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Managing the digital revolution: can governments keep up?

A Note by the Director (Ditchley 14/03)

20 - 22 March 2014

Introduction

Late March saw a younger crowd than usual around the table at Ditchley to discuss the digital revolution and how governments were coping with it. While “digital natives” under 30 were still few and far between, we had a lot of expertise and experience round the table, and many diverse views. The subject is so vast that it is hard to encapsulate in a neat note - and we did not always stick to the issue of how governments were dealing with it - but expert chairmanship kept us focused as much as possible on action, while not preventing more philosophical musings.

Summary

We mostly agreed that the new technology should be seen as an amplifier of human nature rather than something which fundamentally changed us and our need for personal interaction. But we were still at the beginning of the digital revolution (probably not the right term anyway), and change would no doubt continue to accelerate. On the whole we saw the new technology as a force for good and individual empowerment, especially in the longer term, while recognising that there was a worrying dark side, and that authoritarian governments were also getting better at using it to suppress dissent. We were also aware that the digital divide was real and deep.

Governments generally recognised that they had to respond more to these changes, but were inevitably struggling to keep up. While much more information and services were now on-line, ways of communicating and taking decisions had not really changed much. The horizontal networks of the new tools were at odds with governments’ traditional top-down, hierarchical approaches. Governments could do better – they were after all themselves composed of people, including ever more from those naturally at home with the new technology – but would need to rethink their role more fundamentally and allow more of the new generation into the heart of government. One big change needed was a shift from major procurement exercises for IT projects to commissioning rapid experiments and pilots. This meant a change of culture to one which was much more agile and more readily accepted the possibility of failure. However we were not convinced that governments were necessarily ready for this – the platform on which they were standing did not seem to be burning fast enough yet to force them to change.

One area where some governments had more than kept up was security, which raised many issues of privacy. The gulf between this and good provision of domestic services could usefully be bridged. The big internet companies had also been tarred with the security brush, and we needed a much more open conversation about these questions. Meanwhile there were real concerns about the way in which such companies were increasingly monopolistic, and rewriting the terms of our societies through their algorithms, without any mandate or set of values with which to do so.

How would the relationship between governments and citizens develop in the new age? We saw few good examples of new connections, and worried about how democracy would survive if these were not found, as younger generations became increasingly disillusioned by institutions they saw as remote and irrelevant to their lives. On a more optimistic note, we saw great possibilities for common good in open use of big data, if quality and privacy could be assured.

We spent relatively little time on international issues, but recognised that better internet governance was itself a major unresolved issue, and that democratic governments and concerned citizens needed to continue to defend openness, free speech and rule of law on the web against authoritarian governments looking to find more excuses to control content. We also agreed that the role of new technology in development should be explicitly acknowledged post-2015.

A number of recommendations and ideas are set out in the Main Note below. Many of them are about how to promote experimentation and agile responses, using partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors, and relying on open source approaches. We were aware that we had not been able to do all the issues we had covered full justice, but were also conscious that the main challenge governments faced was not necessarily in policy but in delivery – just getting stuff done quickly and effectively.

Main Note

How fundamental is the digital revolution?

We started off with the big picture. Was digital technology changing the very nature of human beings, or merely providing new and much faster tools for this nature to express itself? We could provide no simple answer to this question, not least since we were agreed that we were still only at the very beginning of the digital revolution - a word which some rejected precisely because it suggested a linear move from one state to another, whereas we were talking about a permanent, and constantly accelerating, process of change driven by rapid technological advance. Consensus seemed to form around the idea that the new technology was best seen as an amplifier of human nature, for better or for worse, rather than something which fundamentally altered it. Thus people continued to crave personal contact with other people, even when this was no longer strictly necessary (cinema and concert trips, urban living, long-haul travel, working in collective offices etc.). The truth was that people loved to share experiences. Technology not only did not remove that urge, but gave it many new modes of expression through social media.

