The UK’s: Government Digital Service (GDS), the US’s: Digital Services (USDS) and Australia’s: Digital Transformation Authority (DTA) are all train wrecks in every meaningful measure of success.Continue Reading...
Archives For #Politics
Preface: I did not write a formal posting on the Data for Policy confab this past September, but wanted to at least share the materials that I presented and discussed during the conference.
Abstract: The notion of Data-driven Policy making and its associated Governance, is often challenged by the fact that the vast majority of Politicians, Civil Servants, Champions of Industry & Non-Profit Leaders are basically illiterate in the domains of data, analytics & decision science. Most of these leaders have come up through their careers making decisions based on gut instinct (experience), group think (consensus) or by using a modicum of summary data & visual analysis, but few have either a base in decision science or statistics, much less have bootstrapped themselves along their careers to become Data & Analytics Literate.
Educators today are faced with the daunting task of preparing future generations of Leaders who must have deep competencies & acumen in all aspects of data, analysis & decision science. Many have chosen to focus on the dubious discipline of so-called Data Science. These endeavors are for the most part a cynical attempt by educators to latch onto the latest fad and to create degree programs based upon cobbling together a hodge podge of disciplines which is sold to unsuspecting students as either an Undergraduate or Post Graduate degree opportunity. All fail at their mission and leave graduates, much less future leaders, with a degree that is sorely lacking in the core skills and competencies required to succeed with.
In my presentation at the Conference I endeavored to trace the roots of how we got into such a mess, what needs to be done to prepare individuals to become Data-driven Leaders and how Educators must re-think their approach to creating/adjust curriculum and programs to put all students on a path to Data & Analytics competency and mastery no matter their chosen field of endeavor. I focused specifically on the notion of Top-down Data Leadership that I coined several years ago and use to drive convergence on the key issues and competencies required by all Leaders, Managers & Employees to be use data, analytics & decision science pervasively across their Organizations.
Handouts & Videos:
U-tube Interview: http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ
Psychological Projection: A theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
The Mayhem Government aka Theresa May’s Post-Brexit cabal has already left a lasting mark on the UK and its role in the Global economy during its short time in power. It is clear to me (and no doubt others) that in spite of the circumstances of her appointment, Theresa May absolutely believes that she has a mandate to change the UK forever and not just exit the European Union. So far, her vision for the UK is decidedly one where the residents of England, Scotland & Wales will become much more homogenous, monitored 24×7 by the State and live in a world where the economic wealth and well-being of the country will be severely diminished for generations to come, all in the name of the rigid ideology known as “British Nationalism”. This vision for a Little Britain, along with the implications of using Big Data for mass surveillance, behavior control & the dissemination of government propaganda is what I will focus on for this month’s column.
The rise of Nationalistic fever around the globe has been fueled by both rigid ideologies and the use of data (Big and Small) to gain insights on the public, as well as to control any opposition. Much of this has been conducted under the auspices of being for “public good” or in the name of “national security”, with all efforts specifically intended to concentrate more power, insights & control into the hands of Governments’ who are a lot less Democratic and a much more Authoritarian (much less paranoid) than they were just a couple of decades ago (Pre-9/11 & 7/7).
Many of us have foreseen these issues and spoken up, but the media and press have been co-opted by these same Governments to act as their Pit Bulls in stifling any opposition as well as reporting the truth. This toxic mix of rigid ideologies, concentration of power, the limitation of human rights and the muting of dissent has reduced the principles of Democracy to more of a notion, if not a source of ridicule by those now in power (or desirous of attaining it). Examples of these endeavors in recent months in the UK (both pre & post the Brexit “Leave” vote) include;
- The IP Bill (Snoopers Charter)
- The Digital Economy Bill
- The Department for Education – National Pupil Database
- Home Office “Foreign Employees” Database
All of these “tools of control and surveillance” leverage the same Big Data capabilities that have be touted by so many as “virtuous and beneficial to society”, but in ways that few were openly willing to discuss publicly. However, there have been some recent discussions in the UK and US on managing the vision & scope of Artificial Intelligence for the public good as well as getting ahead of the tide of Discrimination that Big Data driven insights into Citizens behaviors has brought. In all cases these efforts were designed to distract attention away from the Government’s own behavior in respect to these and other emerging applications of Big Data and Advanced Analytics. In essence, the fears about the nefarious use of Big Data to harm or control the public are a form of psychological projection in respect to the Government shifting its own blame onto others, while standing in judgement against the Public and NFP sectors. It all would seem so laughable if it were not so serious.
