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21 Nov

David Eaves delivers thought-provoking keynote on digital governance

November 21, 2017 | By |

On November 16th, SPPG kicked off a weekend of public policy innovation events with a highly-anticipated panel on digital governance with public policy entrepreneur David Eaves.

The event, Citizens, Surveillance, and the Public Good also featured Rachel Curran, former Director of Policy to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Ontario Deputy Minister for Digital Government Hillary Hartley. It was moderated by SPPG Director Peter Loewen.

David Eaves speaks at the Isabel Bader theatre on November 16th. Image credit: Lisa Sakulensky.

Eaves started the discussion with a brief lecture on the recent evolution of digital governance. The question he posited to his fellow panelists was: if private corporations like Google and Amazon can harvest digital data to pre-empt customer’s desires, why can’t this same tactic be applied to governance?

In Eaves’ own words, we can – but “the technology will be the easy part. The hard part will be governance.” For data to be streamlined, and to increase the technological efficiency of a government, this data must be centralized. This mass collection of data into a single central repository presents an opportunity for abuse of power by those who control it. Eaves noted: “The only guarantee we can have with technology is not to build it.”


SPPG Dir. Peter Loewen moderates discussion with Hillary Hartley, Rachel Curran, and David Eaves. Image credit: Lisa Sakulensky.


In the following discussion, Loewen, Curran, and Hartley joined Eaves to touch on some of the biggest questions surrounding the development of digital governance. Is more data always better? What dangers lie in the belief that anything can be fixed with enough information? If the algorithms behind digital governance rely on human data, is it possible to create algorithms that don’t reproduce social dynamics like sexism, classism and racism?

SPPG will continue to explore these topics and further the timely discussion on digital governance, both through public events and upcoming programing on digital governance and public sector analytics.