Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New public goods - good for who?

In this week's reading Clouds, big data, and smart assets: Ten tech-enables business trends to watch the authors have provided us with a lot of broad information regarding technology and the impact it has on the world. That impact has affected the entire world in varrying ways. Those ways range from a rise in urbanization to the multisided businesses model. I want to focus on the 10th trend in the McKinsey Quarterly Article, "Producing public good on the grid".
The role of government is to create effective policies for the public good. The article suggests that technology will help to facilitate the creation of new types of public goods and help to manage them more effectively. I can admit that technology will help to facilitate the creation of new types of public goods. Technology has changed and improved the way most of the world communicates and shares information. Public goods are mean't to be used by the public with out worry of fear that consumption by one will affect the consumption of others; under proper managament. I am not conviced that technology will help manages these new public goods effectively. Take FEMA for example and their new disaster relief/preparedness tips for the public. Ready.gov is a FEMA site designed to inform the public. Their newest initiative "Ready Indian Country" is targeted to Native American and Alaskan tribal populations. This new site is great, offering specialized information related to location and public service announcements regarding planning and readiness. There is no resource like this available, making it new, but there are a limited amount of people that can consume this new good.
According to the New America Foundation, Native American's continue to lack access to and are among the last citizens to gain access to the internet. If most people in this population does not have access to this good, is it then a private good? Governments will have to make policy changes to ensure that technology can be a public good. There are many forgotten populations in the developed world who do not have access to 21st century technology. If we move the world forward by creating public goods that require technology I fear the gap between the haves and the have-not will increase dramatically.
I have mentioned the creation of public goods and their management, but delivery of these goods is also important. The article does not determine who is responsible for delivery; the government or producers of the goods? In order for this technology to make a positive impact on most of the world as a public good it must be able to reach the people. The creation of new technology far outpaces its delivery. A small portion of the world use mobile devices and surf the net at the same time, while a large portion of the world does not own on a television. Imagine, a small portion of the world is watching television in 3-D in their living rooms. Tecnhology is a luxury good and it would be wise for governments to manage these goods so that they can accessible for the public. A call for innovation leadership is in high demand in order to create a public that can use these goods.
Ready.gov

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