However, some around the table still thought that the digital world was changing the nature of the human experience more fundamentally than the above analysis implied. Five year olds who were growing up with this technology all around them might well see the world differently and behave accordingly. Some powerful voices around the table argued that we had to operate on the assumption that virtually everything was changing or would be changed, and alter our mind-sets in fundamental ways to deal with this. Others did not deny the latter point but suggested that we also had to recognise that in some areas change was slower than might be expected - for example many government and other decisions were still taken in ways which would have been readily recognisable 100 years ago. Moreover when the digital world hit the old-fashioned real world, the latter often seemed to “win”. For example revolutions could be catalysed and accelerated by the social media and followed instant by instant around the world, as we had seen during the early stages of the Arab awakening, in Cairo and elsewhere, and in Kiev more recently. But when there was a physical reaction of a non-virtual kind, in the shape of a military take-over, as in Egypt, or a land-grab, as in Crimea, all the instant social media chat and imagery in the world could not prevent that.

This was not to say that the widespread, and rapidly spreading, availability of instant information and images from around the world would not have a fundamental impact on how countries were governed over time. People could see for themselves how others in other countries lived, and were likely to want, and demand, the same for themselves. Such movements could be suppressed in the short term, but would break through again, in one form or another, in the longer term. The genie could not be put back in the bottle. Thus, the Prime Minister of Turkey could “ban” Twitter in a fit of anger about what it was focusing on, as he attempted to do while we were meeting. But there were now a myriad ways around such a ban, as had immediately become evident. Even his own President had immediately tweeted his opposition to the Prime Minister’s move.

On this interpretation of history, the digital revolution could be seen as an unequivocal force for good, informing people and helping them to find their voice against authoritarian and corrupt governments, and against injustice more broadly. However, we were also reminded that authoritarian governments could and increasingly did use the technology for their own ends, and seemed to be getting better at doing so. Governments which scored highly for e-government often tended to score badly on respect for human rights. Propaganda’s reach could be very effectively extended by the social media, and the views and movements of protesters tracked and thwarted. It was currently touch and go as to which way all this would go. The risk of the internet being fragmented was real, as some governments tried every trick they knew to keep control of information and communications.

Against this kind of background, should the new technology still be seen as empowering? On the whole we thought it was, through the astonishing access it gave to information of every kind, and to instant communication around the globe, at virtually no cost. It was also essentially subversive of the established ways of doing things. At the same time we had to recognise that this was only really the case for a relatively small number of people, a kind of digital elite, who could use and manipulate the technology freely. For example, on Twitter, there were vastly more followers than tweeters.

Moreover the wider digital divide was still an inescapable reality. For billions of people in developing countries, and for many millions of poorer and older people even in highly-developed countries, the new technology was something to which they had no, or extremely little, access. They were being isolated and disenfranchised in a new and powerful way. And even the digitally aware could be very vulnerable online. It was important that the net was not somehow a value-free zone, but rather encouraged us to behave better towards each other. We should be seen as digital citizens, not just digital consumers.

Meanwhile the difference between private and public was being eroded. People could be more connected to the world in the privacy of their own home than when they were actually out among other people, although new devices like virtual reality glasses might change this in time. People could also be physically in a location, but in effect “not there” at the same time, because they were focusing on watching and listening to connected devices. Another effect was to destroy the boundary between work time and non-work time, since people could be connected to, and expected to respond to, work-related messages whenever they were awake. The new technology could be regarded as the ultimate capitalist device whose effect was to make people work all the hours there were!

How are governments responding to these changes?

It was tempting to say that the answer to the question in the conference title about governments’ ability to keep up was simply “no”. But this was too simplistic. Virtually all governments had understood that they needed to respond to the digital revolution, and virtually all were making serious efforts to do so, albeit in different ways, while not losing hold of the old order entirely. It was not sensible to burn the whole house down while we were still living in it. Understandably, different governments were at different stages of this process. There were some examples of good practice around, mostly from smaller countries like Estonia or Singapore, where things were perhaps easier to organise and control than in larger, messier societies. But mostly governments were struggling to keep up, and were likely to go on doing so.

