Innovation in the Public Sector

I. Introduction

For the last 30 years, relentless technological innovation has seemingly conquered most, if not all, corners of the world. While in its early stages, the focus was on infrastructure and social networks, the latest phase has set its eyes on core productive and financial processes that will undoubtedly have profound socio-economic and environmental impact across the board. Rapidly adapting to the emerging global context is the clarion call for most countries if they want to remain relevant and competitive at the global level.

Many developing countries find themselves in a unique situation. For starters, most innovations and technologies hold a foreign passport and thus need to first travel and then be adopted and adapted to the national context. Having local capacities  –

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AI and Development

The current long wave of digital innovation has finally broken the last bastion of socio-economic resistance. While early advances transformed communications infrastructure and enhanced consumer interactions, the resurgence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all its relatives, alongside new technologies such as blockchains, have rattled seemingly immovable sectors of the economy thus opening the door for the global disruption of productive and financial processes. Not surprisingly, observers and pundits have quickly agreed on a label for such disruption, the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) that could have a profound impact on countries, institutions and people. No stone will remain untouched, such is the warning.

AI in the Global South

Countries in the Global South find themselves in a peculiar

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Deep Learning and Breast Cancer: Improving Detection?

A recent paper published under the auspices of Google Health makes a case for using deep learning algorithms to improve breast cancer detection. The research has been positively received by most and widely publicized as yet another victory of smart machines over weak, dumber humans. Only a few have been critical for good reasons. In this post, I will explore the methodology used in the research to highlight other critical issues. But before I take the dive, let me first set the scene.

Background

Like education or justice, health is an information-rich sector, thus prone to rapid (not just digital) technology innovation and overall digitization. Unlike its peers, most if not all health-related services use a gamut of technologies, from simple thermometers and stethoscopes to noisy, giant

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Blockchains in the Public Sector

My paper on blockchains for the public sector in developing countries has been published by Frontiers, one of the leading open-access and community-driven academic publishers.

The paper develops an analytical framework that combines sustainable development, state capacity and digital technologies. In principle, the framework can be used to explore the adoption of technologies and innovation in the public sector and is thus not limited to blockchains.

As the central focus of my research was governments, exploring ways to increase state capacity by building strong and resilient democratic institutions and deploying new technologies was on the table. Like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, blockchain is a technology that works best at the application layer. That means that the

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Yet Another Global AI Index

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) seemingly continues to permeate all interstices of society, measuring its undaunted progress in the age of data is more than a priority. In a previous post, I share some insights on the Global AI Readiness Index that covered almost all UN member states. The new Global AI Index (GAII), created by Tortoise media with the support of experts from government, academia and the business sector, is geographically less ambitious but aims at a more sophisticated target. It covers 54 countries and its core goal is not readiness but rather capacity. The company informs us that the index is a response to demands from some government on the subject. However, the report is intended not only for governments but also for businesses and communities.

In spite of obvious differences,

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The Development Onion

Governments in developing countries are just one of the many players involved in promoting sustainable development –  in many cases, with direct support from bilateral and multilateral donor organizations. However, governments are, in principle, bound by the overall development commitments they make at the national and international levels.

There are indeed several different interconnected layers here that constitute what can be called the development onion.

At the international level, most governments in the Global South have committed to the SDG agenda and should achieve the many targets set by 2030. This is the outer layer of the onion. However, international cooperation is not limited to the SDGs. Global themes such as cybersecurity, terrorism, refugees and other humanitarian issues

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Measuring Artificial Intelligence Development

In the last decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI), including siblings machine learning and deep learning, has been growing by leaps and bounds. More importantly, the technology has been deployed effectively in a wide range of traditional sectors bringing real transformational change while raising fundamental socio-economic (joblessness, more inequality, etc.)  and ethical (bias, discrimination, etc.)  issues along the way.  As it stands today, AI, understood as a set of still-evolving technologies, seems poised to become a general-purpose technology that could leave no stone untouched.

As with other digital technologies, most developing countries face the daunting challenge of harnessing AI to foster national human development  Prima facie, AI looks mostly like software, code that one can

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Blockchains and Digital ID, I

Overview

Like previous technologies, such as the Internet, for example, blockchains have been driven by a high degree of techno-optimism not yet backed up by on the ground impact or reliable evidence. Undoubtedly, the technology, which is still rapidly evolving, has enormous potential in many sectors and could promote human development if harnessed strategically.

One of the many blockchain innovative traits is the use of sophisticated cryptographic tools to generate unique identities for individuals interacting within the distributed network. In principle, such identities can be pseudo-anonymous, immutable, secure and directly created and managed by their owners – thus not need for centralized or federated intermediaries This, in principle, make blockchains an ideal candidate to propel

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E-government Development I

Birth

Running on the coattails of the now infamous dot-com bubble, e-government first saw the light of day before the end of the last Millennium. At that time, where hype overtook the tech scene yet again, adding ‘e’ (as in electronic) to almost any theme became quite fashionable. First in the scene was e-commerce (and e-business) which foreshadowed the 1994 launching of Amazon, among others, followed by its successful IPO three years later. Surely, governments could also master the emerging digital technologies to improve their core functions while fostering increased efficiency, transparency, and accountability. Most governments in industrialized countries quickly jumped into the e-government wagon while emerging economies such as Estonia, Singapore, and South Korea were determined not to

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On Blockchains Research

Blockchain technology development has been accompanied by a substantial increase in related research. The latter usually trails new technology innovations, but it does tend to catch up in the short-term. Ten years after the emergence of blockchains, there is plenty of ongoing academic and other research. Keeping track of its volume requires some sort of collaborative effort among different actors. Enter the Blockchain Research Network, BRN.

Created last Summer, BRN is an independent network open to all researchers regardless of affiliation. Furthermore, BRN is not linked to any academic institution or business organization, nor does it plan to be. It is thus decentralized, working ins the same fashion as traditional Open Source networks. To date, BRN has over 400 registered members who

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