Governance, Cities, and Services

The industrial economy is running out of gas—with industries in crisis, governments that can’t get things done, old models of financial services, and a breakdown of global cooperation. The digital revolution enables multi-stakeholder, self-governing networks to transform these institutions.

See below for detailed speech topics in this theme.

Rethinking Government and Democracy
The concept of “Reinventing Government” — for better cheaper government, has been around for two decades. But its time as come. The Sovereign Debt crisis in Europe and the spiralling debt in America and other Western countries calls for more than tinkering. There is now a new medium of communications that only changes the way we innovate and create goods and services — it can change the way societies create public value.

Governments can become a stronger part of the social ecosystem that binds individuals, communities, and businesses—not by absorbing new responsibilities or building additional layers of bureaucracy, but through its willingness to open-up formerly closed processes and data to broader input and innovation.

In other words, government becomes a platform the creation of services and for social innovation. It provides resources, sets rules and mediates disputes, but allows citizens, non-profits and the private sector to share in the heavy lifting. This is leading to a change in the division of labor in society about how public value is created, and holds the promise of solving the debt crisis.

The Next Era in Global Problem Solving and Governance
The growing problems of the world — from climate change, conflict, poverty, water scarcity, infectious disease to economic stagnation — are not too hard to solve. Rather progress is stalled because our model is wrong. The good news is that traditional state based institutions such as the UN, the International Monetary Fund or the G8 summits are being supplemented and even eclipsed by non-state networks of civil society, the private sector, government and individual stakeholders.

Call them Global Solution Networks. Until now, little has been done to evaluate what makes these networks tick, how they succeed or fail, what impact they have and how they address the tough issues of legitimacy, accountability, representation and transparency. Tapscott shares some initial conclusions from a multi-million dollar study he is leading about how new patterns of connection can fulfill their enormous potential in fixing a broken world.

Collaborative Science and Healthcare
Despite the advancements of modern medicine, our basic approach to health care has remained unchanged for centuries. It assumes that physicians are smart and patients aren’t. Doctors wait in their office or hospital for sick people to come to them in order to be told what to do. Traditionally, patients have been passive and ill-informed, playing little or no role in deciding their own treatment. As one physician puts it: “Today’s health care institutions are like the old media: centralized, one-way, immutable and controlled by the people who created and delivered it. Patients are passive recipients.” In other words, the health system is broken.

Now, courtesy of the digital revolution, there are tools that allow us to take more responsibility for our own health, and for patients to collaborate with their doctors and, equally important, other patients.

All of us, including newborns, should have our own online Personal Health Page. Just as Facebook keeps you updated on your friends’ activities, your Health Page would keep you up to date on issues affecting your health. You could have links to organizations such as Weight Watchers or a local diabetes support group. You could create a community or join medical “causes.” And low-cost or free applications could help you measure your own health, prediagnose a sick child or test for possible drug interactions.

By moving the heart of our health care system online, and making each of us more informed and involved in our health, we would get a lot more bang for our health care buck. Knowing what’s happening in your body motivates you to change your behavior. If you weigh yourself daily, for instance, you’ll be more successful at shedding pounds and keeping them off than if you weigh in weekly.

When we are better informed about our health, we make fewer trips to the emergency department, we don’t make unnecessary doctors’ appointments and we require fewer costly home-nurse visits.

Some early examples of this kind of thinking can already be seen online. Users of, a popular online health community, are able to track more than 1,500 symptoms and treatments on a daily basis using iPhone apps that cover both general health conditions, such as weight loss and allergies, and very specific disorders, such as infertility and diabetes. If they want, patients can share this information on a continuing basis with their doctors or caregivers.

Doctors should do much more to encourage patients to take advantage of the resources available in online health care communities. A good example is, a vibrant health care community whose members suffer from debilitating chronic conditions such as ALS, Parkinson’s and bipolar disorder. Members use the site to track the evolution and management of their diseases. But rather than keep all their data private, many members share it with the patient community and the medical research community.

This openness ultimately benefits everyone. Patients can learn what’s working and, in consultation with their doctors, adjust their own treatment plans. Drug companies can use anonymous patient data to evaluate new treatments and thus bring them to market more quickly. “People think we are a social networking site,” says PatientsLikeMe co-founder Ben Heywood. “But we’re an open medical framework. This is a large-scale research project.”

Of course, we need the buy-in of the biggest players – namely government and insurers – to help maximize these opportunities and help people from becoming needlessly sick.

Urban Intelligence: Achieving Smart Connected Cities
The world’s cities are under stress with megacities paralyzed by population influx, lack of infrastructure, traffic congestion, pollution and crime. Many cities built up since the Second World War are dysfunctional and getting worse as the industrial economy collapses. Yet everywhere there are bold new collaborative initiatives for reinvention of cities. Governments of all levels realize that they can’t do this work alone. Thanks to digital information and communication technologies, it’s now more effective to develop a platform that enables the public sector and private sector to collaborate.

Don Tapscott discusses how cities can transform themselves around 10 axes: Economic Development; Public Safety; Open Government; Transportation and Managing Traffic congestion, Powering the City, Clean air and water, Human Services; Education; Government Operations; and Transforming Democracy.

Reinventing the Financial Services Industry
Restoring long-term confidence in the financial services industry in the U.S. and other industrialized nations will require more than government intervention and new rules. What’s needed is a new modus operandi for the financial services industry, one where all of the key players (banks, insurers, investment brokers, rating agencies and regulators) embrace the web, and transparency and other wikinomics principles in order to develop credible practices and policies that will ensure the crisis doesn’t reoccur. If the investment community and the broader public understand the true causes of the financial disaster, perhaps they can protect themselves against financial adventurers in the future.

A digital response involving collaboration on a mass scale may be the best way to properly evaluate and assess the value and risk of new financial instruments as they are produced. New models based on openness, transparency and participation are already changing many parts of the industry from venture capital to mutual funds and even lending, so why not to apply the same thinking to the obscure mathematical models that value the risk and expected returns of the most complex instruments: expose them to the scrutiny of the thousands of experts who have the knowledge to vet the underlying assumptions?

Wikinomics can also be applied to virtually every other aspect of the industry. Venture Capital, the engine of entrepreneurship is stalled and this is a big problem for everyone as most new jobs come from new companies. But it turns out that networked talent outside the boundaries of venture investors can help break the logjam. Most banks are still loathe to lend money so in some parts of the world peers are taking the law into their own hands and initiating peer to peer lending schemes. But will existing institutions tie into these heaving new initiatives effectively, the way that say, IBM embraced Linux for revenue profit and competitive advantage?

Arguably, this is the perfect time for fresh and even radical thinking. When it comes to evaluating risk, this interconnected digital crowd comprises people who are financially sophisticated and can provide the fresh and innovative insight that will clarify the questionable dealings in the financial services business. A more open and collaborative approach would restore trust in banks, kick start venture capital, unfreeze the paralysis of lending markets and lay a foundation for a financial service industry that continues to underpin the growth and prosperity of the world’s economies.