London School of Economics Review of Beth Simone Noveck's Smart Citizens, Smarter State

Andrew Young — June 08, 2016

In the London School of Economics Review of Books, Zeynep Engin, founder and lead investigator of Data for Policy, reviewed Network chair Beth Simone Noveck’s book _Smart Citizens, Smarter State: The Technologies of Expertise and the Future of Governing_. Noveck’s describes the realized and potential impact of leveraging technology to match the supply of citizen expertise to the demand for it in government.

Engin “strongly recommends this book for those looking to understand how technological developments can enable governance to become more participatory as part of the new trends in public decision-making.”

Engin writes:

“The key terms that I believe best describe the spirit of the book emerge as ‘targeted expertise’, ‘crowdsourcing’, ‘experimental governance’ and ‘citizen engagement’. Instead of the traditional advisory committee model that mainly relies on stakeholder representation (missing the epistemic value of committee membership) and typically produces a report or a set of recommendations over months or even years, Noveck suggests that new technologies should allow us ‘to make consultation on a day-to-day basis and to strive for constant conversation with an engaged and knowledgeable public’. Going beyond ‘crowdsourcing widely to crowdsourcing wisely’ to match the right experts to the right opportunities on a large scale is more likely to lead to faster and better decision-making. Modes of expert engagement can be accommodated at all stages of ideation, discussion, formulation and assessment as opposed to limiting public participation to consultation on pre-formulated drafts of ‘professional policy-makers’ in government departments. This would also lead to redefinition of ‘the public service and the public servant as the steward of such a conversation’. The challenges with this type of engagement and potential strategies to overcome them are also covered widely.”

She concludes:

“I strongly recommend Smart Citizens, Smarter State to the new generation of scientists emerging at the interface of computing and public policy. Those with technology and ‘hard’ sciences backgrounds would hugely benefit from a comprehensive understanding of government and policy domains in order to set new research agendas with significant potential for wider impact. At the other end of the spectrum, those with politics and social science backgrounds would find it very helpful for understanding the current technologies of expertise and the new trends in public decision-making, offering great promise for transforming the ways that governments should operate under the ongoing data revolution.”

Read more here.