Week 6 – Open Government

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  Diarmuid Kiernan 2 years, 6 months ago.

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    We’ve talked about some interesting trends in participatory democracy – How could Ireland take on board aspects of Government 2.0 under the current Programme for Government?

    Further to this…is the concept of algorithmic governance where a fluid set of regulatory measures are determined through machine intelligence and respond to human behaviour to implement social values-based precepts? Is this singularity?

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  shawnday.
    • This topic was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  shawnday.


    Participatory democracy? I’m not sure I get it – we elect the government then we ask them to ask us our opinion each time they want to make an important decision? Omni-present mini-referenda? That seems ludicrous. Surely, that’s why we vote for people – we’re entrusting them to make the right decisions for us. Also, can we really trust ourselves to make the right decisions especially when finances are concerned? I’m not sure we’re all hard-wired to think about the greater good ahead of self-interest. Would any raises in taxes (or introduction of new taxes e.g. The Water tax) ever get passed if they were subject to “participatory government”? I don’t think so.



    I for one have never understood how the government assigns ministers to specific cabinet positions. I know that a lot of them have no idea what they are doing when they get into their role and end up hiring consultants to identify what needs to be done and if possible, the best (most cost effective way / within budget) way of doing it. This seems to happen every time a cabinet is defined. Can they not just hire the right people with the right skills? Rant over.
    In relation to an Open / transparent government. It would be nice to see where money is being spent. It would also be nice to read about projects that have received the right funding and not read about the millions that have been squandered on hair-brain ideas or supposedly good idea – case in point – the new location for the national children’s hospital. “Almost €60m has been spent on the new National Children’s Hospital which has yet to be built, it emerged yesterday.” – http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/video-cost-of-childrens-hospital-hits-60m-347431.html
    As discussed in class, I would like to see the government put up a survey page before they announce the budget – stating all the elements that will be addressed and the option to put your vote (‘like’, ‘dislike’ or ‘need to know more’) on each of the budgetary measures.
    This could be a great way to find out how the nation want their hard earned euro spent. Start off with €16 billion, in your account and assign what you think would be the appropriate amounts to each department – transparency of ongoing and upcoming projects would be key – and a detail explanation of what the outcome is of each of the choices made.
    I can appreciate that this kind of exercise/project would take time to get off the ground but I believe (if we crowd-sourced it) that this project would gain some excellent news time and participation from the majority of the nation.
    Everyone could have their say on where they think the government should spend the budget.

    On a foot-note – it would be nice to be able to get a clear and update picture of the income and expenditure of the Government, in as close to real-time as possible, on a webpage. We know the data is there – why not show it. It took me a while to locate this on the internet – an overview of the 2016 income and expenditure for Ireland – http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2016/Documents/White_Paper_2016_final.pdf



    NB – €16 billion is a made up figure



    Government 2.0 seems more like a real life example of Sim City in which players have the task of founding and developing a city, while maintaining the happiness of the citizens and keeping a stable budget ( http://www.simcity.com/en_US ). In real life politicians have to come in terms with the notion that in few years the biggest voting population will be the generation who grew up with web and it’s creative, collaborative and open model to gain a global outlook and provide an instant solution to various issues affecting them. This generation does not have to gather in front of the Dail to hold a protest. Leveraging power of social network the feedback is instant. Politicians are involved every second with the public and not merely around election time. Using Government 2.0, both citizens and politicians can work together using information as when it is needed.
    Ireland should not be hampered with the small domestic economy and its reliance on global economy. Citizens should suggest creative solutions to issues using information as a national asset. They should have passion to use their skill set, education to solve local problems. And start viewing both the local issues and national issues as a whole.
    As an urgent issue to improve could be the HSE and unemployment among younger generations. Politicians and public could help each other and should innovate to find a quick solution. People should have a positive say into the policies rather than politicians gambling with various policies wishing the problems go away soon.
    New technology such as machine learning is changing our environment and knowledge about ourselves. Machine learning is definitely being improved to be more powerful and achieve what we want it to do. However, human values are incompatible with machines. We can teach a machine to do something based on behaviour but only at a basic level. Humans can receive reward and punishment based on their behaviour can be taught to be beneficial to the masters of machines.
    In my view ,at present there is a singularity in the concept of algorithmic governance. Human primacy to delegate decision making to machines is something the future generations will be more accepting and used to. Machines and humans can do a lot together. There has to be an acknowledgement that machines are built upon human capacity and intention is to support and empower humans.
    However, there are few issues to achieve success. Firstly human behaviour and values change all the time . values are mysterious and differ among individuals. I do not think machine can evolve to the changing circumstances as efficiently as humans can. Secondly, policies will have a major impact on what we will and will not let a machine do. Most important hurdles to achieve singularity could be sociability, cultural background and technological stereotyping.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  piush.