Was this inevitable? In one sense, yes. Most large organisations were in a similar position of losing authority and credibility as access to information spread, and their views and habits could be and were more easily and more often challenged. In this technological revolution, innovation was coming almost exclusively from individual citizens and from small groups in the private sector. Action and communication were rapid and horizontal, unlike governments, which were designed to be thorough and hierarchical. How could cumbersome government departments, led for the most part by people to whom the new technology was not second nature, possibly be ahead of the curve, or even not very far behind it, when some digital processes and applications were changing every few weeks? Mind-sets inside governments had not yet seriously changed, for the most part. Although they were using some of the new tools to communicate and to provide services online, they had not yet seriously adapted their methods of analysing issues and taking decisions, and were still reacting and communicating in a top-down, one too many, old-fashioned way.

Some participants argued that there was no reason why governments could not do much better. They would no doubt not be the main innovators, and did not need to be. However they were after all themselves composed of people, including increasing numbers of those who had grown up in the digital age, who could be used and empowered to behave and communicate in new ways which fitted the new technological possibilities. This would mean breaking down existing hierarchies, and admitting groups of young tech-savvy people into the heart of government. It would also mean educating the older generation of ministers and officials sufficiently at least to understand what was happening in the new digital revolution around them. “Reverse mentoring” was one technique which had support around the table.

It was also pointed out that, in one area at least, some governments could be seen as worryingly ahead of the curve - their ability to hoover up and retain data about us, for example our phone and internet usage, had been shown to be extraordinary, not least through the Snowden revelations. In areas like drones, too, governments had shown themselves capable of leading dramatic innovation. It was odd that all this had been effectively sealed off from more mundane provision of domestic services, as shown by the dramatic contrast between NASA’s capabilities and the initial failure of the Obamacare website. Rebalancing the effort between the two areas might have a lot to be said for it. In any case the conversations about the two issues could not be entirely separate, as they currently tended to be.

There also needed to be a big change in the way governments thought about harnessing the new technology. The recent past was littered with failed major IT projects using big companies as prime integrators. Current procurement practices and rules still encouraged this kind of approach. But it was both possible and necessary to tackle such projects very differently, in ways which suited both the technology and the people who were adept at manipulating it. Small companies and small groups could be commissioned to produce rapid improvements and solutions, for example through apps which could be piloted quickly and either adopted and extended, or scrapped, with equal speed. Small-scale solutions could be networked together, without having to build massive new databases or systems which took years to create, and often worked inadequately, at best. In other words, smart commissioning, not dumb procurement. One participant described this as a “jazz” approach to government, as opposed to the more coherent and ordered “orchestra” approach.

For this to work, there would need to be one particular cultural revolution on the part of governments, media and public alike - acceptance by all concerned of the inevitability that some of these experiments would fail, and media/public readiness not to call for heads to roll when they did. Approaches also had to be as bipartisan as possible. If this did not happen, the risk-averse culture of all bureaucracies would continue to prevail, and ministers and officials would continue to seek solutions for which they could not reasonably be blamed if they went wrong. The particular advantage of the new approach, besides its flexibility, was that it did not involve huge amounts of money. Doing more with less was vital in what was likely to be a continuing age of public spending austerity.

Could this kind of government revolution be easier in developing countries that did not have such long traditions of governing centrally in particular ways, and less accretion of established hierarchies and practices? Some participants thought so. Others suggested that this kind of leap-fogging over developed countries sounded plausible in theory, but was unlikely in practice, since many developing countries had hierarchical and authoritarian tendencies in their governments which were antithetical to the kind of approach we were talking about.

