domingo, 30 de marzo de 2014

"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and SlowThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We usually think we know ourselves, especially we think we know why we take our decisions. Perhaps, you will get disappointed after reading this book. First impressions, repetitions, prejudices, wrong interpretations of statistics, ... are only a part of the framework that condition our elections. We are prisoners of our cognitive illusions, but also of our risk aversion. Only if we know when we have to think slow and when we have to think fast we will overcome our limitations.

If "The Black Swan" has liked you, this is is book you must read.

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miércoles, 26 de marzo de 2014

Somewhere in Europe last week ... (25/3/2014) #DigitalEurope

This week, the members of the european Parliament has been quite active publishing official and non-official documents on the future of Digital Europe

The Digital World in 2030. What place for Europe?

Core digital technologies are evolving and converging rapidly, fueled by real-time, real-world data, driving us toward a Knowing Society and creating the foundation for an avalanche of innovative software platforms and other digital tools available and affordable to anybody and everybody, everywhere for virtually any purpose. In economic terms, we are finally on the cusp of “the real” third industrial revolution. We need to understand and exploit this vast opportunity, while also urgently addressing the intense social and political stresses this revolution will inevitably engender. Europe’s political leaders need to engage with this revolution across their full range of competences. 2030 is now. Completing Europe’s Digital Single Market is the most urgent priority.

A vision of Digital Europe in 2030 has been published by the European Internet Forum (EIF), a parliamentary forum founded by Members of the European Parliament in the year 2000 as a non-profit association

Study: Streaming and Online Access to Content and Services

As a result of technological progress in the area of cloud computing and mobile connectivity, Internet is increasingly offering an omnipresent and interactive - ubiquitous - access to information and content. This improved access is, in turn, leading to efficiency, innovation and a significant reduction of the environmental footprint through dematerialisation of consumption, with potential changes in the economic and societal landscape. However, the current legal and economic setting in Europe is leading to a partitioning of mobile Internet access and Internet content along national borders, significantly affecting benefits that could be derived by Europeans from the Digital Single Market and preventing Europe from consolidating its comparative advantage on the global ICT market.

The IMCO Committee of the Parliament has published a detailed study on the matter.

Report of the ITRE Committee on the Telecom Single Market proposal

The Telecom Single Market is the last legislative Neelie Kroes for this term. The ITRE Committte has approved last week the report to be tabled in the Parliament on April.

lunes, 24 de marzo de 2014

An introduction to #crowdfunding in the European Union: Markets and Regulation

One of the major impacts of the Great Recession we are currently living is the decrease in the access to loans. All the companies are suffered with this hardening of the conditions to access to financial sources, but specially the SMEs and innovative projects. This fact will slow the growth and recovery because we need more startups to create the needed job for recovery and, according with the OECD"young firms with fewer than 50 employees represent only around 11% of employment, but they generally account for more than 33% of total job creation in the business sector; their share of job destruction is around 17%".

If the traditional sources of credit have disappeared, we need to relay on alternative ones as crowdfunding, the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowdfunding it is not as innovative as some people believe, in the XIX century was used as an effective way to erect monuments as the Statue of Liberty. What is innovative is the massive way we can apply this financial procedure thanks to the Internet.

The internet has helped to create a new market for crowdfunding  The market of the crowdfunding platforms (CFP).  According with the "Crowdfunding Industry Report",  in 2012 there were more than 500 CFPs with an estimated business volume of 2,806 $ million.

Not all the crowdfunding initiatives follow the same pattern. Depending on the expectations and type of reward expected by the funders we can distinguish for types of crowdfunding initiatives
  • Donation: a donor contract without existential reward (40% of CFP market)
  • Reward: purchase contract for some type of product or service (62 % of CFP market)
  • Lending: credit contract, credit is being repaid plus interest (20% of CFP market)
  • Equity: shareholding contract, shares, equity-like instruments or revenue sharing in the project/business, potential up-side at exit (21% of CFP market)
Although currently the reward model has the biggest share of the market,  the equity model has the biggest CAGR.

As fulfilling the expectations of the funder is critical to the survival and growth of the CFP market, government need to regulate in a more strict way the crowdfunding model, paying attention to who can operate a crowd funding platform. The prevention of fraud and the mitigation of risks are the axes of the needed regulation.

Once more, the USA has overtaken Europe in the regulation of crowdfunding. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act or JOBS Act has included a chapter dedicated to the regulation of crowdfunding  The Act for seen a register of CFPs and establishes financial limits to the crowdfunding model.

As the larger the potential number of funders the bigger the CFP market could be, there is not alternative for Europe but a shared regulation of crowd funding in the European Union. An EU Directive or Regulation would create the needed single market for crowdfunding, with cross-border guarantees to the potential funders. The report "A Framework for European Crowdfunding" provides extensive details of the benefits and barriers of the European CFP market. The focus of this common EU regulation for CFPs should be: operational and financial transparency, security of information and payments, platform functionality, customer protection, and operational procedures.