    Participatory democracy in theory sounds like it would work but in practice it would end up being a little chaotic and ultimately an oxymoron.
    At present, to implement Government 2.0, would require major changes in the way decisions are made, i.e. entered, approved and executed from a government perspective. To implement any decision requires a lot of time and in order for Government 2.0 to actually work, decisions would need to be processed much faster than todays standards.


    Bernard McGinley

    There are a number of different aspects to it though:

    The Finnish model, where everything is public by default, and the government have to apply to keep something secret that we discussed in class. The downside to this is information overload. It’s all there if we want to see it, or have a specific interest, but we’re still left hoping some journalist somewhere is trawling through it all looking for a scoop.

    This ties in to openness above, but rather than just throwing the information out there, present an argument. Explain to people why a new tax is needed, and allow the open numbers above to back you up.

    To get to the Gov2.0 model we’d need to have a similar system the the Estonian iVoting, where users are able to vote wherever and whenever they want, and they can change their mind up to the final cut-off. That removes many of the barriers to voting, but not apathy. We need to add a red rope, some form of incentive to ensure a set percentage of voter turnout. Tax incentives for frequent voters might work, or a minimal opt-out cost per vote, but people will still try to game the system, or just cast a vote randomly.

    Openness has historically led to changes in law, the decriminalization of homosexuality for example. Algorithmic legislature is problematic, but possibly algorithmic enforcement isn’t. If more than 1 in 7 drivers are speeding, cameras might recalibrate to a higher speed. Alternatively, it might lower the enforced limit in bad weather, or when there is an accident further ahead to limit the tailback this causes.

    When we get to AI, it’ll be smart enough to know how we would have voted anyway, so we can just sit in front of our TVs, eating our processed meat-ish dinners, and trust our new robot overlords have our best interests in heart.



    National ID cards are compulsory in some European States. Ireland is among a number of states where it is optional to carry an ID card. While we are talking about a fully traceable and accountable “e-government” does that mean that we should be fully traceable and accountable citizens by having a National ID card that contains personal information that the government can obtain when needed ?

    Does there need to be some kind of trade off ?



    Don’t be too constrained about thinking that involvement in the running of the state can only happen down the lines and interactions it does today? What if you voted every morning on a smart interactive device on the issue (s) du jour and that had some impact on decisions made. Not also thinking that it is merely a numbers game and majority opinion – other forms of tempering the input and using it as guidance. What about having people raise their rants and have a way to share and have them addressed – to inspire real policy and process change.



    Ireland can easily take on board aspects of Government 2.0 under the current Program for Government, this is something I really have no doubt about at all. It seems to be the case that if a country and its operational structures is not heading towards an infrastructure of online participation then the likelihood of that countries continuing evolution will cease to occur. The mobility and speed of information and services is so prevalent in our daily lives that it would be ludicrous for countries not to engage and develop this area.

    The biggest problem I have, or that I see with it, is the fact that it’s not actually changing anything is it? It’s not ripping up the way Government and Government affairs are carried out. It’s just utilizing a “new” medium, isn’t it?

    What will change? The speed of Governmental reply, our availability of information & services increase or become more prevalent, we gain increased knowledge of public spending or deployment of spending & services?

    These things aren’t new. These things are all already out there. All available. All the time. I agree it will bring it to us sooner but will it actually change the way in which we are governed?

    I cant help but echo the sentiments of patmurph and his thoughts on participatory democracy, especially his line of thought with regard public spending… ” can we really trust ourselves to make the right decisions especially when finances are concerned? ”

    Think about that for a minute. Think about ANY public spending that would need to occur. Think about the hold ups that could occur, possibly grinding any form of advancements to a halt because of one or another interest groups involvement. It could be crippling on a country as a whole. And that’s just a snippet of possible delays!

    In theory, e-Governance or Government 2.0 is a great idea & of course there can be massive benefits with regard information and services provided to citizens but ultimately my concern is that it is being hyped as some kind of “new wheel” & a transparent vehicle for governance, when ultimately, I feel, nothing will really change with how Governments operate. Just a thought…

    As for the concept of algorithmic governance & its involvement in government, there is definitely areas in which its involvement could enhance the way in which government controls are implemented. Real-time adjustments to tax rates or tax benefits could mirror factors of fluctuation in markets to give a far closer or real-time accurate estimation of accounts, products, services, etc. to the citizen.

    I would worry though, in more precarious areas of control, particularly that of military control, due to the fact that emotion, in its purest form, can not be determined by machine. This could allow for some extremely unsavoury incidents and could bring on situations that may become irreversible.



