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What is the role of governments in the digital age?

21 minute read
Digital technologies are witnessing a wave of changing and fast-paced trends that are fundamentally changing citizens' expectations. Proof of this is a tangible change in the way citizens deal, interact and link with government agencies and services.
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Digital innovations and concepts have swept governments to an integral part of their glossary and interests over the past decade. As a result, many government agencies have used proven private sector frameworks, with positive results in terms of providing better government policies and improving government services. However, It should be noted that the bulk of these innovations were the result of efforts that emerged, were designed and implemented at the internal level of government. The private sector, civil society and citizens contributed the bulk of the interesting innovations. With more data available, These entities began to move away from the traditional approach and creative thinking to create new and innovative tools.

Today, Digital technologies are witnessing a wave of changing and fast-paced trends that are fundamentally changing citizens' expectations. Proof of this is the tangible change in the way citizens deal, interact and link with government agencies and services. The nature of these changing interactions and interactions is horizontal, enabling and automatic. It can be said that they are quite different from the traditional hierarchical and rule-based bureaucratic systems that governments have developed over the past decades. This new form of interaction is primarily data-driven, And certainly the data is up to date, open, reliable and easy to use.

This need for data has become a major concern that applies to all aspects of our evolving digital society. One of the most prominent focuses in this area is artificial intelligence, which promises to bring about a revolution and a paradigm shift in societies, including governments. Companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft are using AI-related technologies to train computers to recognize images and understand human language. Because we have huge amounts of data required, It is possible to train computers to perform such difficult tasks. The same applies to all technology-driven trends that shape the future, such as machine learning and smart manufacturing. All of these approaches are data-driven and have no value without good and useful data. In this sense, The data was dubbed "the new oil."

Governance in the Data Age

Thanks to the fast-paced technological development we have witnessed over the past decades, We have new business models (mainly e-commerce), As well as achieving an unprecedented level of global connectivity thanks to the phenomenon of the spread of smartphones. These developments have resulted in the production of vast amounts of data, which in turn has led to the rapid emergence of the data sector. What was once limited to intelligence agencies, market researchers, and technical statistics is now available to all.

This connected world we live in today is producing data at a pace unprecedented in human history. It is estimated that more than 3 billion people are connected to the Internet today (compared to only 2.3 million in 1990). Because these three billion people produce data every minute of their digital lives, The concept of big data arose, which is generally defined using four elements: volume, diversity (diversity of sources), speed (round-the-clock effectiveness) and data validity (in this abundance, Quality assurance becomes imperative).

Big data can be a powerful tool if used effectively. Many researchers have found a strong link between effective data management strategies and corporate financial performance as it helps them reach the market faster and provide products and services that better match the needs of customers. For the government sector, This link has the potential to enhance performance in terms of developing better policies, providing government services that suit the needs of the customer, and distributing resources more efficiently and effectively. On the other hand, It can lead to negative results if used incorrectly, not to mention the long-talked privacy issue.

Managing big data effectively is made possible today thanks to the hardware and software available that is based at its core on the exponential growth of storage capacity. Today, A one-terabyte hard drive costs about $50 (that was global storage capacity only four decades ago). Because of this high storage capacity, Many bodies have opted for the "Collect Now" approach. Categorize later" in relation to data. The lower cost of storage and the availability of better methods of analysis mean that you don't need to have a particular purpose in the data before collecting it. That is, big data will become bigger and more valuable every day AI develops, according to IBM's Watson Data Storage Services team.

Operating models in the data age

The vast majority of the world's data today is in the hands of the private sector (e.g., ICT and retail companies) and some of these companies, such as Google and Facebook, have made money from this data and made it a major focus of their business model. Other companies, such as Uber and Airbnb, have used the data to develop platform models that have transformed the industries in which they operate. So far, Individuals provide their data free of charge in exchange for technical services (such as e-mail), But it won't be that way for long. Business models are being developed to find effective ways and means to start paying people for the data they provide in their daily lives. Thus, We are waiting for a new sector that is interesting and not widely regulated.

The rest of the global data is often stored with government agencies in paper form or in legacy systems. In order to take advantage of the data age at the societal level, A new movement has emerged to promote open data. While government data is limited to all data or information produced or collected by government agencies, The term open source data refers to the possibility of publishing and exchanging data that can be easily referenced and reused by anyone connected to the Internet and without any fees or technical restrictions.

