Thursday, November 21, 2013

Changing the way policies are designed, decided and enforced…

an interview with NOMAD Coordinator Prof. Yannis Charalabidis

Dr. Yannis Charalabidis is Ass. Professor in the University of the Aegean, in the area of eGovernance Information Systems, coordinating policy making, research and pilot application projects for governments and enterprises worldwide. A computer engineer with a PhD in complex information systems, he has been employed for several years as an executive director in Singular IT Group, leading software development and company expansion in Europe, India and the US. He writes and teaches on Government Service Systems, Enterprise Interoperability, Government Transformation and Citizen Participation.

Could you please tell us a few words about the FP 7 subject area of the Nomad Project?
NOMAD is a research project under the area of “ICT for Governance and Policy Modelling”, which addresses the challenges of empowerment of citizens and increase transparency through the utilization of ICT tools to support decision-making. The key research question of this theme, paving the wave to Digital Science, is how ICT can transform governance and policy making combining crowdsourcing techniques with data mining functionalities and advanced methods of modeling and simulation, with the objective of achieving open and collaborative governance.

What is the 2013 Samos summit?
The project has recently co-organized the fourth “Samos 2013 Summit onDigital Innovation for Government, Business and Society”, which was held in the island of Samos in Greece, on July 1 – 5, 2013.  During the Summit, in which more than 100 high caliber research, administrations and enterprises experts from 20 countries have participated, new actions and guidelines for ICT in the context of the Digital Agenda and the new Framework Programme HORIZON 2020 were presented. In addition, more than 15 international research projects, among them NOMAD, showcased their proposals and shared ideas for new online services and tools for policy-making and e-participation.
NOMAD had also the chance to exchange ideas with younger members of the research community, the students of the 1st International Summer School on Open and Collaborative Governance held in conjunction with the Samos 2013 Summit, to whom project tutorials were provided.

Can you please describe Nomad in a few and simple words?
The project aims to introduce into the policy-making process an array of new techniques and opportunities emerging through the massive use of the social web. Therefore, it will deliver to decision-makers a comprehensive environment for content search, acquisition, classification and visualization that will enable them understand citizens’ opinion, arguments and needs as expressed in Web 2.0 and affect their policy-making agenda. NOMAD’s vision can be summarized in “changing the way policies are designed, decided and enforced”. To achieve this, NOMAD develops an innovative toolset employing techniques on data and opinion mining and the AI/ philosophy concerning the conceptual representation of policies and the argumentation theories.

Why is such a project interesting for the Aegean University?
AEGEAN University is a research organization with high expertise in Policy Modeling, Data Mining, Evaluation Models and in general in the ICT-enabled governance area. Therefore, is

interested in accumulating and expanding the knowledge that will stem from the project through academic work and as well, disseminating NOMAD results in the scientific community


Are there many RTD projects around use of social media in policy-making, what is the specificity of Nomad?
There are some other projects that exploit the power of Social Media in the policy-making arena, for example PADGETS, WeGov, +Spaces, FUPOL etc. However, what differentiates NOMAD from is what is called “non-moderated crowdsourcing”, meaning that it searches on the Web places where users have been expressed without any stimulation and collects massive amounts of data. In addition content retrieved is correlated with specific components of policy proposal as depicted in the policy model that the NOMAD user authors.

What do you consider as a break-through innovation in the development of the project so far?
NOMAD, has so far released the first prototypes of the innovative tools that are going to be integrated in the final platform, among them the Model Authoring tool, for creating policy models in an easy and intuitive way, a technique for processing and annotation of arguments expressed in Social Web.

Who do you think the end users will be?
Two policy institutions and one NGO are already involved as end users in the pilot applications of NOMAD, i.e. the Greek Parliament, the Austrian Parliament and the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EACCI). Apart from policy makers and policy advisors, which consist the core target group of NOMAD, a plenty of groups have been identified as potential users that can benefit from the usage of the NOMAD tools, such as journalists, researchers, business analysts, representatives of NGOs, federations and associations. However, NOMAD will be an easy to use system, available for every citizen who is interested in searching and analyzing the Social Web against a specific topic.

The link between new technologies and freedom of expression are important avenues for promoting democracy. Are there risks on the right to freely express one-self emanating from such a project?
NOMAD and other relevant projects, processing content expressed freely on Web do it in and aggregated way and preserve users’ anonymity, so that they comply on privacy specifications laid down by the competent authorities. As soon as the identity of sources of content is hidden, there is no risk on biasing freedom of expression.

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