Archive for September 28th, 2015|Daily archive page

A Big Data Revolution for Humanitarian Response | United Nations Global Pulse

I wish I had been there—but am here, in Budapest, for ACEU. I do wonder: would big data have given the telling signal to have had effect prior to the Rwanda massacre? Of course not. It is not just that the data be gathered fairly and responsibly and analysed with scientific detachment and skepticism. It is that it must also have a chance of being used. But that raises another question. There has been a century or more of often superb scientific work that, if attended to, would save lives today, stop global warming, and otherwise prevent the crimes committed against the world and its sorry inhabitants. And these studies have been not only “ignored,” but active suppressed. The moral being….. but actually, the moral here is that the varnish of Big Data, with all the multinational wealth it ints at, might actually make a difference to lives, and even to the structures of society.

Source: A Big Data Revolution for Humanitarian Response | United Nations Global Pulse

Digital Humanitarians: How “Big Data” is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response by Patrick Meier | Always on Call | Stanford Social Innovation Review

I was reading over this review by Lucy Bernholz of Patrick Meier’s book, “Digital Humanitarianism” and winced at the paragraph I’ve cited below:


The best parts of Digital Humanitarians are those that show how humanitarian institutions, independent volunteers, and leading digital companies reinforce each other’s efforts. The tale that Meier tells is one of complementarity: Digital humanitarians are not replacing established aid organizations or government agencies. Instead, humanitarian aid has become a dynamic ecosystem that encompasses amateurs and experts, one-off participants and long-term professionals, drone operators and satellite imagery analysts. The global digital “nervous system” provides the context in which they do their work.

Source: Digital Humanitarians: How “Big Data” is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response by Patrick Meier | Always on Call | Stanford Social Innovation Review

Why my wince? Well, sure it’s nice to have civl society cooperation. But a lot of what Meier writes on seems to be a governmental responsibility, and for a couple of reasons. One is that there is a greater chance of accountability and transparency. Yes, underfunded bureaucracies are terrible things. The solution is to fund them better, not make them worse. And I’d argue certainly not make it the responsibility of those most affected by the events demanding large scale remedies.That’s blaming the victim. But that doesn’t mean that the denizen (not everyone is a citizen) is out of the picture; it means rather that she is involved as an agent, acting on her own behalf, but not wholly liable or responsible for the work. This engaged model has worked pretty well with middle-class PTAs and schools–at least until recent paranoia has changed what schools do and are about.

A story of dirty emissions … and copyright law |

Yet more on the issue, first raised by Moglen in a _NY Times_ article. Now this, and then also the _Le Monde_ cartoon. Moglen’s point was that operations affecting the public should–must–be open to that public, as otherwise one is trusting in the good faith of those companies which are constituted to maximise their profit. Companies like Exxon, BP, and of course, Volkswagen; but it’s hardly alone. Japanese auto makers have acted with contempt for their buyers time and again in the last few years. All of which is to suggest that, as we seem unlikely (or unwilling) to rid ourselves of this arrangement, that we need systems of regulation.And it is not the business of the people to do what government is entrusted to do; that is a version of blaming the victim. Open data policies do not mean that the people must be vigilantes.


Digital Millennium Copyright Act can protect automakers from scrutiny.

Source: A story of dirty emissions … and copyright law |

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