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Civic Hacking: Evolution Of Public Policy Or Hype?

Natalie Kenny

It is the modern reality that the speed of technological change, globalisation, and economic mobility are making our world increasingly connected and diverse. The challenges that face government to put the correct precautions and safety nets in place to protect their citizens from economic and social risk require new skills and knowledge.

At the same time, governments have access to a new dimension of collaboration and consultation with citizens in solving complex civic problems. In a similar manner to opening up to the public a cold case in a criminal investigation, new leads from unexpected sources can sometimes result in new policy options. New roles have emerged in recent years that view technology as a bridge that brings together government, industry, NGOs, and citizens to transform government. They are known as civic hackers.

A short history of hacking

Propagated by the media and popular culture, the image of a “hacker” more often than not brings to mind technically skilled, nefarious individuals huddled away in dark rooms and plugged into their laptops, wreaking havoc against secure systems across the globe with malicious or greedy intent.

Indeed, the hackers we hear about in the media are generally associated with high-profile security breaches such as the devastating cyberattacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment or extramarital affairs website Ashley Madison, which saw private and confidential data such as credit card information, e-mails, home addresses, salacious photographs, and phone numbers leaked out across the Internet in droves.

These examples of hackers are contradictory to the ethos of the civic hacking movement. Their vision is altruistic and seeks work collaboratively across communities to improve the operation of government and outcomes for citizens. Civic hacking expanded out of an idea to bring highly skilled coders, programmers and developers together to improve government through technology.

Although it started with technology, the term civic hacking has evolved and is being applied to anyone who looks to improve civic outcomes in more efficient and creative ways. As Jake Levitas from the organisation Code for America notes, “These days I see just as many community leaders, architects, environmentalists, artists, and other professionals coming out to events under the purview of civic hacking as coders and designers.”

The evolution of civic hacking

In recent years, there has been a global movement in government towards information openness and transparency. Initiated by the United States, the last decade has seen over 70 countries around the world pass legislation for all non-sensitive public data collected across levels of government to be made open by default and published to the world. Globally it is estimated there are more than one million open datasets that have been made available today on digital portals across all levels of government (local, state, and federal), research institutions (CSIRO), and not-for-profit institutions (United Nations, WHO).

Whilst originally started as an action to promote greater government transparency and accountability, smart and creative technology enthusiasts recognised that they could take this information released by governments and use it to create new value for communities. These original civic hackers worked to build open source apps, create visualisation tools such a dashboards, or build new business models and products for market, and support the transformation of government service delivery and offerings.

Civic hackers were not just working to revolutionise government from the outside in. Governments began waking up to the potential value in civic hacking at the same time that technological capability made it possible to more easily share data and digitally interact with communities. Governments around the world now regularly host and sponsor hackathons, which bring together people with technical backgrounds to form teams around a civic problem or idea and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch (GovHack, HackLondon).

New jobs have been advertised to bring technical skills formally into the public service such as the Australian Digital Transformation’s posting for an “ethical hacker” in 2015.  Formal civic hacking organisations have even been established, such as DataKind, Code for All, Rewired State, and IndianKanoon. These groups enlist coders and technology professionals to work with governments to build open-source applications, foster startup and agile-led approaches to government service delivery and promote the sharing of public data to foster transparency and innovation.

A great example of what can be achieved by the civic hacking community is their response immediately after the 2011 Haiti earthquake. Using information gathered from online social and mainstream media and satellite images, they built a detailed real-time crisis map of Haiti.

Haiti

This resource directly helped to saves lives. Humanitarian aid workers were able to use the map to navigate collapsed roads and buildings and more effectively deliver aid, resources, and emergency assistance to those in need.

Civic hacking: revolutionary or an exaggeration of value?

However, with nearly a decade of civic “hactivism” at work, numerous open government policies in place, and one million open government datasets available, the question to be asked is: Why hasn’t more been achieved?

Why has this abundance of availability not led to widespread and long lasting social, economic and political change? It seems as though despite the amount of effort put into this movement, the ideas and outcomes generated are not always sustainable and do not lead to long-lasting government transformation. This is not to say there is no place for civic hacking; rather there needs to be a new approach to hacker coordination.

There are several reasons as to why this might be the case:

1. The quality and availability of open data published by government is inconsistent

Simply releasing open data to the public is not enough. The open data that is being made available on government portals is hard to find, not well structured or described, dumped in silos and data portals across every department and level of government, and not readily published in easily linkable formats. This makes it challenging for civic hackers to search portals, identify datasets that are useful, combine them, and perform meaningful analysis on that information to help solve challenging social and civic problems.

