Techno-Progressive Governance: How Governments should rethink to tackle the future
How does Techno-Progressive Governance help to better manage the exponential change?
What needs to change to make governments future ready? Techno-Progressive Governance might be a completely different approach for Governments.
In an era in which the boundaries of technology are constantly expanding, literally reshaping everything from our societies and economies, the concept of Futurist Techno-Progressivism emerges as a crucial lens through which to view these transformations. This concept embodies the idea that technological development is not just an economic or scientific phenomenon, but a profoundly social one, with the potential to significantly alter the roles and responsibilities of governments and institutions.
At the heart of Techno-Progressivism Governance is the realization that technology is growing at an exponential rate. Advances in fields such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology and information technology are not linear, but accelerating, bringing about change at a pace that traditional systems and policies have difficulty keeping up with. This rapid growth presents both immense opportunities and significant challenges. On the one hand, it offers the potential for unprecedented improvements in quality of life, efficiency and global connectivity. On the other, it raises complex issues such as data privacy, ethical use of technology and the growing digital divide.
As we move into the 21st century, it is increasingly evident that old paradigms of governance and social structure are being challenged. Just think, almost 20 years ago, there was no such thing as social dating, social networks, the digital divide or any other modern phenomenon. This didn’t just lead to a shift in our socity. The rise of powerful digital companies, sometimes referred to as “Digital Titans,” represents a shift in global power dynamics as well. These entities, with their vast resources and influence, often transcend traditional geographic and regulatory boundaries, presenting a new form of digital sovereignty that existing government structures are not fully equipped to manage as their power is in the digital world.
This scenario calls for a reassessment of traditional government functions, a topic I explored earlier in my article “7 Basic Functions of a Government“. In the face of rapidly advancing technology, these functions are evolving. Governments are no longer mere regulators and administrators; they are now required to be facilitators and enablers of technological progress, ensuring that the benefits of technological advances are accessible and equitable, while safeguarding against potential risks and ethical dilemmas. Also when we take a look at Techno-Progressive Governance it may be necessary to manage the future instead of just dealing with the negative externalities created in the present and managed in the past.
Futurist Techno-Progressivism, therefore, advocates a dynamic and adaptive approach to governance and policymaking. It suggests that governments not only respond to technological change, but proactively engage with it, shaping policies that foster innovation while protecting public interests. This approach requires a delicate balance: encouraging growth and innovation, while setting responsible boundaries to ensure that technology serves the common good.
Techno-Progressivism is an intellectual and social movement that advocates the use of technology and innovation to enhance human capabilities and improve social conditions. This ideology postulates that technological progress can lead to positive social change if guided by thoughtful and inclusive policies. Techno-Progressivism is based on the belief that technological development and ethical values are not mutually exclusive, but can and should coexist to foster a better future.
The basic principles of Techno-Progressivism revolve around harmonizing technological advancement with social progress. This includes advocating equal access to technology, promoting sustainable development, and ensuring that technological growth benefits all sectors of society. Techno-Progressives often emphasize the need for ethical considerations in technological development, arguing that innovation should be guided by a moral compass to avoid social harm and inequality.
A key aspect of Techno-Progressivism is its focus on proactive adaptation. Rather than resisting technological change, Techno-Progressives advocate embracing it and guiding it in a direction that aligns with humanistic values and social goals. This includes supporting education and training that prepares people for a rapidly changing job market, promoting public discourse on emerging technologies, and encouraging governments and organizations to adopt forward-looking policies.
Techno-Progressivism versus traditional visions
Techno-Progressivism contrasts with more conservative or traditional views that may view technological change with skepticism or fear. While traditional views may prioritize preserving existing social structures and norms, Techno-Progressivism embraces the transformative potential of technology. However, it does not advocate uncontrolled technological development, but rather emphasizes responsible and ethical innovation.
This perspective recognizes the disruptive nature of technologies such as AI, biotechnology and the Internet, understanding that they can both dismantle existing paradigms and create new opportunities. Techno-Progressivism seeks a balance, ensuring that technological progress does not come at the expense of societal well-being or ethical integrity. It advocates an informed and inclusive approach to technological development, in which the benefits of innovation are shared widely across society and potential risks are carefully managed.
The rise of the digital titans
The emergence of powerful technology companies, often referred to as “Digital Titans” or “Digital Giants,” is changing the world. These companies have become so large and powerful, with so much influence, that some even fear they have become uncontrollable. For reference, if many of the world’s largest companies were countries, they would be among the top 50 in the world, so they would have more revenue than the GDP of 150 countries.
These technological giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (often collectively referred to as GAFA in the Western world), along with their counterparts in Asia such as Alibaba and Tencent, marks a significant shift in the global economic and technological landscape. These companies have grown exponentially, harnessing the power of the Internet, data analytics and artificial intelligence to achieve market dominance. Their growth has been characterized by rapid innovation, aggressive expansion and the ability to disrupt traditional industries.
