About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The CitizenLab team

Who was behind this experiment?

What was the experiment?

This experiment tested whether using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) would make it quicker for public administrators to analyse insights from digital democracy platforms, and therefore increase their responsiveness to citizen ideas. NLU is a technique that allows machines to understand the meaning, subtleties and nuances of human language.

What did they find?

The experiment found that new manually-controlled solutions helped to significantly increase the number of citizen ideas receiving feedback. The experiment did not succeed in fully testing the NLU-assisted solutions within the timeframe of the reporting period. However, insights from seven in-depth interviews with city administrators found that the NLU-assisted clustering feature highlighted trends and needs that cities weren’t aware of.

Why is it relevant?

Many cities operate digital democracy platforms to collect ideas and opinions from citizens. These large collections of unstructured data need to be analysed, which is difficult and time-consuming for city administrators. This can often discourage the use of such data in decision-making processes. Making it quicker for public officials to analyse insights from digital democracy platforms, and incorporate at the optimal point in policy-making should increase the use of this collective intelligence and result in better public decisions.

Follow their work on Twitter @citizenlabco