We accepted in all this that, while governments of all kinds had lost legitimacy and credibility in recent years, they retained considerable powers in many areas. Not only were they still responsible for the big issues of war and peace, they still also had to set the rules and regulations for a huge range of activities (including use of the internet itself), and had to pick up the pieces if things went badly wrong in a particular area. They also had to act for everyone, not just those who chose to be consumers of a particular product. Government was much more complex than any business. Moreover governments did not disappear even when they made major mistakes and were overtaken by events, as private companies could and did disappear on a regular basis. So they could never be simply ignored or bypassed, and therefore had to be brought up to speed with what was happening around them in technological terms. One crucial issue was to restore trust between the governors and the governed – but that was a huge challenge in the digital age. People wanted choice and freedom, but they also wanted protection and rootedness. Striking that balance was genuinely difficult.

One issue we spent some time on was what would propel governments to make the radical changes needed. Several participants suggested that change on the scale needed would only come in the context of an existential crisis - various military analogies were adduced to support this. The fact was that, for now, there was no “burning platform”, and governments therefore thought they could go on muddling through. They could be wrong about this - failure to use new technology imaginatively could indeed become an existential issue for them, as it had been an existential issue for companies like Kodak in the past - but that seemed to be the prevailing attitude for now.

Online provision of services by governments

We spent relatively little time discussing particular services or service methods, but recognised that efficient online service provision was a crucial test for modern governments. Good e-government could not be just about better websites. It was vital to design services with users in mind, not in the interests of the government itself, and to involve users fully in this process, in order to make such services easily and rapidly effective. Equally this had to be done in such a way that those who struggled personally with the technology, or had no direct access to it, were not further excluded, but equally empowered. This could be done with imagination.

The technological challenge did not need to be overwhelming. In IT terms, most bits of government were no deeper a challenge than the average internet dating site, although they were obviously wider in scope. It was suggested that challenges could be thrown out to the private sector to develop apps for particular areas of service such as social care, with all the relevant information online, and complete openness about how the services were ultimately provided. In this, as in many other areas we discussed, open source provision of data and methods was seen as the best way forward.

The digital revolution and democracy

While we could envisage how services could be better provided online, and how governments could change fundamentally the way they went about this, we were less confident about how the new technology could be used to change policy-making, and the relationship between government and citizen. In the latter area in particular, we struggled to come up with new ideas. Even President Obama, who had campaigned so successfully in digital mode, had governed in analogue. Clearly citizens now had lots of new information, and lots of new ways of making their voices heard, but how could governments cope with this challenge? How could they make sense of the vast number of opinions now floating around, and sort out what was representative of public views more broadly, and what was not?

No voices were raised to suggest government by permanent digital referendum - the dangers of the loudest and most extreme voices being the only ones heard were clearly recognised, as was the danger of undermining representative democracy, which for all its weaknesses was still the best way of governing yet devised. We could certainly do a lot more to put voting systems into the 21st Century, and to encourage people to vote by making it easier for them to do so. Current methods seemed archaic and unreliable in many countries. Initiatives such as e-petitions, with thresholds meaning governments and legislators had to look at them when they had attracted enough signatories, were also a good way to go.

But we worried about the risk of disillusion among younger generations as they found that the new technologies on which they thrived in their daily lives had little or no echo in government and no obvious role in shaping decision-making, except in registering protest. The issue was not civic engagement; the younger generations certainly had views and wanted to be engaged on big global issues, such as the environment. But they did not “see themselves” in governments as they mostly existed today, showed little interest in voting, and risked turning away from even democratic governments in ways which could easily lead to dangerous forms of populism and authoritarianism.

Are big internet companies the new governments or even religions?

One issue to which we returned regularly was the power of the big commercial service providers, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon. Of course even the largest companies could fail. But the influence of these companies on the net was now huge and all-pervasive, and in key areas increasingly monopolistic. It was not that their intentions were seen as malevolent. Rather they could shape so much through the algorithms they used and the manipulation of the data they were collecting. The code creators behind the algorithms were in effect rewriting the social contract for western societies without any supervision or agreed ethical basis on which to do so,. This was surely dangerous. It was pointed out, for example, that a Google search would produce strikingly different results, depending on whether you sent it with or without wiping your personal digital history first. Moreover, the gravitational power, and data storage capacity, of these companies was so huge that it was changing the shape of the web by creating hubs around which other things revolved (‘hubification’). To whom were such companies accountable? How could others break into their domain of certain activities, even if their own business models still looked shaky? We had no answers, but the unease around the table was clear. The gatekeepers of the new system were largely invisible and unknowable.

