high quality and video are important because the interview really matter —, e-mail, training. Achieved 6,000 consultations/month, over 160,000 patients so far, centers are cash-flow positive, over 30,000 patients have recovered sight, growing to 50 centres covering 2.5M people and possibility to replicate in other cities.

Smart phones

Computers that, nevertheless, are small, portable, have self-contained power, easy to use, culturally accepted…

SmartPhone diagnostic device that, connected to the audio jack (and phones are good at converting analogue signals into digital ones), can provide measurements on heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood oxygen, ECG, fetal heart rate or even blood pressure. The result is a much much cheaper and easy to use diagnostic device. The phone can either convert the raw data into readings of forward them through the GSM network.

CellScope: Cellphone Microscope = (phone) camera + big lens. Its use can be to diagnose malaria after a blood sample is put under the cellscope.

m-Learning: teach English via smartphones and by using educational games. Games have to be based on traditional local games to provide the learner with a familiar and thus understandable context.

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3375">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3375</a>

Discussion

Fernando Balducci: we definitely have to avoid the confusion between tele-diagnosis and self-diagnosis, which is a hazard we might run into when such tools become more and more present in end-users’ hands.

Javier Simó: concurrence or cooperation? A: concurrence, but informed concurrence. Every place is different, so solutions cannot be replicated in a strictly straightforward way. And for being informed, a certain degree of cooperation is required.

Q: what about call centres? A: a call center requires connectivity, low power, simple infrastructures. So call centres can be a good way to start to create employment in rural areas. But we should be beyond that (including going beyond software development centres).

David Chávez: smartphone or cloud computing? A: it is very likely that computing power of the phone will increase at a faster path than mobile broadband will. Thus why latest developments have gone into the direction of making the phone perform more work than instead sending to and fro data to “computing centres” to perform these tasks.

Vanessa Frías: how is assessment performed in smartphones? A: within the traditional education system, this kind of assessment is very difficult, as it often implies interaction, synchronous meetings, etc. This is why vocational programmes generally work better than for-credit educational programmes. Indeed, there are other security- and privacy-related issues that are still difficult to handle in m-learning.

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)

ICT4HD. Ramon Roca: Guifi.net: Success Case of Participative Communications Networks

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Ramon Roca: Guifi.net: Success Case of Participative Communications Networks

A different model based on:

  • Social inclusion and geographic equilibrium;
  • Return of investment not based on commercial margins;
  • Benefit from network structures.

Guifi.net is a network of networks according to the “XOLN” (Xarxa Oberta Lliure i Neutra: Open, Free and Neutral Network) commons participated by individuals or institutions; where participations add up, interconnecting and creating an IP traffic public network.
It is important to stress the fact that the network is a commons: anyone has a predominant position in the network despite the fact that some people can contribute with more resources to it: thus, the community avoids that some users implicitly had more power than others. A foundation manages the network, which is open, free, neutral and collectively “owned”.

Actual coverage/reach of Guifi.net: http://guifi.net/maps. +9,600 operative nodes; +14,000 Km of network; up to 10-15% households in some areas.

Browse the slides to see how it works [11] and the software applications included [12]:

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3374">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3374</a>

Some outcomes of the public network: though the penetration in e.g. Osona (a rural area in Catalonia, where Guifi.net is more present) is lower than the European and Spanish averages, the number of people that accessed the Internet from home is much higher than the European and Spanish averages, at much of these results can be directly attributed to the penetration of wireless networks through Guifi.net membership. This seriously challenges the e-empowerment model based in subsidising private companies instead of local communities.

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)