This disruption of indusitries also reshaped consumer behavior, pretty much all existing business models and created completely new global trends. These new standards for digital platforms have had substantial influence over data and the flow of digital information creading vast digital ecosstems. Their platforms have become integral to communication, commerce and entertainment, making them central to shaping cultural and social norms but also the economy.
Challenges to traditional government functions and regulations
The unprecedented growth and influence of these technology giants pose significant challenges to traditional government functions and regulatory frameworks. Their transnational operations often circumvent national borders, creating complex jurisdictional and regulatory challenges but also . Governments have difficulty applying traditional antitrust laws, tax regulations and consumer protection policies to these digital giants, as their platform business models and operating structures do not resemble those of traditional companies.
In addition, the control of vast amounts of data by these companies raises concerns about privacy, data security and the potential for misuse or abuse of information – not just for economic impact but also to literally steer voters and influence people. The influence these companies exert on public opinion and democratic processes, as seen in various controversies surrounding social networks and election interference, has sparked debates about the need for stronger regulatory mechanisms.
The growing power of these Digital Titans calls for a rethinking of government approaches to regulation and oversight. Traditional methods may no longer be sufficient or appropriate in the face of such rapidly evolving digital landscapes. Governments need to devise new strategies that can effectively manage the influence of these companies while fostering an environment conducive to innovation and growth.
Transforming government functions in future
There is certainly not an end to technology advances. So governments, actually we as a whole global society, must evolve. Especially governments need to move from mere regulators to facilitators and enablers of technological progress. This evolution involves not only developing new policies and regulations, but also rethinking the role of government in a digital society. Governments must collaborate with a variety of stakeholders, including technology companies, civil society and international organizations, to navigate the complexities of the digital age. The traditional functions of governments are being profoundly challenged and reshaped in an era characterized not only by rapid technological advances, but also by the emergence of new digital realms, such as the Metaverse. This virtual space, potentially a parallel world, presents a futuristic scenario in which technological giants could establish separate economies and even separate legislative systems with potentially own governance. This evolution calls for a fundamental rethinking of government functions in both the digital and physical worlds.
Rethinking traditional government functions
Historically, governments have been responsible for a number of functions, as outlined in the article “7 Basic Roles of a Government.” These include maintaining law and order, providing services and ensuring economic stability. However, the digital revolution, led by technology giants and the advent of virtual environments such as the Metaverse, is radically altering this landscape:
- Regulatory challenges: The pace of technological innovation, especially in virtual spaces, is creating new regulatory challenges, particularly in areas such as virtual property rights, digital identity, digital accountability, anonymity, and of course also cybersecurity.
- No Borders: The bigger problem for many governements it the fact that digital technologies defy the traditional borders. The fight around TikTok makes it very clear that there are new rules in the digital realm about borders and countries.
- Economic Paradigms: The rise of digital economies, potentially within the Metaverse, calls for a reassessment of economic policies. This includes dealing with the implications of virtual currencies, digital trade and governance of virtual economies.
- Impact on Demographics: With technology platforms we also saw a shift in the society. Also governments need to think about a future with less child births and a rapidly contracting population incl. an agening society. With more and more relationships being online and without sexual interaction, this trend might continue even more in future.
- Taxation: Global taxation is also one of the issues that are often part of the nature of technology companies. As digital goods are sold, it is easy to transfer profits to tax havens and other tricks we have seen in the past.
- Limiting tech giants: The problem with quasi-monopolies created by tech giants is that they virtually control the market and also limit innovation. This poses new challenges for governments around the world, as limiting a tech giant from another country could be just as political as trade wars. Without a global governance these situations become political and also could become weaponized in one way or another.
- Global citizens: With an increasing proportion of workers working from abroad, brain drain and global tax incentives for digital nomads and digital entrepreneurs also increased, fueling a race to the bottom for many countries. Because with an ultra-mobile and mostly single workforce the most skilled workers have little to no incentive to stay in a country but rather move to better locations offering better “services”.
- Service delivery and governance: As services extend into virtual realms, governments must consider how to deliver public services and maintain governance in these digital spaces, which could lead to the creation of “digital governments” but also a challenge on how to finance both worlds. The rise of Digital Government Technology Platforms (DGTPs) is already happening but further investments are definitely needed worldwide.
- Becoming enablers: The whole world moves into a new era where digital economy is worth more than the physical world and this means also technology will have an ever bigger impact. Later more on this.
Adapting to the digital and virtual realms
In most areas governments are always the last one to catch up. First technology is invented, the customers are the first to adopt and then with customers the businesses follow. As the slowest in this chain is government and regulation. So in order to keep pace with these changes, governments must adapt in several key ways in faster and faster manners:
- Digital and virtual governance: Beyond traditional e-governance, governments may need to establish presences in virtual environments such as the Metaverse to ensure effective governance, regulation and service delivery in these spaces.
