Innovation and aspiration to develop smart nations to better citizen’s lives are key discussion topics

ConnectGov: Information technology is likely to grow at an exponential rate necessitating that  humanity and governments across the globe adapt to the change.

This is because technology-related disruptive forces are reshaping the world. From governments to businesses, from communities to individuals, no one can avoid the digital tsunami upon everyone.

This was the highlight of the ConnectGov Leader summit that began yesterday in Thimphu bringing together 130 chief information officers and business leaders from the Asia Pacific.

Jacqueline Poh, managing director of infocomm development authority, Singapore said people now want “data democracy.” After e-governance, she said people expect governments to deliver services like how Google and Uber do. “People want easy access to data.”

Jacqueline Poh said that in a way these initiatives enable “smart nation” that improves the lives of citizens but the governments must invest to protect privacy and security.

The CIO to the government of Catalonia said people should challenge the concept of governance in this digital era because information technology can change the fundamentals of doing things differently and more efficiently. Technology has replaced the old tools used for government management.

The World Bank’s digital strategy advisor, Randeep Sudan, also added that the more digitalised society becomes, the more vulnerable it is. With technological advancements, he said that there is a danger of creating an inequitable society.

“It could displace jobs and world would end up in social unrest, political turmoil and so on,” Randeep Sudan said. For instance, music record companies have already lost 74 percent of its revenue to the digital world.

In the world of business, information technology has changed the rules of the game.

Gerd Leonhard, who is listed as one of the top 100 influencers in techonolgy by Wired magazine, said businesses has evolved from selling products to services and now experiences.

Gerd Leonhard said car manufacturers, for instance, were selling cars previously. “Now they are selling mobility.” The largest cab operator in the world, Uber, doesn’t own a single car and one of the world’s largest store, Alibaba, has no inventory.

“The rules are changing fast,” said Gerd Leonhard, adding that data economy, which is worth USD 7.4 trillion, is larger than the oil economy.

However, he cautioned that if humans don’t know who they are, machines may take over. “People are already building relationships with machine because they are everywhere.”

For a country like Bhutan, he questioned whether the country is designed for digital evolution or if Bhutan will be happy. The answer, according to him, is in finding a balance between humanity and technology simply because there is no “app” for happiness. He added that humans must protect the areas where digital encroachment is undesirable.

The former information and communication secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji, said the threat is when people interpret ICT as technology and land up doing wrong things efficiently. “ICT is about people,” he said.

Bhutan, he said, cannot afford to design or build new technologies but to follow what is already available. In doing so, he said the country has the opportunity learn from mistakes and successes. The country’s late entry into the development agenda is an advantage, he added.

Dasho Kinley Dorji said that because development is often interpreted as economic development, Gross National Happiness is a deliberate pun played on the Gross National Product. “It is the responsibility of the government to create an environment for citizens to pursue happiness.”

The event is organised by CIO academyasia, Singapore and hosted by the information and communications ministry.

Tshering Dorji