Good government matters more in a digital world as technology puts the spotlight on inputs and outputs of government, such as the delivery of services or innovation, which dramatically affect the well-being of citizens. Government leaders need to rethink which aims or values the community to which they belong should be trying to achieve: is it economic growth, law and order, individual liberty, full employment, trust or perhaps happiness for their citizens? What does “good government” imply in the information era? How can governments become forward-looking and lead the most informed societies of all time?
Good government matters for three main reasons. First, because the difference between good and bad government can be felt by the citizens as it decisively affects their quality of life. Second, the citizens are active participants in shaping their governments. Third, there are drivers of good government and strategies to design a prosperous future.
In June 2014, the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government co-launched the Future of Government Smart Toolbox report, which shares insights on how technology can strengthen good government – for example, by enabling greater transparency of government actions through open data,
empowering citizens to have faster and more accurate access to online services, and helping to strengthen responses to aid civilians in conflicts. It also explores the risks and challenges of an increasingly digital era, including the often expensive and complex need to keep pace with changing tools and technology, the divides that can expand between user groups that have less ease of use, and the security and protection of data and information.
If well managed and strategically deployed, information and communication technology (ICT) can reshape government in the next decade by strengthening trust in government, leadership, delivery of services, political representation, anti-corruption, bureaucratic cooperation, conflict management and innovation.
In parallel to the work the council undertook to develop the toolbox, members teamed up with the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Foresight team to create scenarios on the future of government. Specifically, the scenarios depict possible contexts within which questions could be asked about the future roles and forms of government. The intent of creating the scenarios was twofold: first, to stretch the thinking of council members to assist them in making the toolbox as robust and forward-looking as possible; and second, to facilitate insightful conversations among a range of stakeholders on policy actions needed now to ensure governments are prepared for the future, however it may unfold.
While none of these scenarios are likely to come to pass in full or in isolation from the other scenarios, all the scenarios contain some elements of truth. Smart policy-making in the present can ensure that as different variations of these futures unfold, they are contributing to positive gains for society.
Council Manager: Sriram Gutta, Knowledge Lead, Strategy and Performance, Regional Strategies, Global Leadership, Impact and Strategy, Sriram.Gutta@weforum.org
Forum Lead: Espen Barth Eide, Head of Geopolitical Affairs, Member of the Managing Board, EspenBarth.Eide@weforum.org