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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.

Why Youth Will Determine ASEAN’s Success In The Digital Revolution

Michael Zipf

Don’t let the European Union and all of its troubles fool you. At least one regional integration has a lot to celebrate: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turns 50 this year.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore founded the association in 1967 to facilitate economic and political collaboration among its members and to accelerate economic growth and social progress. Five more countries joined ASEAN in the 1980s and 1990s, helping to make it an economic powerhouse with a combined GDP of US$2.5 trillion. (If it were a single country, ASEAN would be the seventh-largest economy in the world.)

But ASEAN is in the middle of the same digital revolution as the rest of the world. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and nanotechnology, along with accelerating progress in genetics, automation, and materials science, are shaking up the planet’s economies.

ASEAN taking over as the world’s factory

We are at “an inflection point in the history of our economies and societies because of digitization,” according to economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their latest book, The Second Machine Age. “It’s an inflection point in the right direction – bounty instead of scarcity, freedom instead of constraint – but one that will bring with it some difficult challenges and choices … The choices we make from now on will determine what kind of world that is.”

Brynjolfsson and McAfee are optimistic about the future, but they argue that technology may “leave a lot of people, organizations, and institutions behind.” They point out that especially workers with only “ordinary skills and abilities to offer” will suffer since “computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”

The low cost of labor in Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam is a competitive advantage for multinational firms – and for ASEAN. Experts from ANZ Bank believe “Southeast Asia will take up China’s mantle of the world’s factory over the next 10 to 15 years.”

Preparing the next generation

Much of what lies ahead for ASEAN will depend on how the younger generations will handle digitalization – and the challenges described in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Almost half of the region’s population will be younger than 30 by 2020. It will be a young, diverse, and digitally savvy population – so ASEAN could be in a good position to benefit from the digital transformation.

But getting into that good position will not be easy. Youths need to be prepared for the digital economy and be sensitized for what’s needed to ensure prosperity in a sustainable way. The challenges ahead are so fundamental that ASEAN will need help from all its stakeholders: public and private sectors, academia, and civil society.

Global partnership for sustainable development

The ASEAN Foundation is rolling out three initiatives in 2017 to address ASEAN’s economic, environmental, and societal issues. The projects are based on three focus areas:

  • Education: The data analytics competition “ASEAN Data Science Explorers“ (ADSE) is already underway. University students across all 10 ASEAN member states from any discipline are invited to deliver data-driven insights for ASEAN across six U.N. Sustainable Development Goals cloud-based analytics.
  • Volunteerism: In collaboration with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Foundation, SAP, and other partners have launched the Youth Volunteering Innovation Challenge (YVIC) in ASEAN. Under the theme “Impact ASEAN,” the initiative supports young volunteers throughout the ASEAN countries in their journey to catalyze youth-led innovation for social impact and sustainable development.
  • Entrepreneurship: Through social sabbatical programs, employees from companies such as SAP are supporting social impact intermediaries through mentoring and pro-bono consulting. The program, in association with several partners, will impact close to 20 social enterprises across Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in 2017.

These and other collaborative efforts will help many of ASEAN’s young people excel alongside Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s “computers, robots, and other digital technologies.” Beyond justifying the two economists’ optimism, these efforts will help equip youth in the 10 ASEAN countries with the skills they need to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – and to thrive in the digital economy.

Applying artificial intelligence (AI) to complex decisions has clear benefits. But it also increasingly means automating ethical choices that can alter human lives. Learn more about how scientists are Teaching Machines Right from Wrong.

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What To Do About The Youth Unemployment And STEM Skills Gap

Marita Mitschein

Today, half the people on the planet are under the age of 30. Millennials are the first “always connected” generation and the best-educated people in history, but are affected by high unemployment rates, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

At the same time, organizations around the world are increasingly reliant on advanced technical skills in the emerging digital economy. By 2020, economies will face a shortage of the skilled talent needed to drive prosperity and social security. Forty million high-skilled workers – especially with science, technology, engineering, and math knowledge – are needed globally, according to McKinsey.

