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Dear MIT GOV/LAB Community,

As the year comes to a close, we are celebrating a year of learning and looking to what’s ahead. Check out the roundup of our top five stories from 2023

A convergence of governance and AI/ML 

We are excited about growing interest at the intersection of computer science, machine learning, and governance across a number of projects.

Professor Lily L. Tsai and Media Lab collaborator Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland won an MIT seed grant to probe the social implications of generative artificial intelligence. Their project will evaluate the benefits and risks of AI-augmented social media platforms and technologies designed to overcome polarization, build trust, and enhance participation in an era of democratic backsliding. 

Luke Jordan, a 2021 MIT GOV/LAB practitioner-in-residence, recently published a working paper “Mind the Aid Effectiveness Gap” with the World Bank that highlights the importance of tailoring development projects to local contexts (check out the paper highlights). Last year, he shared takeaways from his residency on the potential for using AI/ML in civic and governance tech.

Lastly, one of our graduate research fellows, Jerik Cruz, is using machine learning tools to help build a large-scale database of government audits in the Philippines. Cruz has already used the data to identify transactions between local governments that may be associated with corruption, and other researchers may use the database in the future to study financial and accountability-related behavior. Jerik won the MIT Prize for Open Data for his project!  

Reinvigorating democracy through innovation

Next semester, MIT undergrads can take a new course called Democracy Makerspace Lab taught by Professor Tsai. The class encourages imaginative and resourceful thinking about the design of liberal democratic practices and institutions and what new technologies mean for democracy in a digital age. Students will learn about current and historical challenges to democracy and liberal governance, as well as some of the major opportunities and problems facing those working on technologies and AI tools for democratic revitalization. 

And there’s much to learn from our governance innovation work! We put out a learning series on Designing Governance Innovations in Resource-Constrained Settings where we document the challenges and opportunities of the innovation design process in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Another student case study series explores how the public sector is innovating to become more accountable, transparent, and responsive to citizens. 

Our Power to the Who podcast highlights conversations with thought leaders in governance, reformers, public service leaders, technologists, and designers to shine a light on the visions, anecdotal mistakes, and eureka moments experienced on the path to innovating in? governance. Finally, check out these interesting Q&As on collaborative innovation with partners in Nigeria. 

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Some additional updates below from work with collaborators and research affiliates:

  • Before you wreck yourself. Practitioner-in-residence Anisha Singh, previously at Busara, produced a guide to help researchers from around the world conduct more thoughtful behavioral science research in international development contexts. 
  • Graduate students in MIT News. Elizabeth Parker-Magyar finds close workplace networks among educators drive their activism even outside of democracies; Nicole Wilson explores the politics of a shifting middle class in Nigeria.
  • Meet Nat Rabb, our new technical associate. MIT GOV/LAB is excited to introduce the newest member of our team researching trust and governance. Learn more about his interest in the “community of knowledge” framework.

 Photo: Bruno Figueiredo/Unsplash