Crowdfunding looks as a model with enough potential for funding startups, but this potential will never be reached without a flexible but effective regulation at the European level.

martes, 18 de marzo de 2014

Somewhere in Europe last week ... (18/3/2014) #DigitalEurope

A selection of my readings on Digital Europe that appeared last week. Four bricks of the European Digital Building that were laid last week ...

CoE-EU-ECHR handbook on European data protection law published 

The Council of Europe (CoE), the European Union (EU) Agency for Fundamental Rights and the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have published a joint legal handbook to provide an overview of the law applicable to data protection in relation to the EU and the CoE.

Seed Accelerator Ecosystem 

An study of the seed accelerator ecosystem, including a comparison with the ecosystems in USA, Japan, ... Released by the Startup Europe's Acclerator Assembly.

Connecting Europe Facility - Telco Regulation 

This Regulation lays down guidelines for the timely deployment and interoperability of projects of common interest in the field of trans-European networks in the area of telecommunications infrastructure.

Neelie Kroes speech on mHealth

It includes the announcement of a Green Paper on mHealth.

lunes, 17 de marzo de 2014

25th anniversary of the web and the dangers of the future

Among the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the web, several reports and articles have been published last week. One of the most interesting contributions comes from the Pew Center, who has published a serie to celebrate the milestone. The first document contains some interesting figures about what the Internet means now in our daily life and its evolution in the last 25 years. The second report is an effort to forecast what will be the shape of our digital lifes in 2025.

Flipping through the first report, we take notice on how quick the web has become an integral element of our human life, at least in the developed countries. Although the figures are only about the USA, the rapid take up of the web have been similar in all the developed countries, and probably the rest of conclusions that could be obtained from the survey are valid as well for the rest of the western world. The web is so important for us that there are more people that find harder giving up the Internet that TV or the mobile phone. It is also important to underline that in spite of all the alarms, all the figures points in the direction that the Internet has helped us to strengthen the communication with our familiy and friends. There are many other facts around the internet leaving aside, some of them published in other articles.

The second report provides the views of gurus and some other members of the digital community about what would be the role of the Internet in our lifes by 2025. As it is expected, the views diverge, and it is easy to establish a division between an utopian team and a dystopian team. Beyond the four main trends identified the report and the fifteen theses of the future provided in it, everyone may obtain its own highlights of the views of these reputed voices. Below my two highlights from their opinions.

Firstly, it is crystal clear that we will need to learn how to live among a flood of information. As the experts said in the report, the amount of data available related to the two dimensions of human life (about ourselves and about the society we live in)  is going to be increased dramatically. As a matter of fact this has already happened. How we manage and exchange this information is going to determine our wealth and living standards. The more we are able to understand the differences between data, information and knowledge the more easier our life would be in the future. It is not difficult to foreseen that some people will be unable of this task, and therefore they  will have an even more superficial ability to understand the world and take advantage of its opportunities. So the inequalities in the future will be partially based on the lack of capabilities to handle with information.

Secondly, it is mentioned in the report many times how the networking effects introduced by the Internet accelerate every aspect of life. This is true also for the evil side of life. This amplification of evil is the engine behind the dystopian views of the future. As one of the experts underlines, "abuses and abusers scale far more than regular Internet users".  And there will not only be more abusers, also they will have more channels for their abuses.

It is not difficult to foreseen a dystopian future based on my two highlights above. Abusers, based on a wise use of data, knowledge and information, will easily take advantage of digitally illiterates, and amplify their feelings of loss and resentment. This is one of the concerns partially highlighted by one of the experts, who said that "only the relatively well-off (and well-educated) will know how to preserve their privacy in 2025". Unfortunately, it is not a problem only of personal information and privacy. Only the relatively well-off (and well-educated) will know how to conduct themselves among the overload of information. So the conclusion is obvious, increasing the digital skills of the population that will be at the base of a wise handling of information, and developing this social digital ability  is a must in order to avoid a future of instabilities and riots.

So, perhaps the bigger risk is not a "Big Brother" future, but a future of extreme chaos. We still have time to avoid it. And if we want to develop a bill of digital rights, we have to put the first of them the right to have an education on digital skills.

miércoles, 12 de marzo de 2014

Open policy-making model and examples

The rationale behind open government is the complexity of the challenges we have as a society. Policy making is some times seen as the first scenario for the  battle between technocrats and libertarians, between those in favour of a pervasive public intervention and those who believe in the never-failing invisible hand. Unfortunately, policy making is not quite simple, but the open government principles (transparency, participation and collaboration) should be the guidelines for achieving  the right balance between the two extremes. The new technologies are the needed tools for the application of the open government principles in policy making, specially in the seek for innovative solutions for our common challenges

This post tries to be a quest to find applications of the model open government at different stages of policy making through the digital footprint left in this process.

