Are We Ready for the Exponential Government?

  • Governments will shift from a centralised to distributed governance model
  • As opposed to using AI to displace jobs, Exponential Government sees augmentation

policy makers must renew their mindsets and competencies towards learning, leading and collaboration. Only then will the Exponential Government be able to lead the charge in innovation.

Are We Ready for the Exponential Government?What will innovation look like in the next decade? The most prevalent trend is the rise of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) which has already penetrated a myriad of sectors ranging from manufacturing to finance to healthcare.

We believe that in the next decade the adoption of these technologies by the public sector will be more pronounced, giving birth to a new form of administration: The Exponential Government.

Breaking the barriers of traditional governments, this new organisation will leverage technology to be more flexible and data driven. It will serve as a bedrock to foster innovation in the nation, while safeguarding the wellbeing of our citizens in the increasingly volatile post Covid era.

A virtual seminar, hosted by my firm, Alpha Catalyst Consulting, on 8th December, titled “The Next Decade of Innovation”, attempted to define what an exponential government will look like. We explored its role in fostering innovation in the nation, as well as innovation management guidelines that can help transform public and private institutions. Our guest speakers from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Swedish Institute of Standards were also present to share insights.

The Exponential Organisation or Government, is an organisation whose impact is disproportionately large relative to its peers. Leveraging algorithms and social technologies, it taps into the collective intelligence of communities, regulators, and industry players to create a form of co-governance. Exponential governments will also implement an experimental approach by iteratively developing regulations based on feedback gathered at the ground level. This anticipatory approach allows a greater participation in policy making, allowing governments to quickly react to new externalities, such as the pandemic.

A recent example of this can be found in Indonesia. When its first lockdown was implemented in the province of West Java due to Covid-19, a community-led team in the region was able to use the existing data sets to swiftly create a prediction model. The model was then shared with the government to predict Covid clusters in other regions within Indonesia.

Powering this new organisation will be a platform approach towards innovation. Various players including the public sector, academia and private entities will break down their silos and collaborate intensively via digital technologies. As more data is made available, it can be fed into AI to create smarter algorithms to make better data-driven decisions. As opposed to using AI to displace jobs via automation, the Exponential Government will instead leverage on augmentation. AI will complement human decision making to enhance the organisation’s range of existing capabilities.

The Head of the UNDP’s Asia Pacific Regional Innovation Center, Alexandru Orpunenco highlighted the need for innovation to craft long term governing strategies, as opposed to quick fixes we have today. As governments shift from a centralised to distributed governance, future governments will be required to accommodate the needs of current and future generations. Such radical inclusions are already present in some countries, such as Wales, where a Future Generations Commissioner is tasked to safeguard the interest of the future generation via 7 wellbeing goals.

What are some of the tools we will need to set corporate and government innovators up for success? A standardised approach and vocabulary for innovation can help.

Dr. Magnus Karlsson, the National Expert and Chairman of the Swedish Institute for Standards introduced the presence of  the ISO 56000 series of guiding standards for innovation management. Developed by an international community of members, including the OECD and WTO, it aims to provide a systematic and systemised approach to managing innovation. A systems perspective helps any public or private organisation benchmark their transformation efforts against their peers, while identifying any bottlenecks that may impede progress.

In the context of governments, a common guiding standard will serve as a foundation for new innovation policies for the private sector and SMEs. As the concept of innovation management matures, we can also expect to see the birth of innovation managers in organisations. They will help develop innovation strategies and processes, facilitate collaboration, and promote a culture of innovation.

In order to be truly innovative, a country needs both its public and private sectors to be exponential organisations. Robust digital and legal infrastructures provided by the government are imperative to lend clarity and transparency. The need for fostering intimate and trustworthy public-private collaborations are also paramount.

On the government’s end, policy makers must renew their mindsets and competencies towards learning, leading and collaboration. Only then will the Exponential Government be able to lead the charge in innovation.

Dr Suraya Sulaiman is cofounder & MD of Alpha Catalyst Consulting

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