Our information ecosystems research is taking flight in exciting directions, both internally and externally. Within Internews, the Center is contributing to the research design for information ecosystem assessments in additional countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. As part of our effort to facilitate learning and adoption of the information ecosystems framework, we are experimenting with new ways to visualize, teach, and learn about information ecosystems, including the use of new tools like Stacker and Quid. Using these new platforms to design learning experiences reflects not only our interest in conveying concepts and ideas that matter (the what), but also our strong interest in the best methodologies for doing this (the how).
Externally, one of the most exciting applications of the information ecosystems research continues to be via Amanda’s participation in the “Technology for Humanity” initiative, convened by the World Economic Forum’s Data Driven Development project. As part of an ongoing dialogue to strengthen trust and shared understandings among the private sector, policy makers and civil society in the use of technology for social good, the “Technology for Humanity” series explores key topics such as the importance of human-entered design, accountability in the era of big data, and the need for resilient, adaptive and multi-purpose technology solutions. Throughout the series, the information ecosystems framework has served as a foundation for discussing the empowerment and resilience of individuals, as well as the strengthening of bottom up, human-centered and locally driven approaches to understanding local needs, trust, and influence.
On January 22, at a private working dinner during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, our research on information ecosystems served as a starter for conversations on how to design the most appropriate and effective strategies for individuals, communities, and societies. To frame the dialogue, we collaborated with WEF and frog to design a workshop pamphlet that outlined the eight dimensions of information ecosystems (drawing heavily from our "Why Information Matters" report), and requested that participants look at the systemic interdependence of local information flows. The concern was that too often global leaders rely on static models and misguided assumptions for how data and ICT solutions can positively impact individuals. During the discussion, trust and influence were affirmed as critical factors within information ecosystems. From a technology perspective, the issue of digital identity emerged as a critical enabler for establishing resilient, trustworthy, and human-centered information ecosystems. To address the potential risks of discrimination, misappropriation, privacy and other harms from the misuse of data, participants noted that greater attention should be placed on identity solutions which are distributed, and where no third party has complete access to all the details about an individual’s digital life. Participants observed that the current system features a concentration of power whereby the norms are established by corporate and governmental interests (national security in particular). Many felt that this asymmetric power relationship leaves individuals at a disadvantage, and is a primary factor in the erosion of trust.
The Data Driven Development project will continue to advance the dialogue on these issues through a series of meetings in 2015, and Amanda will contribute her unique expertise in data, design, and information ecosystems to these important conversations. Next week, she heads to The Hague, Netherlands, for “Humanitarian Response in a Digital Era,” in partnership with Leiden University and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; then, it’s on to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where she will co-lead a workshop with ONE, Red Cross, and Stanford’s d.school on “The Local Data Revolution: Catalyzing Engagement and Impact.” Stay tuned for her updates!
Note: We finally have our information ecosystems research and publications consolidated on the Internews website!