Monthly Archives: October 2013

When is precaution the best design solution?

By |October 25th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A series of interesting articles came up recently in the Guardian and presented differing viewpoints on the precautionary principle, which puts many policymakers in a conundrum especially while planning for the long-term. In one of the articles Andy Stirling1 highlights as to why the precautionary principle matters. Stirling suggests that it is important to consider various future policy options instead of using precaution as an excuse for not taking any action. He argues that doing the same requires “understanding, rather than denial, of the real nature of uncertainty”. He highlights that taking precaution suggests that we are not only considering risk but also uncertainty, whether it is owing to lack of empirical evidence, inherent complexity of an issue or system, differing scientific views, element of surprise etc. Stirling argues that the imminent pressure from policymakers about ‘justifying a decision’ makes scientists continue to ‘micro-correct’ their results and offering “risk-based prescriptions” by overlooking the precautionary principle that provides room to address uncertainty.
Tracey Brown2 on the other hand suggests that the precautionary principle “stops innovation in its tracks”. She argues that the principle makes us stop or ban something supposedly harmful and subsequent believe that we are safe from harm. She argues that the precautionary principle is built on our present knowledge of the world, which includes our present doubts, fears and biases. So in resisting change for the fear of the unknown we are resisting deviations from the status quo even if that itself is a huge problem that needs urgent attention, Brown argues. She says that we need big changes and some risks for pressing problems such as food [...]

Can an ‘open data revolution’ lead to innovation in policy design?

By |October 15th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The lack of access to detailed public data can often limit the best of research across the world. Is providing open access to governmental data the answer to fuel innovation in the public sector and policy design? A recent blog article by Casey Coleman1, Chief Information Officer of United States (US)’s General Services Administrator discusses about US Administration’s new Open data policy which suggests that open data is “publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users”. Coleman refers to apps on smartphones as a way that products are being created using government data for the public benefit. Much of this data is available on government websites. In Europe as well, the idea of making public data accessible has been rapidly gaining momentum. In her speech early this year2, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said, that “The open data revolution is all about individuals and entrepreneurs and that includes the giving them a role in policy design”. Kroes refers to data as “the new oil” as it is a “fuel for innovation, powering and energizing” Europe’s economy. She argues that open public data can enable transparency and improve public services. She does caution though that this data revolution would come at a cost and would need a thoughtful framework within which to operate. A framework that can ensure that data is openly available for multiple uses over time with similar rules of operation across datasets and users and that respects privacy, confidentiality and security concerns. The European Commission has already started making headway in this direction by gradually [...]