This was clearly linked to the issue of big data, and its relationship with individual privacy. Here we saw mixed signals. The young generations seemed to have been ready to accept a certain trade-off between their privacy and the attraction of the web services they were being offered. Governments had also been surprisingly laissez-faire, at least initially, in this area. The Snowden revelations might have changed this implicit attitude (though this was not yet clear), not only to governments seen as having collected huge amounts of information on their citizens and others, but also to companies seen as both  complicit with governments, and as using big data for their own commercial gain. Public lack of trust and suspicion were therefore rising, even though the effect on real behaviour so far seemed to be limited.

As far as governments were concerned, we recognised that open provision of data, for example health data, if they could be reliably anonymised, could be immensely valuable for genuine researchers and for the ultimate provision of medical advances beneficial to us all. But again the issue was bedevilled by lack of trust, and poor communication. There was a need for more frank discussion about how this could be managed, in order to find the right combination of maximising common good while protecting privacy.

The international implications

International issues received surprisingly little attention during the conference, in part because many participants seemed to see little distinction between the national and international contexts when it came to challenges and opportunities presented by the digital world. Nevertheless there were clearly some specifically international points. One was the emphasis on spreading the practice of use of open source software (offered via Git) by teams in different countries, leading to common design approaches and common problem-solving.

Another was the need for all who believed in the overall global benefits of the internet and the web to stand up for continued open use of these tools, including the championing of free speech and the rule of law. These values were being questioned and opposed by some governments, and the requirement to push back strongly was clear. Concerns about privacy and the cyber power of some national security agencies should be acknowledged and discussed openly, but should not be used to justify a wider clampdown.

Better use could be made of international institutions like the UN or OECD to help spread best practice and common standards. It would also be valuable to include digital issues in the next edition of the Millennium Development Goals post-2015, since the technology could be a very powerful development enabler.

We did not focus closely on the issue of global governance of the internet itself, but were conscious of its importance in the background. In the ideal world, new ways of setting universal norms and standards should be agreed by all countries, and the present US domination ended. But we were also highly aware of the risks in attempting to go down this road, given the desire of some governments for international cover for their desire to control internet content. Some participants argued strongly that they would rather have the US running the show than anyone else, since at least the overall American attitude towards the internet and the web was one of benevolence and belief in openness. This was not however a universal view - some saw the dominance of US companies, combined with effective US rule-setting, as worrying. This is a debate which will no doubt continue.

It also led us back into the question of how far it was right to want to control content at all. Some participants argued that there was an unhealthy tendency around to blame the internet for all society’s ills, which could lead to governments taking too much interest in controlling what was happening. Others pointed out that there was a dark side to what the net could be used for, given its reach and speed, which we - and governments - could not and should not ignore: child pornography, internet fraud, etc. If the bad side was not effectively monitored and regulated, that could discredit the whole venture in the eyes of some.

Education

We spent some time discussing how the world of education, particularly tertiary education, should be changing in the digital world. It was suggested that its overall lack of change so far risked making it look stranded and irrelevant. We did not think that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were the answer - the element of learning through human interaction remained vital — but neither were narrow single discipline courses of the traditional kind, bounded by bricks and mortar. The new tools should make multi-disciplinary, problem–solving approaches much more feasible. Higher Education analytics were beginning to produce fascinating and useful results, based for example on how long students spent on particular activities online. New generations of students were likely to regard more integrated approaches as more relevant to them and their future lives. At the same time, it had to be recognised that learning in some areas was linear - it was not possible to rush to the frontiers of knowledge without assimilating some basic lessons and experience first.