The movement away from Democratic Government to one based on rigid Ideologies, along with the exploitation of Big Data & Advanced Analytics by these same Government’s has become a “clear and present danger” to all Citizens under their control. The accumulation of knowledge about each Citizens’ behavior & activities by the State is a bell that cannot be un-rung. Massive databases, predictive analytics, machine learning, etc. are all tools of the Big Data paradigm and can be used as a force for good in the right hands or as an unbounded force for evil in the wrong ones. To imagine the scope of this potential evil one only needs to look back a short time in history to see how such information, albeit at a much more primitive level of sophistication, was used to discriminate, enslave and control entire populations across the world. The efficiencies brought by Big Data to this type of behavior control are limitless and should be feared by all that cherish the beliefs of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’.
PostScript: With the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, I expect that all controls (albeit weak) previously in place to protect against the abuse of US Citizens by either Government or Industry in respect to Big Data, Privacy, Discrimination, etc. will all be thrown out the window immediately after the inauguration and that an “Enemies List” will soon be made known in terms of those that Trump and his disciples will go after. This List will range from Political figures to Ordinary Citizens all of whom having slighted Trump somehow in his authoritarian/fascist view of the world around him. These activities will make those of the Mayhem Government look amateurish in comparison.
* An edited version of this posting appears in the November 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)
Definition: Post-Truth; A phenomena found “after the continuous use of facts & experts derived from “for hire” sources to bolster seemingly outrageous arguments where the public (Electorate) switches off its acceptance of any facts, figures or “truths” and now consciously wants to be deceived (its new comfort zone).
Definition: Decisioning; The art of decision making. A combination of Facts, Evidence, Decision Science, Gut & Instinct. How each is weighted greatly affects the accuracy of the decision.
*Body: For several decades now, Business, Government & Non-Profit Leaders have been pursuing the common goal of Fact (Evidence) based Decision Making. What started out as the notion of Decision Support in the early ‘80’s, soon moved to the emerging field of Decision Science in the ‘90’s & beyond. Decision Science (a widely recognized branch of science) is where Data, Analytics, Algorithms and Decision Theory coalesce into a formalized discipline for Decisioning*. It’s use can be found across many geographies, within all sectors in small & large Organizations. The “Data-driven Cultures” created in these Organizations are much more pervasive than those who simply embrace the marketing term “Data Science” which seems to be focused exclusively on “self-aggrandizement & data wrangling”.
In recent times however, as Decision Science has become much more mature and widely adopted, we find that it has run head-long into the buzz saw of Politics where Data, Facts, Evidence and ultimately the Truth are bent, twisted & broken to fit the needs of ideologies, platforms and agendas in respect to achieving outcomes which are “counter-factual”. One only needs to examine the three most recent Elections/Referendums in the UK, as well as the current US Election cycle, much less the current Brexit negotiations (or the EU Phony War if you rather) to appreciate just how much of a Post-Truth World we have now entered.
In today’s Post-Truth World, not only are stated facts meaningless i.e. lacking in veracity, but the pursuit of the Truth has become derided by many. The arc of this effect has reached the point where the majority of the Electorate are now demanding that it be lied to by its figureheads so as to constantly reinforce its own particular ideology in spite of the reality around it. This is a clear threat to every democracy around the world where an informed, much less literate, Electorate is required to provide checks & balances to government overreach, much less holding them to account in respect to delivering the services & protections that society demands. For someone who has just arrived on Earth and is observing this effect first hand they might ask; “Are there any real differences between so-called Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes?” These effects are no less profound in the Commercial and Non-Profit Sectors where we constantly see “Dubious Data, Questionable Facts & Outright Lies proffered by Executives, spokespeople and PR hacks.
How should we cope with this challenge?
First and foremost, wherever your role lies in the data, information & analytics supply chain you cannot abandon your mission to deliver the highest-quality information & insights in support of Decisioning at every level. You must insure that strong & independent Data Governance & Data Ethics bodies are in place and their guidance is employed by all practitioners and consumers of these deliverables and that regardless of the outcome, the Facts stand on their own merits (subject to peer review and A/B testing, etc.). Only by creating (if not already established) a bedrock data foundation for Decisioning, built on transparency, veracity, lineage, proven rigors & pristine quality can a platform for the “Truth” be achieved, much less maintained. It is critical that as the Post-Truth paradigm plays itself out that this foundation for the Truth be maintained and protected at all costs. The old adage that the “first victim in war is the truth” applies to everything in the Decisioning Supply Chain and those who support it, much less rely on it, must be ever-vigilant to protect its transparency.