What role can the private sector play in solving these issues?

The situation presents organizations of all kinds with a major challenge, but also with a huge opportunity. Although there are many public and private sector initiatives supporting employment-related education, companies also must take seriously their social responsibility here. By supporting students and recent graduates on their way into employment and bridging the gap from academic into professional life, companies can impact the lives of 1 million people each year.

A best-in-class practice is the creation of a training and development institute (TDI) that puts the upskilling of local talent at the core of the growth strategy. The concept supports local unemployed youth by offering a host of programs tailored to bring business skills to those who already understand a region’s culture and society.

A unique approach to inspire youth and jointly tackle today’s challenges

TDI’s approach not only trains and enables the most talented local millennials, but also supports them in entering a corporate workforce or establishing their own businesses. For example, our program, designed for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, has already helped more than 1,070 talented university graduates across 12 countries shape their careers, with 98% of participants placed into employment, largely in our ecosystem, after completion of the training program. Technology has the power to transform the lives of many people worldwide, and building strong public-private partnerships is key to ultimately shaping a better future for individuals, companies, and economies at scale.

True to a corporate vision of higher purpose, TDIs can help the world run better and improve people’s lives and expand that mission into additional fast-growth markets with significant skills shortages such as Brazil and Mexico. Moreover, its best practices have been adopted to support skills for Africa and a U.S. nonprofit organization that supports veterans.

As efficient solutions to the youth unemployment challenge are needed globally, this knowledge transfer inspires organizations across the globe to start looking into ideas and solving one of the most pressing issues of our time.

The urgency of the youth unemployment is a challenge, as indicated by the World Economic Forum. But a TDI centered on public-private partnerships canempower youth, create jobs, and, ultimately, drive economic growth in regions that need it.

By hosting these programs, the SAP Training and Development Institute has built skills and knowledge reflecting an in-country value of over US$110m to date. Read more about the SAP Training and Development Institute.

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Marita Mitschein

About Marita Mitschein

Marita Mitschein is Senior Vice President Strategic Investments (MENA) and Managing Director of the SAP Training and Development Institute and Member of the SAP Global Executive Leadership Team. Marita is responsible for leading the SAP investment strategy across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the operations of the SAP Training and Development Institute.

Taking Learning Back to School

Dan Wellers

 

Denmark spends most GDP on labor market programs at 3.3%.
The U.S. spends only 0.1% of it’s GDP on adult education and workforce retraining.
The number of post-secondary vocational and training institutions in China more than doubled from 2000 to 2014.
47% of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation.

Our overarching approach to education is top down, inflexible, and front loaded in life, and does not encourage collaboration.

Smartphone apps that gamify learning or deliver lessons in small bits of free time can be effective tools for teaching. However, they don’t address the more pressing issue that the future is digital and those whose skills are outmoded will be left behind.

Many companies have a history of effective partnerships with local schools to expand their talent pool, but these efforts are not designed to change overall systems of learning.


The Question We Must Answer

What will we do when digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence eject vast numbers of people from their current jobs, and they lack the skills needed to find new ones?

Solutions could include:

  • National and multinational adult education programs
  • Greater investment in technical and vocational schools
  • Increased emphasis on apprenticeships
  • Tax incentives for initiatives proven to close skills gaps

We need a broad, systemic approach that breaks businesses, schools, governments, and other organizations that target adult learners out of their silos so they can work together. Chief learning officers (CLOs) can spearhead this approach by working together to create goals, benchmarks, and strategy.

Advancing the field of learning will help every business compete in an increasingly global economy with a tight market for skills. More than this, it will mitigate the workplace risks and challenges inherent in the digital economy, thus positively influencing the future of business itself.


Download the executive brief Taking Learning Back to School.


Read the full article The Future of Learning – Keeping up With The Digital Economy

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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP, which explores how organizations can anticipate the future impact of exponential technologies. Dan has extensive experience in technology marketing and business strategy, plus management, consulting, and sales.

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Why Millennials Quit: Understanding A New Workforce

Shelly Kramer

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte


Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.

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