There are several models for describing the policy-making process. For the sake of simplicity, I have chosen a four stage model for the description of the public problem-solving process: 
  • Exploration: Identification of our common challenges. Although it could look as an unneeded stage, the agreement on which are the objectives is not as easy as it looks. Sometimes what looks as challenges are only the symptom of the real challenge and an iterative and collaborative process is needed to identify the actual problem to solve.
  • Ideation: Once the challenge is identified is the time to find a solution for it. The greater the challenge the more complicated finding its solution, that usually is going to be composed of the execution of many simultaneous or coordinated actions by different actors.
  • Implementation & Governance: The development of the solution for a challenge needs its implementation and governance. The more actors play a role in the implementation of a solution, the bigger the need for a solid governance structure.
  • Evaluation: Challenges evolve. Sometimes during its tackling, sometimes once they are solved show new faces. It is needed a continuous evaluation to redefine the challenges and improve the solutions in place.
It is quite difficult to find digital footprints for all the stages in the same web site. But there are enough scattered examples of how its look like each of them. To begin with the Exploration stage, the more complete example I know its "Futurium". This online platform, set by the European Commission, tries to go beyond the "Europe 2020" strategy enabling a broad reflection on future European policies. The doubt about this exercise for identifying Europe "futures" is which is the usage all the debate will have.

There are several examples of different approaches to the ideation stage. One approach is creating a competition based on prizes. The more outstanding example of this approach is Since 2010, more than 260 challenges have been run in this plataform in different areas (e.g. Energy, health, education, defense, ... ) looking for different types of contributions (e.g. IT applications, ideas, designs, ... ). A different approach is the collaboration of stakeholders model that is taken form around the data policies which is the "Datapaloozas". The basic idea is putting in the same physical place geeks, entrepreuners, sectorial experts and government in order to find how to use data to transform the sector. The more mature fruit of this approach is "Green button initiative". Obviously, the ideas in "Datapalooza" model are limited by the need to use data as the keystone of the solutions, but the model could be used putting in place any other general purpose technology in the center.

One example of the "Implementation and Governance" stage is "European Innovation Partnership" (EIP) model set up by the European Commission. The EIP model bring together all the relevant actors to step up R&D, coordinate the investments and funding tools, identify new standards needed and anticipate the changes in the regulation framework. With different shapes, all the EIPs has three key elements: A vision, an strategic plan and a multistakeholder steering committee. These governance instruments help to corrdinate the existing instruments and actions, identify unexpected gaps for achieving the vision and put in place the bridges to overcome the gaps.

Regarding the Evaluation stage, I have not been able to find any on-line examples of co-evaluation between Governments and the Society. It is not surprising. The evaluation of public policies is not yet widely spread in Public Administrations, so I have not expected that co-evaluation would have been a different story. Although, It could be mentioned that some Public Administrations, as the European Commission, usually do public reviews of policies and legislation in place in order to find how to improve them. Nevertheless, it should be hightligted that these kind of processes usually do not have a huge number of responses and, therefore, more should be done in order to make them more representatives.

martes, 4 de marzo de 2014

#opengov beyond government as a platform: Everywhere government

Some time has passed since O´Reilly wrrote his article "Government as a platform". Behind all the hype of open government, open data and the rest of the of all the Gov 2.0 bubble, it is powerful idea that O´Reilly synthetizes in one sentence "government is, at the bottom, a mechanism for collective action". Therefore, the usage of ICTs in Public Administration is pointless if they are not used as an enabling element for the participation and collaboration of citizens in the development and implementation of public services and policies.

Enabling government ICT systems for collaboration requires a deep transformation of the way we work. This evolution has started in some parts of the world. Open interfaces to open services and open data, based on the usage of agile methodologies. This is a formula beautifully and simply described (and applied) by the UK government. And this formula should be applied at its best in the services oriented to enable citizen participation. This is what the US government is enabling with its open API to "We the people". Everyone could open a government point of contact in its web site with a little effort from its side. Everyone could play an active in building a really open government.

However, transforming government in a platform for serving the public good demands more than throwing new technology, social media and applications on the heap of our enormous collection of legacy systems. It requires strong principles and believes. There are several summaries and versions of the principles that underpin this government redesign, but, certainly, closer collaboration with the private and social sectors should be always in mind. Collaboration is a "must" for governments, because through improving government’s procurement of ideas, products and services,  governments could unleash all its power as a provider of public goods and policies. And this is only possible if we transform the procurement of ideas, product and services in a continuous process through the usage of technology.

The consequence of the above paragraphs is obvious. Principles and tecnologies are deeply intermixed in our baggage for journey towards an open government. What is more, open government is an unachievable aim if we do not trasnsform government in something more than a platform, it should be an ubiquitous platform, but far away of the orwellian distopia. An everywhere government because all of us are the government.

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