Each of us will be challenged to maintain our individual (much less collective) sanity during the course of time that this Post-Truth era plays itself out. We may sound more barking mad at times than those who embrace the Lies and Deception, but this will pass as well. One day when the Light of Truth returns we will be rewarded for beings its stewards, but until then we must “keep buggering on” (KBO as Winston used to say).
* A version of this posting appears in the October 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)
Governments cannot embrace, much less promote Big Data, Open Data, Analytics, Machine Learning & Ubiquitous Algorithms without protecting the Citizens’ whom they work for. Social Engineering must be by choice, not by default through illiterate political leaders.
The UK Government as part of its “Digital Economy” initiative has just released with great fanfare the “Data Science Ethical Framework”. Its ministerial champion has characterized it as “harnessing the Progressive power of Data Science while protecting the Public”. It does neither, but clearly illuminates the lengths to which the UK Government (along with others) will go in trying to influence/dictate behavior in areas where they have no literacy at all in respect to understanding the underlying capabilities (Data, Analytics & Algorithms), nor the consequences of the harm (or actual good) that can come if left to their own devices. Not to be left to a footnote however, is the fact that these attempts at behavioral influence do not apply to the Intelligence community or Police services, both of whom want unlimited powers to surveil, gather data on everyone’s daily lives (and perhaps thoughts) and to then use these to ultimately predict behaviors i.e. The Snoopers Charter.
Ever since the notion of Big Data has come onto the scene, many have extolled its virtues in changing the world as we know and understand it. They have hyped with a zeal not previously seen the notions of Data Science, Data Scientists, Algorithms & Machine Learning, etc. Virtually all of them have advocated for its wide-scale use to analyze and predict citizens’ behavior in order to gain deeper insights, without any controls as to “just how creepy” this activity could get in terms of interacting with the public at large. Any attempt to limit the “how and where” Big Data & Analytics should be applied was met by the fury of these same advocates who characterized it as “stifling economic growth and wealth creation”. Not surprisingly, most advocates have been highly influential in getting Governments to go along with their thinking and to take a “hands off” approach. This has not worked out well for consumers who now see their daily lives dissected, analyzed and ultimately manipulated by the algorithms & machine learning associated with the deep behavioral insights now available to almost every organization who invests in Data & Analytics capabilities.
The backlash that now arisen from this lack of control is significant enough that many Governments have created Ethics Councils and other bodies who have gone on to generate reports & recommendations on the issue of “Ethics in the age of the Algorithm”. Additionally, these same governments (US, UK, EU, etc.) are also major advocates of Digital and have undertaken major Digital Strategy & Transformation efforts within their countries. These efforts have served to further exacerbate the Ethics Problem that we are now experiencing. A common thread found amongst all of this is the seemingly cluelessness that Government Leaders, Ministers & Civil Servants exhibit each and every time they make an address or pronouncement on the topic of Privacy, Ethics, Governance, etc. associated with Big Data, Analytics, Algorithms, Digital, etc. Clearly, they don’t understand the underpinnings of the issues, nor the reasons why this topic has become so paramount in the public’s mind and their stated demands that it be resolved to their satisfaction.
Data (Big or Small), Analytics (Creepy or Helpful) & Algorithms (Evil or Good) are major influences in how the Digital World around us evolves, much less serves us. Beyond the well-rehearsed platitudes, there needs to be a fundamental mastery of the details associated with these domains by Leaders & Policy Makers who are ultimately accountable for making Citizen’s lives better, much less protecting them from threats. Without strong & competent Leadership, and controls (governance) , these same citizens will be victimized rather than benefited by Data, Analytics, Algorithms & Digital. The requirement for competent leadership is not a political platform for campaigning on, but a focal point for Government action in order to uphold basic human rights, no matter what pace of transformational change the country is experiencing.
An Ethics Framework that relies on self-governance, best efforts and serendipity to insure that consumer Privacy is protected and that Citizens are not victimized by their own data is a recipe for disaster. Government Leaders must commit themselves to leading at all levels and across all domains. They must be literate and competent in the areas that they promote as catalysts for change and not leave Citizens to the vagaries of Data Science, and all that portends to be.
 The UK Government has gone so far as to make the “Digital Economy” a centerpiece of the Queens’ Speech in spite of not being able to come up with a companion “Digital Strategy” that was promised quite some time ago.
- An edited version of this posting appeared in the June 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)