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10 September 2021 #61

Hello, welcome. 👋🏽👋🏻👋🏾

The second edition of our book Digital Transformation at Scale came out yesterday. It includes more detail on some of the topics that were emergent in 2018 (when the first edition came out), but now loom larger in a digital team’s thoughts: things like digital sovereignty, inclusivity and growth, and how to structure the data underpinning the whole edifice. It also looks at which institutions had a more effective digital response to covid-19, and why. More details in the blog post.

You can buy it directly from the publisher, from Amazon, or Book Depository.


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Ways of working

 🇨🇦 Lead content designer at the Canadian Digital Service, Kate Wilhelm, highly recommends ​​making critique a 15-minute, daily practice. Plus points include: having the opportunity to share early; get context on a project you may later work on; plus, for people leading teams: “There’s also a special joy and pain from having people on your team ask the hard questions you usually ask.” 

😀 The Monzo team have also been running crits but calling them ‘design input sessions’ because they include people from across the business. Nice write up on how to run one, inspired by this post from Figma last year.

✅  “A vision is arguably the most important thing a product manager/owner will create.” James Engelbert, a product lead at BT Digital, explains how to write a product vision that is short, clear, memorable and inspirational.

💭 details research methods to help you “create knowledge about your own work, power hierarchies, class relations, and capitalism more broadly.” Each method leads to a different kind of knowledge. Interesting, relevant work from Autonomy UK and Common Knowledge. (Kind of) related: this tweet from Lauren Currie.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿  Good example of working in the open here from the Centre for Digital Public Services in Wales who posted the recording of their first board show and tell.


Stuff you should do

▪️  Subscribe to Designed and made, a weekly newsletter by designers and user researchers at Made Tech.
▪️  Help the Open Data Institute map who is responsible for data in the UK government. See Gavin Freeguard’s Twitter thread for the whys and hows.
▪️  Read Surveys that work, a practical guide for designing and running better surveys by forms and surveys specialist Caroline Jarrett. 
▪️  Introduce Meeting cost live, a timer that calculates the cost of hot air and consequently shortens meetings.

State of technology

3 pieces on data ethics in Afghanistan 💔

🇦🇫  Lots in here: Biometric databases abandoned to the Taliban. Key question: how safe are the identities of Afghans who supported coalition forces? It’s unclear whose responsibility it was to secure data systems – arguably the Afghan government, perhaps also US forces if they helped design and implement systems. Bottom line: definitely something that should have been *someone’s* responsibility. No surprise that Afghans have scrambled to delete their digital history, “frantically going through phones to delete messages, music and pictures.” Emrys Schoemaker does well summarising how ​​Digital ID systems are a powerful development tool, but their misuse can be deadly. Short Guardian version, longer version here.

📷  Better late than never: Google has announced new policies to keep kids safer online. Notably, people under 18 will be able to request that pictures of themselves be removed from Google image search (great for any child with a life-long digital footprint due to parental oversharing).

🚓  Speaking of kids, Dan Hancox and Dr Kasia Tomasiewicz, wrote a piece that looks at children’s toys that normalise the coercive powers of technology and state surveillance. It notes that toys have often mirrored western security priorities and in even 2021 that is still very much the case. Question posed: can kids “creatively upturn the authoritarian narratives being handed to them by some toy companies?” 

👏🏽  Zoom is a more sustainable platform than Microsoft Teams. Thank you to Charles Radclyffe for the extra ammunition to pass on to those who make corporate tech choices. 

😁  A local council’s planning department having software issues recently experienced the perils of switching between test and live environments. A planning proposal received the following response: “The council hereby refuses planning permission for the following reason: [answer typed into what a colleague thought was a test environment] Your proposal is whack.” 

👍🏽  Governments are increasingly using algorithms to support decision-making for public services, despite evidence that suggests that these systems can cause harm and frequently lack transparency in their implementation. The Algorithmic accountability for the public sector report by the Ada Lovelace Institute, AI Now Institute and Open Government Partnership looks into lessons learnt. TL;DR Twitter thread here

Digital government

 🇪🇹 The Ethiopian government is starting to build its own alternative to Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Zoom. A new, Ethiopian-built social platform has been likened to WeChat which is built in – and widely used in – China. Alarm bells: there are concerns that WeChat is used by the authorities to monitor the population. Related: The Uyghur women fighting China's surveillance state from 2019 is a terrifying read.

🆔  Eight US states will soon start to accept driving licenses and other forms of ID on citizens’ iphones. Convenient? Sure. Problematic? Probably. Imagine proving your identity by handing over your phone at the airport, in a bar, to the police.

🇯🇵  Japan's digital agency launched this month. The post explains how it came into existence as well as the faux pas that demonstrate the need for it. Clue: the pandemic played a big part in showing what isn’t working. 

🇺🇸  Deputy Director of the California Office of Digital Innovation, Angelica Quirarte’s post announces “a new department and a new approach to building state websites”. She mentions that ​teams have applied useful, new technology solutions and approaches on the recently built site, but goes deeper on the web design, content editing and publishing environment. Hooray for Wordpress design tools.

📚  Kathryn Parsons, gets pretty scathing on the digital illiteracy of UK political leaders. “It’s not just the kids who need to get back to school [this month],” she says. “A big dose of tech savvy is urgently needed in Whitehall.”

News from Public Digital

On the Public Digital blog
▪️    6 questions you should ask on a digital identity project – Anna Hirschfeld and Stephen Dunn
▪️    Why the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in is exemplary – a guest post by Josh Lee, Executive Director at the Nova Scotia Digital Service
▪️    Interning at Public DigitalSechi Kailasa and Divya Goel 
▪️    Fixing digital funding in government – James Stewart and Dave Rogers

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We’re Public Digital. We work for governments and large organisations around the world to help them adapt to the internet era. 

We are based in London but operate globally. If you'd like to work with us, there's more on our website about what we do. Or email 👋
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