• News
  • May 1, 2019
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Weekly Briefing: How to design services as addictive as Google’s

Our weekly rundown of global policy

Top Stories

With nudges, governments can design services as addictive as Google’s. Citizens dread applying for drivers’ licenses or registering to vote, but they’re happy to scroll through apps for hours a day. Nir Eyal, author of the best-selling book Hooked, explains how to follow tech giants’ blueprint for designing habit-forming products. (Apolitical)

How change happens: #MeToo, gay rights and the politically correct. In an excerpt from his new book, behavioural economics expert Cass Sunstein explains why we live in accordance with norms we hate, and how saying what we really think is the only way to push through large-scale change. (Cass Sunstein, Harvard Law School)

Learn to be a bold leader from Lindiwe Mazibuko in 10 minutes. The first black woman in South African history to be elected Leader of the Opposition shares four tips — from being self-aware to engaging citizens — for becoming an agile, forward-thinking leader. Watch now.

Behavioural science can help fix government’s workforce crisis. In the US, one in three federal government workers is eligible to retire in the next year. Nudges — simple design tweaks, like simplifying processes and sending reminders — can boost recruitment and retention. (Elizabeth Linos, University of California, Berkeley)

Religious tourism: Can sacred sites bring economic salvation? From Japan’s Zen City, where visitors can spend the night in an ancient temple, to Catalonia’s Jesuit pilgrimage, struggling rural communities are tapping into holy places’ potential for high-quality tourism. (Apolitical)


Do you ever secretly feel unqualified for your job? Some 70% of people worldwide experience imposter syndrome — and if you’re one of them, we want to hear from you. Get In Touch.

Governance and Citizen Engagement

The UAE launched the world’s first ‘Ministry of Possibilities’. With a goal to build the ‘government of the future’, it plans to experiment with reforms to procurement, nudges in service design and new skill sets for public servants. “We need unusual systems to turn our ambitions into reality,” said the prime minister. (Gulf News)

Estonia wants to make government invisible. It’s rolling out AI-powered automated services across key life events, like births, deaths and unemployment. When a baby is born, for example, they will automatically be registered with the government. The goal? “Abolish bureaucracy.” (GovInsider)

The next big job in government: chief storyteller. In the US, governments are hiring in-house writers and editors to share local stories and challenge stereotypes. In Detroit, for example, the goal is to upend traditional media narratives focusing on bankruptcy, crime and sports. (Governing)

Evolving Cities

Smart cities are everywhere — but a growing movement wants to slow them down. ‘Slow cities’ are bound by policy guidelines designed to improve citizens’ lives, like reducing pollution, traffic and crowds, and promoting renewable energy, sustainable transit and more meaningful social interaction. (The Conversation)


“People fear how Facebook sucks us in — what they should  really fear is how many government services don’t use these techniques” — Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

Energy, Environment and Economic Opportunity

From the Empire State to Trump Tower, New York City wants to force buildings to cut emissions. If the bill — the first of its kind worldwide — is signed into law, all buildings over 25,000 square feet will have to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030. Those who don’t comply will face steep fines. (Thomson Reuters)

Technology Frontiers

UK citizens can access over 12,000 pieces of government information via voice-recognition tech. They can ask Alexa or Google Home how to apply for a passport, get free childcare, or when the next holiday is, thanks to a new effort to make public services more accessible. (Civil Service World)

And finally

Indian officials trekked 60km into the jungle to set up a polling station for one man. Bharatdas Darshandas, a 69-year-old priest who lives in a remote temple, has not missed an election since 2002. “I would like to ask everyone to use their individual vote — there should be 100% voting,” he said. (The Guardian)

(Picture credit: Unsplash)


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