Government leadership is key in digital transformation

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"The rise of powerful AI will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity." ~ Stephen Hawking (Screenshot via YouTube)

Government leadership is needed to manage both the positive and negative political, social and economic implications of artificial intelligence and robotics, writes Paul Budde.

OUR SOCIETIES and our economies have reached a new threshold.

The developments leading to this are a logical continuation of our evolutionary process, but interestingly, the current rapid societal changes are coinciding with the availability of new information and communications technology (ICT) tools.

These ICT tools can assist us with:

  • political transformation — creating a more democratic environment at grass root levels;
  • transforming our economy to create exponential opportunities; and
  • transforming society through e-health and e-education.

On the negative side, these tools can also be used to undermine democracy, enhance (cyber) crime and increase commercial and political surveillance. 

Digital transformation can equally be used to destabilise markets. In the rush to face off competition, risks could be taken that would undermine internal processes and further concentration could lead to a new group of too-big-to-fail companies — for example, in the financial and ICT sectors. We also need to listen to the 116 global leaders – including the late Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates who urged the United Nations, governments and society against the threat of weaponising AI and robotics – before the tech world opens this Pandora's box.

As the value put on the exponential new digital giants shows, truly transformed enterprises are also more valuable enterprises

In order to benefit from the positive developments and to manage the negatives, significant transformations are needed and this means cutting through the many silos that are hampering this process. It requires leadership from the top at the level of prime ministers, state premiers, mayors and CEOs.

These transformations are important if we want to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as defined by the United Nations and show the critical importance of government policies needed to facilitate smooth transformations.

On the one side, good governance, policies and regulations are needed at national – and preferably even international levels – in relation to telecommunications infrastructure, cybersecurity, data management and data analytics coordination/regulation, managed open systems and privacy.

Governments need to be accountable so clear, effective measures need to be part of e-government to get outcomes that deliver a positive contribution to society.

But it is equally important to create local environments that empower people and facilitate community and crowd engagement. Smart cities are good platforms for such developments.

Changes will be needed at enterprise levels as transformations are typically long-term developments while the current economic and financial business model favours short-termism. Change from an emphasis on short-term shareholders value to a much broader, long-term stakeholder value will also be needed. As the value put on the exponential new digital giants shows, truly transformed enterprises are also more valuable enterprises.

Paul Budde is managing director of Paul Budde Communication, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde. Paul will be presenting on this topic at the  International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance in Melbourne in April.

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