The Future of Government Smart Toolbox explores and provides recommendations on how information and communication technology (ICT) can be used to strengthen trust, leadership, management of conflict, and innovation in government. The Global Agenda Council goes even further, noting how such a change can lead to improved effectiveness of government actions. Although this paper is written in the context of government, I believe many of the principles and recommendations can be applied to the global cotton industry and can help it become stronger and more resilient over time. Let me share a few highlights.
According to a paper by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government, Future of Government Smart Toolbox, trust in government has decreased since surveys were collected in the 1950s. I would argue that trust in big business has also decreased in recent years, and that trust in governments, businesses and regulators has also decreased over recent years. The authors begin by explaining how trust in an organization’s leadership is vitally important to running an effective organization. One way the effectiveness of an organization can be measured by the criteria, such as:
- Political representation
- Coherent bureaucracies
- Conflict management
- Service delivery
These six components are all worth considering when we switch our gaze from good government to best practices in the cotton industry. Whether we’re talking about government or industry, the goal is the same – to strengthen trust in the leaders. Rebuilding trust among the cotton industry can be achieved by improving industry performance, becoming more transparent, improving accountability and fairness, and being more responsive to industry members. Such efforts may also lead to shifts in relationships along the supply chain, which might in turn result in improved trust and stronger partnerships between actors.
Some of the six components – e.g. conflict management, political representation – are long standing issues. ITC can provide new opportunities to address these issues and strengthen leadership and trust. Three key elements of ICT that have the greatest potential to impact leadership and trust include:
- Information technology (IT) enables information to be more readily shared, including actions of leaders, and is available to a wider segment of an industry’s stakeholders. Improvements in IT have contributed to a higher standard for accountability and ethical performance.
- Big data will allow industries to analyze more data, which can be used to increase efficiencies. The increased availability of big data can also lead to more competition, innovation and growth.
- Disruptive and exponential technologies have the ability to displace established entities and advance desired change at an accelerated pace. These technologies could also lead to new products and services.
The authors point out that these technologies can be most effective in improving an organization’s performance when they are implemented as part of a strategy, are supported by investments in infrastructure and new capabilities, and when they ensure access to and reliability of new services. Technologies should connect core organizations within the industry, be inclusive, engage as many stakeholders as possible, and recognize limitations. Limitations and challenges include fairness and access, and security and safety of data. The need to invest in infrastructure and personnel to support new technology should also be acknowledged.
Corruption must also be addressed if government or industry is to be trusted. Corruption undermines fairness, distorts the distribution of resources, and undermines competitiveness. Technology can combat corruption by improving access to information and participation in decision-making, resulting in enhanced accountability, a redistribution of power, and the protection of market competitiveness.
Trust among members of the industry can be strengthened by breaking down silos and exchanging information among different parties. Sharing of information between different organizations can lead to more transparency and improved responsiveness among supply chain actors who may not have had access to such information in the past. Taking a whole industry and supply chain approach to the development of improvements will result in a wider impact and can further improve trust and foster collaboration along the supply chain or between regions.
Industries should develop technologies to ensure that they can adapt to emerging technologies and changing cultural and trade conditions.