One problem in this area, and others, was the paradoxical impermanence of much digital data. There was a tendency to ‘lossiness’ around the web, and ‘link-rot’, where material which had been available via links in academic articles was simply no longer there after a while, was an increasingly well-known and worrying phenomenon.

We also asked how we should define digital literacy. We did not think the ability to use digital devices was enough. On the other hand, we did not think the ability to write code was a necessary requirement to be able to contribute to modern life. People needed to understand enough about the new technology and how it worked at least to be able to ask the right questions about the consequences of proposed changes or new policies. If ministers, officials and other decision makers could not do that, they would be unable to operate effectively. Even with that skill, it would be very hard for regulators to keep up with the pace of change, and to have the skills and resources needed to match those of the private sector. The parallel with the current world of finance was instructive.

Recommendations

Ideas and possible approaches which emerged during the conference included the following, in no particular order:

  • Think more radically about what the new technology means for government, rather than always relying on incremental change;
  • Government leaders to drive change by emphasising the need for it, while accepting simultaneously that it will mean a loss of centralised control;
  • Be ready to embrace the power of networks and horizontal communication, rather than sticking to top-down hierarchies, and to allow young digital natives into the heart of government;
  • Governments to be ready to set parameters in particular areas, and then to stand back and allow individuals and groups to explore how to operate within these parameters;
  • Create a digital ‘sandbox’ in which disruptive ideas can be tried out for government, but away from the government brand and its procedural constraints;
  • Create an ‘open government stack’, building on the Estonia experience, to be used to build, or expand, on an open source basis new administrative infrastructure, eg to cover as a minimum areas such as tax, benefits, and motor licensing;
  • Encourage the use of open source software, agile development and experimentation, and use of small companies to develop quick and dirty solutions, and discourage major ICT procurement contracts;
  • Encourage the dissemination of public data sets, eg in areas like health and air quality, following an open debate about, and identification of new methods to meet, quality and privacy concerns. Again use rapidly developed pilot apps, rather than engaging in lengthy debates without action;
  • Educate elected and non-elected officials to ask the right questions, to distinguish between technical and institutional issues, and to use more ‘reverse mentoring’;
  • Support internal champions of digital change within government, and empower ‘outsiders’ to serve as change agents;
  • Encourage more public-private-voluntary partnerships, including through participation by mid-level government staff in open standards initiatives, as a way of fostering more effective collaboration;
  • Encourage a genuinely informed and open debate about security and privacy, including with the agencies concerned, with the aim of agreeing appropriate levels of network security and protection of privacy;
  • Continue to support the rights of free speech and rule of law in the internet/web context;
  • Work harder to define and spread genuine digital literacy;
  • Focus more intensively on ways to bridge the digital divide;
  • Establish ways to guarantee that e-petitions which pass the required thresholds are taken seriously by legislatures and governments;
  • Ensure that the power of the digital revolution as a driver of development is reflected in the next generation of Millennium Development Goals;
  • Use the resources of international institutions like the UN and the OECD to spread best practice, including from developing to developed countries, as well as the other way round.

Conclusions

We were conscious that we had not spent enough time discussing some major, highly relevant questions - cyber security and the Snowden consequences; the digitally disenfranchised and how to include them; robotics; what users really wanted. But there were some overall lessons which could be very helpful across the board, as governments continued to grapple with the challenges they faced, not least juggling shrinking financial resources against accelerating user demand. What governments needed was less the technology of the private sector and more their habits and attitudes. The problems were much more about delivery - simply getting things done - than about policy or strategy. That was why we needed to elevate design over procurement, networks over hierarchies, and user needs over government needs, and experiment with small-scale prototypes and pilots to see what really worked. There was no reason why governments, which were after all, we reminded ourselves again and again, simply made up of people, could not do this successfully, especially if focussed partnerships with the private sector and civil society could be established. That was at least an optimistic note on which to finish.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

CHAIR: Mr Mike Bracken
Executive Director, Government Digital Service, Cabinet Office (2011-). Formerly: Director of Digital Development, Guardian News and Media; Director, Wavex.co.uk; Vice-President (Interactive), chello.