2. Coordination of civic hacking can be complex and disorderly

With the exception of formal hackathons or specific groups such as Code for All, most civic hackers work remotely from outside governments, in different locations and geographies. There can be a lack of continuity. Referencing what work has been done previously by other hackers is difficult to determine and can lead to repeated efforts and duplicated work. Hackers may work on one project or idea and then quickly move on to the next, so flaws may go unrecognised.

3. Expectations need to be realistic; innovation takes time and is iterative

Hackathons, civic coding meet-ups, and short embedded projects in government often have limited parameters, undefined governance and ownership, and work at a breakneck pace. These factors can narrow the possibility of lasting innovation. Ideas are developed and confined by the data, skills, and experiences that are made available in the room on the day or online.

Civic hackers may not always have the right contextual knowledge and expertise, so they tend to come up with ideas that are neither feasible nor realistic in the real world. Part of the challenge is that it can be difficult and time-consuming to perform meaningful market research and financial planning or identify possible risky side effects of an idea in short project timelines. After projects and hackathons are complete, research can reveal that similar projects were created in the past and had failed to find a market.

4. Solving complex problems requires an ecosystem

Ideas and solutions may also fail to deliver long-lasting change without the internal support from the departments and agencies they target or whose data they use. Even the greatest technical solution can fail rapidly if it is constrained by lack of access to data or strict policy requirements that prohibit the sharing or linking of data across programs. Finding a way to bring these skills and talents together in a combined effort that targets all levels of the problem and matches up skilled civic hackers with experienced government public servants will lead to greater outcomes for everyone.

This is not to say civic hacking and all of these engagements don’t have their value and place. The digital era has enabled the concept of civic hacking. Each of these outputs could add a piece to the greater puzzle. Moreover, they are fun, engaging, and bring together skilled and passionate people to work on creative ideas. This can be an effective way for government to source ideas from non-traditional actors in the policy making process. Civic hacking may not solve a complex problem in its own right, but it has the ability to generate new ideas, foster collaboration, and build awareness for important civic issues and challenges, which could lead to a solution.

For more blogs on civic hacking, click here.

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Natalie Kenny

About Natalie Kenny

Natalie Kenny is an Industry Value Engineer at SAP, focused on digital transformation of public sector organisations across Australia and New Zealand. She is dedicated to helping governments re-imagine future ways to interact with and deliver services to citizens. Natalie's key focus area is exploring how digital technologies can help un-tap the immense value that lies in government data to extract new value and insights and help solve challenging civic problems.

Your Best Brand Advocates: Employees With Passion

Olesya Tarasenko

When I think about developing brand advocates, customers are the ones who most often come to mind. However, after reading a recent blog post from one of my millennial peers, I was reminded of how important it is to have your most passionate employees serve as ambassadors of the purpose of your business as well. After all, they are the most organic sources of your brand promotion, both within and outside of your organization—especially if you are a purpose-driven company.

Why passion at work matters

To understand this concept better, let’s look at why passion at work matters and how that ties into purpose. Here are a few reasons why it is important to help your employees to find passion in every aspect of their lives, including their work and career:

  • Passion triggers personal and professional growth. When people follow their passion, I believe they automatically become growth-oriented and naturally tend to take on more challenging tasks. The achievement of tasks leads to greater success, both personally and professionally.
  • Passionate people strive to be their best. When passion inspires people, they work harder because they are more personally involved. This also seems to motivate them to make things happen even when a situation seems impossible.
  • Passion teaches people to tolerate uncertainty and discomfort. When people are inspired, they can tolerate a lot more ambiguity and insecurity.

More and more, passion is a quality that many dynamic companies now want to encourage in their employees. And when the passion is fired up in employees, the logical next step is to encourage them to turn that passion into projects that support a company’s purpose.

Turn passion into value

Back in 2010, Steve Jobs said Apple’s core value was the belief that people with passion can change the world for the better. He essentially was talking about purpose-driven marketing and how employees’ passions can make a difference in a company.

So how can you encourage passion in your company? Here are three simple steps you can take:

  1. Learn about your employees’ passions. Understanding what your employees are passionate about helps managers get to know them better on a more personal level. This in turn can lead to conversations that are more individually tailored and meaningful for employees.
  1. Develop a “driver profile” for each employee. Creating a profile of what drives your employees can help you quickly see where their passions can align with your company’s purpose.
  1. Launch “find your passion” programs within your organization. Once you understand what drives your employees, you can help them create “passion projects” that would interest them and nourish your company’s purpose. 

What are passion projects? They are simply projects that people feel excited about working on because they align with their own passions and purpose. For example, an Autism at Work program within your company would be a great passion project for someone who has an autistic child. Or Back-to-Work initiatives could encourage women who have returned to the workforce after having children help others who are just starting that process.

These are brilliant ways to encourage your employees to build a connection with your company’s purpose. These projects may be outside of the typical scope of a position or job responsibilities, but they are still aligned with the big-picture objectives of your organization.

