The UK creates a plan for AI, a city run by car batteries, and Lyft’s co-founders have an idea to end traffic — This Week’s Top 10 Reads from a Chief Innovation Officer

Dustin Haisler
Apr 22, 2018 · 9 min read
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Each week, I read over 100 articles so you don’t have to — Here are the top 10 you should read over the weekend and why they matter for government. Let’s dive in —

The Articles —

Out of over 100 articles, here are the top 10 that stood out this week:

🏗 Amazon’s new ‘Alexa Blueprints’ let anyone create custom Alexa skills and responses

⚠️ True scale of Bitcoin ransomware extortion revealed

🤖 UK Government Proposes Five Basic Principles to Keep Humans Safe From AI

🧠 Your city is becoming ‘smarter’ — and that has much scarier consequences for your data than the Facebook scandal

🛣 The End of Traffic–

🔎 Permissions Aren’t Telling Us Nearly Enough About Our Apps

🤯 Google futurist and director of engineering: Basic income will spread worldwide by the 2030s

💡 NASCIO Releases State CIO as Broker: A New Model

👀 Executives Believe They Are Innovators, But Employees Disagree

⚡️ Cities Running on Car Batteries? Just So Crazy It Might Work

The Bottom Line —

Just in case you don’t have time to read each article, here are the key takeaways and why each one matters for government:

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: It seems everyday a new barrier falls to creating, developing, or designing new digital experiences. Gone are the days of having to learn a programming language in order to build something for society to consume — we are now all creators, ins. I’ve seen the rise of codeless app building engines, like MIT’s App Inventor, and now the democratization of creation has moved to Voice UI — specifically on the Amazon Echo. Amazon’s Blueprints enables anyone to add a voice skill (Q&A, Story, etc.) to their Echo without needing to sign-up as a developer or write any code. For government agencies, this is a growing trend to watch with two takeaways:

  1. You can rapidly test anything — If you want to test a new idea, new democratized tech-creation platforms, like Amazon’s Blueprints, enables you to test ideas rapidly, without having any expert knowledge.
  2. Your citizens can nudge you — If your citizens get frustrated by an experience, they may opt to create a new digital experience to nudge you, in the place of going to a council meeting to sign up to speak. For example, DoNotPay is a chatbot that was created to help citizens fight parking tickets (now covering over 1,000 new areas) by generating all the necessary paperwork to contest a ticket without having to talk to anyone (including an attorney).

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: Ransomware attacks have become a common threat for government agencies, crippling transit systems and even bringing the City of Atlanta back to paper for a few days. A group of researchers was able to analyze bitcoin transactions on the blockchain to attempt to estimate which ransomware exploits were the most impactful. Interestingly enough, after the significant press about WannaCry and CryptoLocker exploits— the most impactful ransomware (from a monetary sense) was CryptoWall with $2.2 million dollars in Bitcoin ransom payments. The good news about the research is that it was released publicly for others to collaborate on — and since bitcoin is pseudonymous, it will require significant community resources to sift through and analyze the data. For government agencies, specifically public safety organizations, cybercrime will require new sets of skills — even around cryptocurrency — to educate the public, investigate crimes that occur, and ultimately bring the perpetrators to justice.

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: This article was a great summary of a new report put out by the UK government’s committee on Artificial Intelligence to help define a national approach for the UK on AI. It’s a good example of how we should be approaching government’s role in AI in the United States — but the one difference here is that it cannot be led by the federal government alone, as it will require significant involvement from state and local government. State and local government will have many AI opportunities and challenges to overcome — from declining general revenues from autonomous vehicles to new AI-enabled local government crimes — AI will require a new, collective approach for government. You can also read the full report by clicking here.

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: In the wake of Cambridge Analytica, many Americans are more conscious then they have been in some time, but may not realize that there is a growing challenge that could be even bigger and it involves their city. As local government agencies become the platform of the Internet of Things (IoT) — connecting streetlights, cars, and sensors throughout communities — this also creates new cybersecurity and privacy vulnerabilities that agencies need to be prepared for.

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We found at the Center for Digital Government, that 81% of city leaders were already planning with IoT in mind (which is great) — but planning smart city applications is easy, the hard thing is architecting, securing, and orchestrating these new devices. And this can’t just be done by government agencies, it requires public involvement. The author says it best:

“People need to become better informed and more involved. The business models of stakeholders need to be scrutinized and their use of data needs to be accountable. Most of all, citizens need to be listened to on how they want their cities to develop.”