AUSTRALIA
Dr David Holmes 

Senior Lecturer, Communications and Media, Monash University; Columnist, 'The Conversation' (Australia); Author, 'Communication Theory: Media, Technology, Society', London, Sage (2005); Editor, 'Virtual Politics: Identity and Community in Cyberspace', London, Sage Publications.

AUSTRIA

Dr Peter Parycek PhD, MSc
 
Head, Centre for e-Governance, Danube University Krems; Chairman, ministerial expert group on 'e-Democracy and e-Participation', Austrian Federal Chancellery; responsible for conference series, 'International Conference for e-Democracy and Open Government' and open access journal, 'e-Journal of e-Democracy and Open Government'. Lawyer.

BRAZIL

Mr Eduardo Rombauer

Masters Candidate, Reflective Social Practice, London Metropolitan University; Facilitator and Social Development Practitioner; Consultant for large-scale participatory processes, Public Transformation and multi-stakeholder innovative processes; Political Activist; Co-Founder: New Politics movement; Rede Sustentabilidade; member: REOS Partners; Instituto Vitae Civilis; Instituto Democracia e Sustentabilidade. Formerly: member, Marina Silva's presidential campaign coordination team (2010); Consultant on participatory innovations to the national Departments of Education, Justice, Youth, Food Security, Health, Environment and Culture (2004-10).

CANADA
   
Mr David Agnew

President, Seneca College, Toronto (2009-). Formerly: Executive Vice-President and Corporate Secretary, Credit Union Central of Ontario; Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments; President and CEO, UNICEF Canada; Principal, Digital 4Sight; Senior Resident, Massey College, University of Toronto (on secondment) (1995-96); Head, Public-Private Partnerships Project (1995); Government of Ontario: Principal Secretary to the Premier (1990-92) then Secretary to the Cabinet (1992-95). A member of the Program Advisory Committee, Canadian Ditchley.

Professor Michael Geist 
Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa; member: Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Expert Advisory Board, Canadian Internet Registration Authority Board, Canadian Legal Information Institute Board, CANARIE Board, Information Program Sub-Board of the Open Society Institute, Electronic Frontier Foundation Advisory Board.

Dr Taylor Owen 
Research Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University; Editor-in-Chief, OpenCanada.org; Research Director, the Munk Debates. Formerly: Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia; Research Fellow, London School of Economics; Research Fellow, Yale University.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION/UK

Mr Robert Madelin 

European Commission: Director General, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (2012-). Formerly: Director General, Directorate General for Information Society and Media (2010-12); Director General, Directorate General for Health and Consumer Affairs (2004-10); Director, Directorate General for Trade (1997-2003).

FRANCE

Dr Nicolas Chapuis 

Director, Information Technology and Digital Services (Chief Information Officer), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France (MFA) (2011-). Formerly: leader of government inquiry into the impact of WikiLeaks (2010-11); Ministry of the Interior (on secondment as Prefect in Hautes-Alpes) (2009-10); Deputy Chief of Mission, Beijing (2005-09); Ambassador to Mongolia (2003-05); Counsellor for Cultural Affairs and Director of the French Institute, London (2002-03); Consul General, Shanghai (1998-2001); Director, East Asian Affairs (1995-98).

GERMANY

Professor Hendrik Speck 

Professor of Digital Interactive Media, and Head, Information Architecture and Search Engine Laboratory, University of Applied Sciences, Kaiserslautern; Consultant and Advisor on social media and search engine strategies for academic institutions and businesses. Formerly: Chief Information Officer and Assistant Director, Media and Communications Department, European Graduate School; e-Commerce Consultant.

ITALY

Professor Marcello Vitali-Rosati

Assistant Professor of Literature and Digital Culture, Department of Francophone Literature, University of Montreal (2012-).