Passion creates more passion

When employees are connected to a company’s purpose through passion projects at work, the sources that feed your company’s purpose initiatives multiply, creating a long-lasting natural source of nourishment. And when you encourage your employees to link their passions with meaningful projects at work, you start to build stronger connections between them and your company.

In essence, it is pretty simple: Make employees’ passions a priority of your business and you will soon find your business’s purpose among your employees’ priorities.

This blog is part of our Millennials on Purpose series. To learn more about SAP’s higher purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, visit sap.com/purpose.

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Olesya Tarasenko

About Olesya Tarasenko

Olesya Tarasenko is an HR Early Talent at SAP, currently finishing her final rotation in the HR Operations, Cloud Services, team in Prague, Czech Republic. With her multicultural background and diverse HR experiences, including international, Olesya aims to promote personal and professional development and help employees reach their full potential at work. Olesya holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and is passionate about continuous learning, innovation, and simplification.

Super Bowl Commercials And Purpose-Driven Business

Thomas Leisen

Every year, millions of people look forward to the final match of the National Football League (NFL) in the United States. Most of the 100-plus million viewers want to watch the world’s best football players give their all to win the coveted title of Super Bowl Champions.

Then there are those who tune in just to watch the highly entertaining halftime performances with big-name music stars.

Last but not least, there is a third category of viewers: Those folks who watch the Super Bowl simply because of all the funny, passionate commercials that air during the game. This attention is well-deserved, as advertisers invest a lot of research, money, and creativity – approximately $5 million – to come up with extraordinary ideas that aim to wow millions of people during a short 30-second spot.

Storytelling captures more attention

So what makes these ads so intriguing? Of course, the timing—during one of the biggest sports events in the world—makes them special. But in my opinion, what really makes these commercials popular is their storytelling approach.

Take, for example, the commercial in which a dad tracks his daughter’s first date via a car tracker — I bet everyone got a chuckle out of that one! Or how about the one where a baby tries to come into the world sooner than expected because he or she wants some Doritos? This compelling kind of storytelling has been used for more than 30 years, since Apple produced its 1984 commercial.

The most popular ads don’t simply tell customers what is unique about a particular product; they put the story first and let the product’s selling points speak through the story.

As shown by Super Bowl commercials, ads with stories show viewers the company’s personality and strengthens its relationship with them. They don’t focus on trying to sell or convince viewers of something. Instead, they entertain and touch the audience emotionally, and the storyteller’s intention to get people to buy is overlooked.

This effect is related to a mechanism called transportation, and there is significant research around its implications on business. In essence, storytelling is a more powerful tool for advertising and public relations than most other communication formats.

Interestingly, storytelling is an area where market research is often waiting for new developments from the real world instead of the other way around. For example, in one of my master courses focusing on storytelling, we have been analyzing past Super Bowl commercials and can’t wait for this year’s to debut for further analysis.

Purpose-driven business needs storytelling

As a millennial, I believe my generation loves the modern storytelling approach in all kinds of communications, as it can be a welcome antidote to our Twitter 140-character world.

We also love this approach because we perceive it as proof of a company’s authenticity, or purpose, which we value not only from the customer’s perspective, but also from the employees.’

When I looked at the 2016 Fit for Purpose report, I wasn’t surprised to see that nearly all the highest-ranked companies used a storytelling approach to bring their purpose to their customers. SAP is one of these companies, and as an employee, I get to experience how this company brings purpose into everything it does for our customers each and every day.

Who will win this year’s Super Bowl? What stories will this year’s Super Bowl commercials tell us? I hesitate to try to predict either outcome, but I am certain of one thing: I will enjoy the storytelling of this year’s advertisers! 

This blog is part of our Millennials on Purpose series. To learn more about SAP’s higher purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, visit sap.com/purpose.

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Thomas Leisen

About Thomas Leisen

Thomas Leisen is a millennial and master student working in HR at SAP. In his role, he creates insights into the heart-beat of the organization through employee surveys and assessments. In one of his internal research projects, he analyzed the communication effectiveness of millennials versus other generations with regards to modern communication channels. He is an expert in data-driven insights, business and communication psychology, and generation research (especially millennials). Leisen is also supporting purpose-driven marketing at SAP.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch


Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.




Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.


Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)


Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.


Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.




Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.


Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.



Get a head start


Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.


Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.


Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.

 


 

download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


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Christopher Koch

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

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In An Agile Environment, Revenue Models Are Flexible Too

Todd Wasserman

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.

For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.

As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.

Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.

Products as services, services as products

There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.

Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.

The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.

As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.

Not a new idea

Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.

“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.

Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.

To learn more about how you can monetize disruption, watch this video overview of the new SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud.

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