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  • October 2, 2019
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Weekly Briefing: 5 trends from Oslo’s innovation festival

Our weekly rundown of global policy

Top Stories

Oslo put on a festival for innovators. 13,000 leaders gathered to talk solutions to climate change, waning trust in government, surveillance culture and more. From the rise of “good” cities and invisible services to harnessing citizen engagement for sustainability, here are five trailblazing ideas. (Apolitical)

Learn to bring evidence into your policy with these three tips. Most innovations come from someone thinking of a new and better way to do their job — but too often, these ideas don’t get past a single team. From being honest with yourself to pursuing evidence-building opportunities, here’s where to start. (Michael Sanders, What Works for Children’s Social Care)

Private sector data should be a public good. In many countries, public data is open by default, allowing for better information-sharing and decision-making. But for governments to be truly innovative, they need the insights only companies’ data can provide. (Paula Forteza, French MP and Marianne Billard, MP advisor)


Productivity: A crash course for public servants. In this exclusive workshop, “Hooked” author Nir Eyal will share a practical plan for mastering the skill of the century: getting the best of technology, without letting it get the best of you. Join us on October 9 at 3 pm BST. (Apolitical)


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Governance and Citizen Engagement

Singapore became one of the world’s most effective governments by giving public servants a raise. Salaries are benchmarked to the professions civil servants could have pursued, like banking, engineering or law. High pay helps foster a meritocratic culture, where talent is rewarded and employees feel appreciated. (Politico)

Syracuse, New York collected $1.5 million in back taxes using handwritten “nudges”. It mailed 3,800 letters to residents who were behind on their property tax bills with a note on the envelope: “You need to read this! —Martha” (Martha Maywalt is the city’s finance commissioner). (Bloomberg Cities)

Evolving Cities

A German city is offering prospective residents free one-month stays, no strings attached. Görlitz will give people rent-free lodging and studio space in exchange for feedback on what potential residents want from a city. The research will inform a national urban development policy. (The Guardian)

Copenhagen is solving its housing crisis by building a new island. Connected to the mainland by subway, Lynetteholmen will provide 35,000 new homes, 20% of which will be affordable housing. The island will also help curb flooding in the city centre by increasing the land mass around Copenhagen. (BBC)

Energy, Environment and Economic Opportunity

Indonesia is putting fires out by making it rain. Authorities used 200,000 kilograms of salt to seed clouds, which creates artificial rain. The technique has dramatically reduced forest fire hotspots, from 1,374 to 136 in just a week. (Yahoo News)


“Invisible services mean zero bureaucracy. The best experience with government is no experience” — Siim Sikkut, Estonia’s Chief Information Officer

Technology Frontiers

Ukraine is replicating Estonia’s digital society. To start, it will put the 30 most used public services online by January 1, 2020 — with mobile-first as a priority — and offer citizens digital IDs. Its goal? “Government as a phone”, says new president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. (BNE Intellinews)

In a world-first, the UK will test artificial intelligence procurement guidelines. The standards, developed by the World Economic Forum, are designed to address concerns about bias, privacy, accountability and transparency in government’s use of AI. (Global Government Forum)

In Singapore, 65-year-olds are learning to code. The country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world — 85 years — and as its labour force ages, productivity is falling. Singapore encourages older workers to learn digital skills by offering subsidised courses and helping them find work. (Bloomberg)

And finally

A German court ruled that hangovers are an illness. In a case against the producer of an anti-hangover drink, it ruled that “illness” can include even small, temporary changes to the body’s natural state. It declared that marketing any food or drink as a “cure” to an illness is illegal. (BBC)

(Picture credit: Unsplash)


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