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: Traffic sucks. And the co-founders of Lyft offer up a new idea for government agencies to nudge behavior to get fewer cars on the road. What’s the idea? Something called smart lanes — and these are not your ordinary high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes. Now you might be thinking, what is a smart lane? Well, the authors describe smart lanes a type of toll road (on existing defined ‘smart lanes or highways’) that is completely free for any vehicles with three or more people. A simple, yet controversial idea, that could nudge behavior to reduce cars and increase car-pooling.

The authors frame a smart lane deployment in the following three steps:

Based on local traffic data across the country, city, and regional governments should classify specific streets and highways as smart lanes.

Next, a federal infrastructure fund should be created to provide grants to those cities and states that establish eligible smart lane infrastructure sufficient to eliminate traffic.

Last, the recipients should re-invest all funds generated by these smart lanes back into hard infrastructure like roads and bridges, creating jobs, as well as into public transit, using the smart lanes to give buses faster travel times and further increase accessibility.

For government agencies, this idea isn’t necessarily the answer to our traffic woes, but it’s a good start because optimizing our transit systems is going to take testing some radical ideas.

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: This article provided an overview of some of the challenges and current work being done around application permissions. The author makes some great points about the need to simplify permissions as well as some of the emerging less documented issues (i.e., what happens when I revoke permissions to an app I’ve been using). I’ve argued that ultimately we have to stop treating privacy as something managed by a set of application features and move to flipping the data ownership model. There’s a great WSJ article that makes a similar case that can be read here. For government agencies, privacy will continue to grow as an issue that must be proactively managed, requiring agencies to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the private-sector.

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: Notable Google futurist Ray Kurzweil stated his latest prediction that Universal Basic Income (UBI) would be in the developing world by the early 2030s and global by the latter half of that decade. UBI has been a hot topic of conversation, small-scale pilots and even the basis of a presidential run, as a response to workforce impacts of automation and advances in robotics. In addition, one UBI model doesn’t fit all, as there are lots of proposed structures — including one that I encourage you to check out called Universal Basic Assets (UBA). For government agencies, the key takeaway to Kurzweil’s prediction is that he’s expecting substantial societal and economic changes starting within the next 12 years — a timeline that is not a generation away, it’s just over a decade away. This doesn’t mean start planning for a UBI-enabled retirement, instead, government agencies need to get better a quickly adapting to changes in technology, economic models and end-user behavior over the next decade.

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) put the first series of research on multisourcing — managing a portfolio of different environments and assets. In conducting this research, NASCIO recognized that:

States are looking for ways to deliver on demand for a more diversified portfolio of services and technologies. In order to that meet demand and maintain enterprise-wide standards the new operating model that is emerging can appear to be fairly complex. NASCIO’s research project is intended to help forge the way forward to provide best practices and a maturity assessment for states.

For government agencies, the role of information technology — especially at the state level — is going to require a new operating model for the exponential changes we are seeing, so it’s encouraging to see NASCIO working on this new series. Click here for direct link to the report’s PDF.

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: This read this validated an important truth about innovation and culture change — it’s not all going to happen at the top and it’s important to not just engage with your employees in the innovation process, but let them lead it with you. And based on the survey in this article, it’s clear that not all your employees may be behind you. So what are you to do? Here are two takeaways:

  • Innovation is bottoms up — Executives can help frame the rules (How much is too much risk, budget, etc.) but executives should recognize that the most sustainable innovations emerge from the edge of their organization, not the top.
  • Innovation cannot be mandated — Empowerment is the key to changing culture and giving employees the ability to co-create, outside of their normal duties, the change your organization needs. Your role as an executive is to coach, provide feedback, and help guide them along the journey.

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: This was a fascinating read outlining a concept where electric vehicles (EVs) could become an important extension of the electrical grid. Outside of cybersecurity, one of the biggest challenges is how to store excess energy from renewable energy generation sources — and with the rise of resident-owned renewable energy generations — there is a major opportunity to capture, store and monetize excess energy. The author outlines a series of pilots, including one by Nissan, to leverage EV batteries as a home power source. For government agencies, infrastructure modifications and enhancements will be required to enable such a system, but another obstacle evident in the pilots must also be factored in — behavior change. Getting people to adopt a new system or habit can be challenging, but there’s a significant volume of research and best practices that agencies can lean on to get a head start.

If you missed last week’s list, you can still read about seven qualities of the future-focused city, blockchain could kill the traditional utility, and the rise of an IoT security crisis.

If you’re interested in getting an e-mail each Sunday with my top 10 reads of each week, you can sign-up for the weekly e-mail at

To follow my reads in real-time — follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Flipboard.

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