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Using Innovation and Technology to Improve City Services

July 3, 2015 Comments off

Using Innovation and Technology to Improve City Services
Source: IBM Center for the Business of Government

In this report, Professor Greenberg examines a dozen cities across the United States that have award-winning reputations for using innovation and technology to improve the services they provide to their residents. She explores a variety of success factors associated with effective service delivery at the local level, including:

  • The policies, platforms, and applications that cities use for different purposes, such as public engagement, streamlining the issuance of permits, and emergency response
  • How cities can successfully partner with third parties, such as nonprofits, foundations, universities, and private businesses to improve service delivery using technology
  • The types of business cases that can be presented to mayors and city councils to support various changes proposed by innovators in city government

Professor Greenberg identifies a series of trends that drive cities to undertake innovations, such as the increased use of mobile devices by residents. Based on cities’ responses to these trends, she offers a set of findings and specific actions that city officials can act upon to create innovation agendas for their communities. Her report also presents case studies for each of the dozen cities in her review. These cases provide a real-world context, which will allow interested leaders in other cities to see how their own communities might approach similar innovation initiatives.

When Should Public Debt Be Reduced?

July 2, 2015 Comments off

When Should Public Debt Be Reduced?
Source: International Monetary Fund

What considerations should guide public debt policy going forward? Should debt be reduced to achieve normative anchors (such as 60 percent of GDP), should it be increased further to finance a big public investment push, or should the existing debt be serviced forever? We argue that, for countries with ample fiscal space (little risk of encountering a fiscal crisis), raising distortive taxes merely to bring the debt down is a treatment cure that is worse than the disease. High public debt of course is costly, but it is a sunk cost only made worse by efforts to pay down the debt through distortionary taxation. Living with the debt is the welfare-maximizing policy. In decisions vis-à-vis the big push for public investment, golden-rule considerations remain salient, with due account taken of the additional servicing costs (and associated distortive taxation) from the resulting buildup of public debt.

Internet Freedom Software Tools Developed by the United States Do Not Facilitate Cybercrime

July 1, 2015 Comments off

Internet Freedom Software Tools Developed by the United States Do Not Facilitate Cybercrime
Source: RAND Corporation

Software tools created by the U.S. State Department to encourage the free flow of information online and on mobile phone networks are not likely to be used by criminals to pursue illegal activities, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

While some technologies supported by the State Department’s efforts have the potential to be used for illicit purposes, there are numerous alternative technologies that are better suited for criminal activity, according to the report.

USICH Releases 2015 Amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

July 1, 2015 Comments off

USICH Releases 2015 Amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness
Source: U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), along with its 19 member agencies, announced today the release of an amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Originally released on this day in 2010, Opening Doors is the nation’s first comprehensive Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The Plan provides a roadmap for coordinated, joint action among the 19 USICH member agencies in conjunction with local and state partners.

Since the launch of Opening Doors five years ago, the trajectory of homelessness in America has changed dramatically. According to the 2014 Point-in-Time count, overall homelessness has declined nationwide by 10 percent since 2010. Homelessness among families with children has decreased 15 percent. The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has fallen by 21 percent, and homelessness among Veterans has fallen by 33 percent. We also have more knowledge than ever about the unique circumstances facing youth experiencing homelessness.

This progress demonstrates that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right strategies for ending homelessness. The amendment reaffirms the core elements of the original Plan and adds new strategies that reflect lessons learned since 2010, ensuring that Opening Doors serves as a living blueprint with the latest knowledge and best practices to prevent and end homelessness.

Fatal Attraction: Western Muslimas and ISIS

July 1, 2015 Comments off

Fatal Attraction: Western Muslimas and ISIS
Source: Perspectives on Terrorism

More than 550 Muslim women from Western countries have joined ISIS and moved to its proclaimed ‘Caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq. No extremist group has been able to attract so many female Western recruits so far, and their number continues to grow. This article is intended to explain the reasons behind such unprecedented success, the motivation of Western Muslimas to join ISIS and their roles in the ‘Islamic State’. It also compares living conditions under ISIS’ rule with the expectation induced by ISIS’ recruiters in women from the West who had shown an interest to make hijra and join ISIS. Understanding these factors is vital to figure out how to stop this trend and to assess the security threat posed to the West by possible female returnees, or radicalized sympathizers who are unable to leave their countries of residence.

U.S. Abortion Reporting Systems Should Be Strengthened, Not Subverted to Promote Antiabortion Agenda

June 30, 2015 Comments off

U.S. Abortion Reporting Systems Should Be Strengthened, Not Subverted to Promote Antiabortion Agenda
Source: Guttmacher Institute

The current U.S. abortion surveillance system yields reliable statistics on abortion incidence and patient characteristics, thanks to the joint efforts of state and federal governments and the Guttmacher Institute. Still, a new analysis in the Guttmacher Policy Review argues that this system should be strengthened in two key ways: First, the state and federal governments should collect data in a more complete and timely manner. Second, government abortion surveillance at the state and federal levels must be focused solely on collecting basic incidence and demographic data needed for legitimate public health purposes.

While very effective in informing public health policies and programs, the current U.S. abortion surveillance system is a patchwork. Most states report aggregate abortion data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but reporting from some of them is incomplete and California, Maryland and New Hampshire do not report to the CDC at all. The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that funds its abortion surveillance work through private sources, supplements these government collection efforts through its own periodic census of abortion providers and survey of abortion patients.

Law Enforcement Assessment of the Violent Extremism Threat

June 30, 2015 Comments off

Law Enforcement Assessment of the Violent Extremism Threat (PDF)
Source: Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (Duke University/University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)

Key Findings & Methods:

  • Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face.
  • They perceive violent extremism to be a much more severe threat nationally than the threat of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions.
  • And a large majority of law enforcement agencies rank the threat of all forms of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions as moderate or lower (3 or less on a 1-5 scale).
  • These findings emerge from a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum in 2014, with funding from the National Institute of Justice. The sampling frame was all 480 state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies with more than 200 sworn officers, plus 63 additional county and municipal agencies with 200 or fewer sworn officers in selected jurisdictions that experienced an incident or prosecution for violent extremism in recent years. The survey yielded responses from 339 of the larger agencies (a 71 percent response rate) and 43 of the smaller agencies (a 68 percent response rate), for a total of 382 law enforcement agencies (a 70 percent response rate), including 35 state agencies, 141 county agencies, and 206 municipal agencies, whose combined jurisdictions cover 86 percent of the U.S. population.
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