Towards a New Digital Deal

By Bas Boorsma

Bas Boorsma currently serves as Cisco’s Digitization leader in North Europe. In this role he orchestrates Cisco´s regional efforts that allow for the digitization of Cisco customer operations, partner operations and Cisco itself. Bas has a rich background as a City Digitization specialist. In that capacity he has managed a portfolio of smart city endeavors globally. Bas is the author of “A New Digital Deal” (September 2017).

Aug 28, 2017 | Economy, Infrastructure | 0 comments

Communities around the world are accelerating their response to the current wave of digital innovations and they have good reason to. Digitalization can be considered a critical ingredient in the recipe of our sustainable communities of today and tomorrow – in the broadest sense of the word – economically, socially and environmentally. Digitalization carries the means and the organizational paradigm to not just do things slightly more efficiently, but differently and better. The design shift it affords can help us collectively tackle some of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced, such as climate change, the need for sustainable and affordable energy, fair and sufficient levels of water and food distribution, and education and healthcare for all in a world where the population continues to grow. And of course, it should help us arrive at solutions and services that will allow burgeoning cities to thrive.

Digitalization also provides us with the tools and designs that enable innovations that would never have been conceivable without digitalization itself in the first place. Digitalization represents a source for modern and innovative resolve as well as radically innovative designs, services, products and business architectures that are altering our world. Work that is place- and time-independent. Getting to a stage where we get to have healthcare as opposed to the current practice of obtaining sick-care. Abundant, affordable, green energy. Ubiquitous mobility. New modes of wealth creation. Platform revolutions. Individual growth and the collective, ubiquitous tools to propel exactly that. Such is the promise of digitalization. It is, however, not an automatic given that humanity will attain such a state of well-being. It is not even certain that even a select few will enter an era of such an elevated way of living. If we want to achieve even some of the above, we will need to come together, plan and act. We will need a New Digital Deal.

With the term ‘New Deal’ a reference is made to the programs initiated under President Roosevelt that were articulated in the 1930s in response to the social and economic havoc society faced at the time. Our era and the challenges we face today are different compared to what the USA faced in the 1930s, and the challenges we face today differ from one community to another. However, comparable to the original New Deal, facing those contemporary challenges will require a grand re-orchestration of societal resources, and society-wide collaboration. We need to urgently consider forging a New Deal of a modern kind that embodies and facilitates the mission at hand. We have the opportunity to do so with the modern means and tools available to us.

A New Digital Deal must articulate what constitutes the tools, resources, mechanisms and policies to have us collectively deliver on the promise digitalization affords. To be sure, we are unlikely to arrive at some Aristotle-type of Ideal State by means of digitalization. We will not enter a Valhalla of kinds. But a New Digital Deal can help frame and leverage digitalization so that our societies become more inclusive, increasingly focused on individual growth, helping to produce more sustainable communities and, in general, a higher level of well-being for all.

A New Digital Deal should also help mitigate the negatives that come with digitalization. Millions of jobs are being lost due to automation. New digital divides have emerged: urban versus rural, those that have the job skill sets of the future versus those that do not. Those that fear digitalization and the culture it produces, and those that do not. And so on. Many benefit from the digital innovations in a structural way, yet many more people find themselves on the edges of digitalization, remaining under the impression, mistakenly, that they are online. Creative destruction rules, an older order is on its way out, disruption is king. We need a New Digital Deal.

Now is the time to act. Now is the hour to arrive at a New Digital Deal. The absolute majority of well-informed citizenry around the world as well as their leaders appear to agree that no time is left to lose on climate change. We need to innovate ourselves out of the situation, and we need to do so now.

It is only relatively recently that digital tools have become part of the core fabric and functioning of society, and those same tools continue on their journey of becoming the next essential infrastructure without which society cannot function. But the policies, regulations, economic models and partnerships we have leveraged are by and large not ready to govern these tools effectively.

We respond to digital change in many ways, yet we generally fall short of preparing our current workforce and, worse, even our workforce of the future.

Cities are growing at an incredible rate globally, but there is no way we can provide all the right services by traditional means. For an average city in India, at current levels of growth, it would mean building a new additional hospital every few years, if not months. Again: we need a New Digital Deal, and we need it now.

Driverless vehicles represent an enormous potential and, if it’s up to Elon Musk, we’ll all be in one very soon. But none of our cities or highways are ready for this revolutionary change. Most communities are not ready on a technology level, or on a regulatory level to name just a few layers, and many city spatial planners are sound asleep. We need a New Digital Deal.

A vast array of smart city initiatives have seen the light of day, but many lack a mature convergence of public- and private-sector partners, many initiatives lack the DNA and resources to scale, and many started out without addressing the most elementary questions, such as regarding purpose and value. For such initiatives to succeed or do better, we need a New Digital Deal.

Technology choices are abundantly present, [i]and with that, complexity rules. To arrive at a better understanding of how we collectively prepare a future based on architectures that are leveraging standards, that are interoperable, seamless and secure, we too need a New Digital Deal, and we need it sooner rather than later.

The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation.”

Those were the words spoken by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 before winning the Presidency of the United States, preparing his country for the New Deal he was to orchestrate. Today, too, we should demand – and get – bold and persistent experimentation. Too few political leaders are demanding as much, however.

We need a New Digital Deal.

 

[i] William E. Leuchtenburg, “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal”, p.5

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

If Companies Want a Diverse Workforce, They Need to Pay Attention to Transportation

If Companies Want a Diverse Workforce, They Need to Pay Attention to Transportation

A new toolkit has been developed to help businesses think through strategies to decrease mobility barriers to the workplace, which reduces turnover. When workers can reliably get to work regardless of their personal circumstances, it provides employment stability and the opportunity to build wealth. It’s a win-win. Developed through a partnership between Metropolitan Planning Council and a pro bono Boston Consulting Group team, the toolkit includes slide decks, an overview report, customizable templates, a cost calculator, and instructional videos walking a company through the thought process of establishing a baseline situation, evaluating and selecting a solution, and standing up a program.

Depending on the employer’s location and employees’ needs, solutions may range from helping with last-mile transportation to the transit system, to developing on-demand vanpools, to establishing in-house carpool matching systems. The ROI calculator gives employers the ability to determine the break-even cost—the subsidy amount a company can manage without hurting the bottom line.

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.  

Johannesburg and Maputo Partner to Research Transport Needs and Investments

Johannesburg and Maputo Partner to Research Transport Needs and Investments

I caught up recently with Sarah Charlton who is Associate Professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

The research she is leading, located in both Johannesburg, South Africa and Maputo, Mozambique, looks at the interface between the mobility use by residents and transportation investments by the state. The question guiding her research is “are ordinary households using the transport modes that the government is investing in and prioritizing?” The research is a partnership between two universities across two countries and two cities.

Sarah reflects on research during the pandemic across languages, countries, histories and cultures.

The Future of Cities

Mayors, planners, futurists, technologists, executives and advocates — hundreds of urban thought leaders publish on Meeting of the Minds. Sign up below to follow the future of cities.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This