How citizens value their own data … why Facebook gets away with privacy controls … the value of enterprise architecture … where power lies …


THE HORIZON is a weekly curated guide to the latest published research, books, reports and podcasts with utility for practitioners in the public sector.

Citizen data 1: Grading information sensitivity and risk

A German study has expanded on US and Brazilian research about the perceived information sensitivity of 40 different data types, finding the ranking of data based on sensitivity is similar across nations. Information types can be clustered into highly-, medium, and less-sensitive data based on the perceived sensitivity. On an individual level, privacy disposition, education level, and risk propensity influence the perception of sensitivity. The paper, Internet users’ perceptions of information sensitivity – insights from Germany, was published in International Journal of Information Management, Volume 46, June 2019.

How citizens perceive risk and vulnerabilities outside the context in which information was volunteered was assessed by the research team:

“German internet users perceive passwords as most sensitive, followed by identifying data types such as financial account numbers, passport number, or fingerprint, confirming previous research that personally identifying information is most sensitive.

“Name of pet was on average the least sensitive despite it being used frequently as security question to access online accounts.

“Also, the mother’s maiden name is perceived as neutral (close to the arithmetic neutral point), even though it is one information needed to open bank account and the like.

“This indicates that, either, these risks were not taken into consideration, or not only risks evaluation plays a role for the perception of sensitivity.”

Useful for privacy and data managers who will inform the governance arrangements of public data. Understanding what data types are perceived as more sensitive could improve communication strategies around data use by government.

Citizen data 2: Value gaps in opt-in identity management systems

Why do people create Facebook profiles but feel discomfort at citizen profiles created by government datasets? A US study explores the gap between what users want to protect and what social media sites provide via the current security and privacy controls. The paper, The Identity Management Value Model: A Design Science Approach to Assess Value Gaps on Social Media, was published in Decision Sciences, Volume 50, June 2019.

The author’s value model, which they illustrate by applying to Facebook, offers a way to evaluate the trade-offs that designers and users make for competing objectives. This is primarily pitched as a pathway for social media platforms to make their identity management systems more appealing to concerned users:

“While the fundamental objectives could educate users about the myriad of identity threats prevalent on social media, the value model could be used to appraise different technological or behavioral recourses for circumventing potential online identity threats.”

Useful for privacy and data managers and designers, particularly where public services are joined up by a single identity management system like myGov.

Citizen data 3: Supporting people in crisis

One of the latest episodes of the Netflix anthology series Black Mirror illustrates the above issues in a fictional but grounded example familiar to current emergency services: social media companies are leaping ahead of government agencies in their capability to identify people in crisis. Smithereens is the second episode of the show’s fifth season released this month, and explores a contemporary hostage scenario in which officials are reliant on the analysis capability of technology giants.

Judging the enterprise architecture value proposition

A systematic review has identified five appealing claims about EA value in the public and private sectors without a determinable basis in evidence, including that EA reduces complexity and is a one-time effort. The paper, The value of and myths about enterprise architecture, was published in International Journal of Information Management, Volume 46, June 2019.

Useful for IT decision-makers in demystifying the common value propositions and developing a realistic understanding of what value propositions are supported by evidence.

New ideas on public sector strategy from a straight-talking Kiwi

From Strategy to Action: A Guide to Getting Shit Done in the Public Sector by Alicia McKay is a book for public sector managers who are frustrated, but willing to challenge behaviours and processes that don’t work. McKay builds the case for change on her experiences as a strategy adviser in New Zealand’s public sector. Self-published and also available in a digital edition on Amazon.

Listen: where power truly resides in Australia

Who Runs This Place? by ABC Radio National is a four-part docu-series examining the power in government, industry, the media and people power. The latest episode looks at the lobbyists, the industries and organisations most effective at getting what they want from the government. It features Bernard Keane, who will be writing regularly in Mandarin Premium about the relationship between the political and public sector arms of government.

Upcoming local discussions and launches

One VPS consultation; until June 28, online and 10 Victorian locations: This week is the last chance for employees in the Victorian Public Sector to participate in the VPS-wide survey and focus groups that will shortly transform employment in the sector. One VPS is a whole-of-government reform program, led by Carolyn De Gois, focusing on people, process and technology. The reforms aim to build a workplace culture that encourages and enables cross-departmental mobility, collaboration and innovation. Attended by VPS employees only, each of the 10 focus groups are led by a senior leader of the VPS.

Book launch: Born at the Right Time; June 25, Sydney: a memoir by Professor Ron McCallum, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Sydney, the first totally blind person to be appointed to a full professorship at any university in Australia. He has been chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva, has received a Centenary Medal for his work, and was the 2011 Senior Australian of the Year. The memoir will be launched by NSW Governor Margaret Beazley. Attended by legal and inclusion specialists.

Productivity and the end of work; June 25, Sydney and June 27, Brisbane: a discussion about changes to work culture, hosted by the Ethics Alliance. The End of Work? will draw on employment law, the role of human resources and the unions to explore the ethical issues at play when, under the guise of productivity, lean or agile working, people are becoming less connected, and more stressed out. Does a 40 hour work week now have a 60 hour digital footprint? Do flexible work hours lead to job insecurity? Is 9-5 worth protecting? How can we design teams and organisations better? Attended by HR managers and organisation leaders.

Chinese strategic culture and meritocratic principles; June 27, Canberra: a presentation that unpacks Chinese strategic culture from an employee of the Department of Defence with a rich and deep understanding of Chinese cultural heritage, yet whose family is here because of the events of 1989. Kelvin Chau will discuss how this cultural heritage informs the approach of the Chinese Communist Party, enriched with insights such as how the Party benefits from several thousand years of an elite bureaucracy appointed on meritocratic principles. The discussion is part of the Australian Army Research Centre Seminar Series co-hosted with the CSU Terrorism Studies program. Email [email protected] for further details.

Women in defence industry; July 11, Canberra: launch of the report Growing the Defence Industry Workforce: attracting and retaining women with critical skills and trades from Rapid Context. This report details the current state for women in defence industry occupations including: workplace issues for women in STEM roles and in trade apprenticeships; women’s lived experiences in defence industry roles in Australia; current challenges for achieving greater diversity across the defence industry sector; and the reasons women leave the industry. The report also examines the effectiveness of strategies to date and makes suggestions for the future. Attended by defence and security sector, defence industry, and diversity and inclusion specialists.

Government cloud; August 20-21, Canberra: the AWS Public Sector Summit is returning. The annual summit draws significant crowds with keynotes and workshops on topics such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, serverless and containerisation, data and analytics, security, and migration. Attended by public sector managers, contract providers, service delivery project leaders, developers, and expert users.

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