Day after day, Data becomes a source of wealth and a tool for enhancing public value. In this context, We might assume that the value of the data exceeds the title of "new oil" by which it was described, Rather, it is an essential lifeline of the digital society. In affirmation, A company that operates without accurate data is like a blind company and this is especially true for the government sector (especially in light of the constant shrinking government budgets).

However, There are a range of important questions to be answered in the data age. These questions include: who owns the data, And who should own it (given its pivotal importance in our future digital society)? Should citizens be provided with a basic data charter that enables them to understand their rights and responsibilities? Who is responsible for data quality and security? How can we manage and ensure privacy? Finally, Will people agree to continue providing data without being paid?

From e-governments to data regulators

The quality of economic decisions, innovations, government policies, and all big and/or open data-based options depends on the quality of the data you use. Therefore, Data must be audited, updated, protected, and made usable. Since it may not be possible to achieve due to the diversity and validity of data sources, Societies turn to their governments to play this important role.

Governments have been using the services of their technical departments over the decades, As we have moved from the first generation e-government (Web 1.0) to the second generation (Web 2.0), This has put in our hands more valuable and impactful services with Internet-based applications. Today, We are waiting for the launch of the government version 3.0. Instead of dealing with the government through a particular technology or toolkit, We see it as a platform to achieve public value with data at its core, which is a real change in our culture.

The data has become the new oil for sure, They have transformative potential at the economic and social level. If we succeed in mining, optimizing and directing "raw data" to influence decisions on the ground, Their value will undoubtedly increase. If we share data across countries and communities correctly and make it available in locations where analytics are particularly useful, It will change the rules of life and change the way we live and work. To achieve this, Governments must design, refine and master a new set of capabilities and systems and forge a new culture. The only thing that will work is to establish a new system.

The majority of this data is currently held as the private property of companies, governments and other organizations. This limits the value of public data. Data today is a new social commodity, This makes it imperative for governments to consider developing legislation that regulates data responsibility and contributes to guiding the private sector and other data owners and helping them perform their tasks in the data age, which is the task of collecting, managing and sharing data in an appropriate manner, not forgetting the task of protecting privacy. This legislation should be imposed on the government's open big data management systems. It covers all data of interested parties regardless of ownership or other governing rules.

Once a clear legal framework is in place, Governments need to develop and master a new core skill: Data management and organization. The challenge for today's governments is that there is a difference between the basic skills and systems required in the data age and current government rules and regulations. Despite the political interest over the years and the investment of billions in this area, The majority of the world's governments still have difficulty managing legacy databases that are incompatible with each other and that do not allow any kind of data exchange or data-driven designs. Laws and legislation are still young and have difficulty keeping pace with change. More importantly, the competencies and talents required to manage this new skill or ability are not usually attracted to work in government agencies while the demand for them increases in the private sector.

Government entities must design sophisticated data management processes, They are able to own, process, and store vast amounts of data in a way that reflects the context from which it was extracted (contextual factors are important because big data can have adverse effects on the decisions it produces). On the other hand Governments should take all measures to strengthen processes to ensure data quality. This need stems from the fact that the value of data for decision-making purposes is affected and compromised if that data is inaccurate or inappropriate.

In order to succeed in achieving this, Governments must consider a large number of laws and legislations, From harmonizing and implementing laws on privacy and data breach protection to laws that ensure net neutrality and data flow. Today, there are lengthy debates about the future of big data based on the assumption that the Internet will remain a series of open networks through which data flows easily. Some countries have begun to strengthen their Internet systems and make them more solid. The concept of net neutrality remains vague. In the event that the Internet becomes a network of closed networks, The full potential of big data may not be realized.

Governments must improve their capacity to engage citizens and encourage them to take an active role with data providers and users. This requires governments to foster a culture of open data. This is something that governments have begun to implement with different levels of success. We cannot say that the level of citizen participation falls within the typical tasks of the government, Rather, its mission is to provide an open and fast-paced horizontal platform between the government and the citizen.

The last and perhaps most important need is to attract and retain the competencies required for the data age. Finding a job has been difficult for a statistician for two decades and around the world. Today, This profession, which has changed its name to "data scientist", has become the most sought-after profession in the market. IT companies (both emerging and large market-leading), financial services and retail companies, defense companies, and governments compete to recruit these talents. To achieve success and prosperity in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Institutions and official entities need to attract, retain and help these competencies to continuously develop their skills and capabilities.

Source: This article was written by Dr. Yasar Jarrar on February 13, 2017, original article published on the World Economic Forum website

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