When it comes to governments and technology companies, it has been a tough year. As technology companies have expanded their reach and product offering around the world, governments have been faced with questions over the best way to ensure growth while protecting individual and national interests. The data breaches at Facebook and other companies in the lead up to the 2016 US presidential election underscore the need for some form of regulation of global technology.
While most people and lawmakers agree that some form of regulation is in the pipeline for the technology sector, that shouldn’t dissuade governments from seeking closer collaboration with technology. In fact, the debate over regulation is a perfect opportunity for closer integration. From security to combating election interference, deeper collaboration between governments and private technology companies can produce positive results for society and government services. Before examining how this could influence the services sectors, let’s review Facebook’s latest collaboration with the German government.
Early in 2019, Facebook announced it would work closely with the German Ministry for Information Security in a bid to curb election interference. According to The Wall Street Journal, the effort builds upon a previous collaboration between the world’s largest social media network and the German government during the 2017 federal elections. Facebook’s ability to spot suspicious activity in the build-up to the election will help officials ensure that the vote takes places in a free and fair manner.
The power of social media networks to collect, analyze and process information about targeted groups of people is exactly why deeper collaboration with governments can improve the services sector. Simply put, social media companies know much more about residents’ needs that many governments, and that knowledge is critical to the correct application of resources and services. Additionally, social media platforms are proven ways to engage with the public for positive results (although, plain old email remains an efficient communication vehicle).
Technology has never been far from the government’s reach. The internet as we know it today was designed in close collaboration with various defense departments around the world, most notably the United States. As the internet fragmented with one strain operating according to European and American legislation and openness standards and another operating according to Chinese standards, there is a clear opportunity for close collaboration between government and technology companies in the realm of services. The Chinese government’s control over all internet traffic in the country means that such collaboration is already underway.
China’s social credit score, which will collect a wide variety of information on citizens to give them a social credit score that can influence their relationship with the government is one such collaboration. But this one has some dystopian connotations, especially outside of China.
In order for government services to reach their potential, collaboration with technology companies needs to take place in an organic and positive way. Using data collected by companies to best understand residents’ needs is one such application. Devising new platforms to deliver services is another. Providing services in a convenient and secure manner should be a primary target. After all, users want to deal with the bureaucratic aspects of their lives as quickly as possible. Any collaboration that can make that dream into reality should be welcomed.
We need to collectively break down the barriers between the public and the private to fully realize the potential of the technology at our disposal. Deeper collaboration between governments and technology companies is one of the best places to start. While that might be difficult at the present moment, that will not always be the case.
Governments and technology companies will not always be at odds with one another over pesky issues like regulation. When proper regulation is sorted out, the possibilities of closer collaboration will start to genuinely excite authorities, lawmakers, and residents from Bangkok to Dubai.