We've been advocating for some time that governments should take evidence more seriously. Where possible, data should be opened up to public scrutiny, and policies should be tested to see whether they actually work. The recent announcement of new 'What Works' centres is an important step in the right direction towards more intelligent, and competent government.
The field of big data has been a triumph – and also a disappointment. It’s a triumph in that thousands of data sets have been made open to the public; that new industries have grown up around reuse of that data (particularly in fields like transport); that some forms of abuse and corruption have been revealed and contained; and that it’s quickly become conventional wisdom that (anonymised) public data should be open by default.
The last few years have brought a cornucopia of innovation around data, with millions of data sets opened up, and big campaigns around transparency, all interacting with the results of a glut of hackathons, appathons and the like. Linked to this has been the explosion of creativity around digital tools for civic engagement and local government.
This was an odd Budget. From a Nesta perspective there were welcome moves - including support for creative industries, a potential tax relief for investment in social enterprises and a big expansion of SBIR (Small Business Research Initiative), redirecting public procurement towards innovative small firms.
I recently made my first proper visit to Brazil, visiting Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasilia, and meeting a wide range of people, from banks and innovation agencies, to universities, accelerators, startups, civil society groups, arts collectives and government ministries.
Cooking has become like Hollywood or Rock music, with global stars and fans.
We've been doing a fair amount of work on collective intelligence. It's one of the most fascinating fields of investigation today, looking at what makes groups smart, how to collaborate and how technologies can help us think.
This week the government launched its new 'What Works' centres at an event hosted by Nesta. As one of the ministers there commented, the remarkable thing is not that it's happening but that it hasn't happened before: you might have thought that government would want to know what works.
Here's a moral tale which tells us how far we are from being a knowledge society - even though we're surrounded by ever smarter technologies.
My view of the Knowledge Society is the same as Gandhi's view of western civilisation: that it would be a good idea.
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