#CloseUp: RRT x Oxylabs
Today we are talking with two amazing #GovTech enthusiasts – Ieva and Modesta. Ieva Žilionienė is a Deputy Director of the Communications Regulatory Authority (a.k.a. RRT) and has submitted a very exciting challenge that aims to automate illegal content detection online before it even gets reported. Modesta represents Oxylabs.io, a strong team of data scientists, software developers, and engineers, that have proposed their solution on how to solve this ambitious challenge. Our interviewees told us more about what kind of innovative solutions they are co-creating together and how the collaboration between the public and private sectors is going.
Tell us more about your submitted challenge for GovTech Challenge Series 2.0 and why is it important to solve it?
Ieva: Our challenge „How to automate illegal content detection on the Internet?“ is aimed at making our digital on-line world cleaner and safer. As the Communication Regulatory Authority, or RRT, we operate the Internet hotline www.švarusinternetas.lt, where people report illegal on-line content they stumble upon while browsing. Our experts investigate every reported case, and if the content is indeed illegal or harmful to minors – the report is passed to responsible institutions: the police, the office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics, hotlines from other countries, etc. Yet, to make the process of illegal Internet content detection more efficient, especially regarding the most harmful and sensitive content – children sexual abuse material, we started to look for more proactive, innovative ways. And we used the possibility provided by GovTech Challenge Series to put forward our challenge, hoping to push forward the development of solution able to automatically recognise prohibited visual material stored in Lithuanian IP address range and report it to RRT hotline.
Why is it important to look for innovative solutions that could be applied for the public sector use?
Ieva: In a dynamic, fast changing environment, it is impossible to avoid the change – and public sector is not an exception. Successful institutions must be ready to react, to adapt, to improve, to absorb the change and to become better by that. That‘s why innovations are necessary. And GovTech Challenge series provide, in my view, an excellent opportunity for that.
When institution, such as ours, knows precisely what it needs, and how to do that, and have assigned a necessary (predefined) sum of money, it writes detailed technical specification and announces public procurement. Yet, there are cases then we know what we want to improve, but there might be many different ways to implement that. To try to define them in advance would mean to restrict some potentially brilliant ideas. And here GovTech provides a great opportunity. The slogan „co-create“ is very suitable here: we see us not as regular public sector „clients“ who demand services provider to do something according to strict technical specification, we see us as collaborators. We have our experts who know the essence of the challenge very well, who know the context, the content, the framework of the issue. And we can share all this knowledge, co-creating with a startup in the development of future product – a product that will respond to our needs, and as well to the needs of other similar institutions, in other sectors, or in other countries.
Do you have any tips for other institutions who want to work with startups and apply innovations?
Ieva: Yes: don‘t be afraid to try! In many situations, the thing that stops us is not lack of time, or resources – which are identified as “usual suspects” – it’s a mindset. A “fair of failure” is a strong factor that stops us from innovating. Currently, I’m reading a book “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull, American computer scientist, co-founder of Pixar and former president of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Of course, steering a movie studio based on artistry and creativity might seem quite a different area, yet, there are many things that can be take-aways from these experiences. And the chapter about the “fair of failure” is one of them.
We don’t have to fear failure; failure is natural if you try and experiment.
The message is: we don’t have to fear failure; failure is natural if you try and experiment, yet, without that – you can’t move forward to try something new, something different, and no innovation can be born. Thus, to step out of our pre-defined boundaries and to try something new, is a good experience for any institutions, and GovTech series provide a guided and friendly framework for that.
Tell us more about your submitted solution for GovTech Challenge Series 2.0 and how could it solve a social or public sector problem?
Modesta: We will collect target websites, analyse them, and check if they consist of illegal content. After all of this is done, we will submit any illegal findings to RRT.
Creating a solution that finds illegal content on the internet will allow RRT to ban and shut down any possibly dangerous websites much faster and effectively. It may also have the potential to help track and catch any people behind these illegal activities. By cleaning up Lithuanian servers (hosted and distributed in Lithuania), it will create a safer and cleaner internet environment for children, families, and the overall community.
Why is it important to create innovative solutions that could be applied in the public sector?
Modesta: Because this way we all benefit. Innovative solutions help solve problems in a more effective and overall better way. When you create something new, you never know how it will grow and what societal changes it might bring. However, applying them in the governmental sector allows it to make a substantial positive impact.
When you create something new, you never know how it will grow and what societal changes it might bring.
The government’s decisions touch upon each and everyone’s life. Therefore, they must integrate innovative solutions early on in response to nowadays reality and challenges. Additionally, they have to be pragmatic and introduce innovative solutions for future challenges. Only then they are leading society by an inspiring example.
Do you have any tips for other creators who want to work with the public sector?
Modesta: One of the main tips would be to try to understand members of the newly formed team. Our company environment is rather different from that in the public sector. We sometimes have more freedom to experiment and make decisions based on trial and error methods, while the public sector often has fewer resources. Try to understand your teammates, because we have a lot to learn from each other!