    A good idea Shawn, something like a private version of twitter ? A highly secure network that every local government has to provide and respond to, a fully accountable system ?


    Kevin Mc

    I’m also going to agree with patmurph when he says he’s not sure we’re all hard-wired to think about the greater good ahead of self-interest. Can anyone tell me when we last elected a government that we can trust? Certainly not during my voting life.

    If we can’t even elect so called experts to run our country how can we trust ourselves to do a better job. The Estonian model truly is a wonderful thing and the Estonian people need to be applauded for it however I feel it may always be one bad decision away from disaster.



    The more I read about the theory of machine intelligence responding to human behaviour to implement social-values the more I think about “social” being taken out of the social values. Are we really getting to the stage where we are forced to act in a certain way by technology or effectively the governments behind the technology?? If the government were to participate in aspects of government 2.0 would they actively follow the route of transparency! I’m not so sure. Partial transparency definitely. The Irish government list the lowly tax defaulters but yet don’t release figures for large multinationals on the tax that they have paid (or haven’t paid). Reported tax paid by two of the largest multinationals in the ICT sector here in Ireland
    Google paid a mere €28.6 million on €18 Billion profits in 2014 which works out at 0.16%, not the 12.5% as advertised internationally http://www.rte.ie/news/business/2015/1029/738216-google-ireland/
    Apple paid €36 million from €7.11 billion from 2004 to 2008 which is 0.5% http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/apple-paid-36m-tax-on-7-11bn-profits-at-irish-unit-1.1715727
    These figures weren’t made transparent by the government but had to be publicly berated by the media in the wake of the EU being unhappy with our government’s strategy in incentivising tax avoidance techniques, if a government is going to be transparent it has to be fully and not partially. They are essentially keeping some aspects of privacy.
    If we look at Estonia’s backbone X-Road, they have the policies in place to restrict entities viewing their record; this is a very useful feature of their system. It gives back some assurance to the sceptical portion of the population that there is some form of privacy mechanisms in place within the realm of e-government. From that standpoint it is crucial for persuading the population to buy into the system, something that could be promoted should our government decide to work towards government 2.0.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  forde1208.

    Barry Quirke

    I think that the current and future programmes for government need to be more ambitious in relation to the provision of high speed broadband in rural areas. To my mind, there can be no viable Government 2.0 initiatives if all citizens can’t access on-line resources in order to participate. The National Broadband plan 2012 has a target of 30Mbit/s for all by 2020: compare Estonia, 100Mbit/s by the end of 2015. So we’ve a way to go yet, even in terms of enabling full citizen body participation in existing on-line public services (such as Revenue’s On-line Service).

    Shawn’s ‘Vox Pop’ App idea is a great idea and like byrnep16, I have concerns about tax payer’s money being wasted on publicly funded projects which are simply unfeasible. Perhaps such an app could be used to elicit the public’s views on projects such as the Dublin Metro or Dart Underground? And maybe such feedback could have prevented personal trophy projects such as the Bertie Bowl from ever being considered in the first place (thereby saving €100m)?

    Government would need to change to wholeheartedly embrace public feedback on specific issues, otherwise participation would become a pointless exercise and result in increased distrust in government 2.0 by disaffected citizens, it’s a two-process and both sides of the social contract need to take their responsibilities seriously for open government to work.

    As for algorithmic governance, the idea fills me with foreboding. That said, recently featured on a TV programme (part of BBC4’s Make It Digital season) was an algorithm used in an automated on-line grocery warehouse which can learn from previous customer orders (i.e., experience) the optimal routes through the warehouse to fulfil new orders. I thought that was neat, but I’m not comfortable with the idea of machines governing humans. Like Bernard, I can see a role for algorithms in regulating items such as speed limits near accidents and in bad weather, but I strongly suspect that it won’t stop there. But the speed cameras will also know about the modified speed limits, so in this highly connected world, we’ll have to accept that there are good and bad aspects to open government and algorithmic governance.



    I think he biggest risk to Open Government is the false sense of openness. It wouldn’t be difficult for a government to talk the talk when it comes to openness, having in place many of the characteristics and platforms that an Open Government might use, and then behind the scenes hide vital information from the pubic. We have seen this time and time again. The US government were one of the first to release a Freedom of Information Act in 1962, but that didn’t stop them wiretapping for example.

    Thankfully I believe many governments around the world are far more pen now than they were fifty years ago. Open Governance has values that we are working towards as countries. Hopefully in fitty years time from now we will better in a better place again.

    Government 2.0 to me seems like the way forward whether we like it or not. Countries will be left behind unless they encourage and tap into technologies that are the result of combined effort. This area has massive potential and goes hand in had with openly innovative government policies.

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