- Balance between innovation and regulation: It is essential to foster innovation in digital and virtual technologies while ensuring robust regulatory frameworks that protect citizens’ rights and promote fair economic practices in both the real and virtual worlds.
- Protect citizens in all areas: Safeguarding data privacy, digital rights and ensuring equitable access to technology becomes even more complex as the distinction between digital and physical experiences blurs.
- Creating new legal frameworks: Developing laws and regulations applicable to virtual environments that address issues unique to these spaces, such as virtual ownership and identity.
- Collaborative governance: Working together with technology companies, international agencies and virtual community stakeholders to establish governance structures for the Metaverse and other emerging digital platforms.
- Rethinking economic policies: Adapting economic policies to manage the complexities of virtual economies, including taxation, virtual assets and cross-border digital trade.
Governments in a new role – The Enablers
We talked now a lot about “reacting” to a changing world. But the most important role will be also different for governments. In the past we have seen governments only trying to react after something goes wrong and act as a “seed” by providing education and security. But what if we turn around and see governments as enablers for the future? What if government spending can be used for systemic change on global problems incl. climate crisis or innovation in general? Here are some of the ways government can not just react but proactively help innovation and the economy:
- Future-oriented: While managing the recent is important, we also need to think about how we can create a positive future. Governments may also need to learn about social engineering and nudging to drive change that is positive for the future of society (e.g. Green Economy). How this desired future is established must always be determined, but it should be part of the governance structure to also proactively plan for a prosperous future and not manage based on the past.
- (Digital) Infrastructure development: Governments play a key role in laying the foundation for technological advancement by developing a robust digital infrastructure. This includes expanding broadband access, improving Internet connectivity in rural and underserved areas, and investing in next-generation technologies such as 5G (or soon 6G) networks. These infrastructures are vital to enable innovation and ensure equitable access to digital resources and universal access to electricity and internet might need to the next basic human right.
- (Future-Oriented) Education and training: To harness the full potential of technological advances, governments must reform education systems to focus on digital literacy and future skills relevant to the future labor market. This involves integrating STEM education, promoting coding and computational thinking from an early age, and providing lifelong learning opportunities to ensure that the workforce remains adaptable in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.
- R&D incentives and support: It is crucial to encourage research and development in emerging technologies. Governments can stimulate the economy and innovation by offering tax incentives, grants and funding opportunities for technology startups and research institutions. Supporting sectors such as AI, robotics and virtual reality can drive technological advances and economic growth.
- Create regulatory sandboxes: Regulatory sandboxes are frameworks that allow companies to test innovative products, services and business models in a controlled environment under regulatory oversight. These sandboxes are crucial for experimenting with new technologies such as blockchain, fintech solutions or Metaverse applications, without the immediate imposition of large-scale regulatory burdens. Knowledge from sandbox experiments helps policymakers understand the implications of new technologies. This understanding helps develop informed and flexible regulations that can adapt to technological advances while ensuring public safety and trust.
- Public-private partnerships: Collaboration between governments and technology companies is essential for effective governance in the digital age. These partnerships can lead to innovative solutions for public services, policy making and solving societal challenges.
- International cooperation: Given the borderless nature of digital technology, international cooperation is crucial. This includes establishing cross-border agreements for sharing data, collaborating on cybersecurity, and harmonizing standards and regulations for digital and virtual spaces. Also governments internationally should find solutions for global governance of Tech-Titans and creating strategies for the future in a mostly digital world.
- Establish international (ethical) standards: One of the key roles of governments is to establish (ethical) standards for the use of technology, especially in areas such as AI, where decisions can have significant social repercussions. The development of guidelines that are valid worldwide and cannot be circumvented is very important, as otherwise there is a risk of loopholes.
We are at the crossroads of a rapidly evolving digital world and today’s generations will make something possible that no one had ever thought of before. We already feel the pain and pressure for governments around the world that need to adapt to this new world with many new dynamics. This is due to the emergence of technologies such as AI, blockchain and the metaverse, and the role of governments is fundamentally changing with digital nomads escaping traditional values and digital platforms becoming more powerful than entire countries. The journey from traditional governance to techno-progressive governance, as described in this article, is a necessary and timely adaptation to the realities of the 21st century and will not leave any government indifferent.
We need to move away from the old picture of governments, once seen primarily as regulators and administrators, are now emerging as facilitators and enablers of technological innovation and managing exponential change. By creating enabling environments for technological advancement, including robust digital infrastructures, reforming education systems for digital literacy, and incentivizing research and development, governments can lay the foundation for a future that harnesses the full potential of digital advances.
It is fair to say that the path to techno-progressive governance is marked by a delicate balance between fostering innovation and ensuring public welfare without overregulating or underregulating. As governments adapt to their their potential new role as enablers in the digital and Metaverse era, they pave the way to a future that is not only technologically advanced, but also inclusive, secure and aligned with the broader social good. This journey is not without its challenges, but with thoughtful and proactive governance, the potential benefits to humanity are immense and far-reaching.