JAPAN

Mr Noriyuki Shikata 

Japanese Diplomatic Service (1986-): Political Minister, Embassy of Japan to the United Kingdom (2012-). Formerly: Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Global Communications, Office of the Prime Minister of Japan (2010-12); Director, Economic Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009-10); Director, US and Canada Economic Affairs (2007-09); Assistant Press Secretary (2006-07); Director, Status of US Forces Agreement (2004-06); Energy Advisor, Japanese Delegation to the OECD (1999-2002); Lecturer, Chuo University and International University of Japan.

POLAND

Dr Tomasz Janowski
 
Head, Centre for Electronic Governance, International Institute for Software Technology, United Nations University, Macau; Founder and Coordinator, International Conference Series on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV); Co-Chair, e-Government Community Group, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C); Associate Editor, Government Information Quarterly, Elsevier.

REPUBLIC OF KOREA

Dr Eunju Kim 

Director for ICT Service Policy, National Information Society Agency, Seoul; Chair, OASIS Web Services Quality Model Technical Committee.

Ms Hyeyoung Kim
Director General, Public Information Sharing Policy Bureau, e-Government Bureau, Ministry of Security and Public Administration.

SINGAPORE

Dr Sun Sun Lim
 
Assistant Dean (Research), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Associate Professor, Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore; Series Editor, Springer book series entitled 'Mobile Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications'; Review Editor, 'Mobile Media and Communication'; Editorial Board Member, 'Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication'; Executive Committee member, Association of Internet Researchers; Global Salzburg Fellow (2012-); Visiting Fellow, School of Letters, Arts and Media, University of Sydney (2012-).
Formerly: Visiting Fellow, University of New South Wales (2010-13).

UK
Mr Josh Bottomley
 
Global Head of Digital, HSBC, London. Formerly: Global Head of Display, Google Inc., California. Early career at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey.

Dr Tom Chatfield 
Author, technology theorist and broadcaster; TED Global Speaker; Author of five books on digital culture, including 'How to thrive in the digital age'; Consultant on digital education, engagement and trends.

Mr Russell Davies 
Creative Director, Government Digital Service (2012-); Chair, London Strategy Unit (2012-); Contributing Editor, Wired Magazine (2009-); Columnist, 'Campaign', Haymarket Media Group (2006-). Formerly: Strategic Planning Director, R/GA (2011-12); Strategic Director EMEA, Ogilvy & Mather (2010-11).

Mr Nik Gowing 
Main Presenter, BBC World News (1996-); Advisory Council member, Overseas Development Institute (2007-). Formerly: Advisory Council member, Wilton Park (1999-2012); Council member, Royal United Services Institute (2006-11); Diplomatic Editor (1989-96), Diplomatic Correspondent, Channel 4 News; ITN Bureau Chief, Warsaw (1980-83) and Rome (1979); Chatham House Council (1998-2004). A Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

Professor Lucy Hooberman FRSA 
Professor, Digital Media and Innovation, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), University of Warwick
(2008-); Project Leader, '20 Years of the BBC Online'; Delivery and Research Partner, NHS Local Digital Services. Formerly: BBC blue skies team (2001-08); Executive Producer and Commissioning Executive, BBC; film and TV producer, Channel Four.

The Rt Hon. Dame Tessa Jowell DBE, MP 
Member of Parliament (Labour), Dulwich and West Norwood (1997-); Dulwich (1992-97); Senior Fellow, Institute of Government. Formerly: Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and for London and the Olympics (2010-12); Minister for the Cabinet Office (2009-10); Minister for London (2009-10); Minister for the Olympics (2007-08, 2009-10); Paymaster General (2008-10); Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (2001-07); Minister for Women (2005-06); Visiting Fellow, Nuffield College, Oxford; Minister of State for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities (1999-2001); Minister of State for Public Health (1997-99); Opposition Spokesperson on Health and Women (1995-97); Opposition Whip (1994-95); Director, Community Care Programme, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (1990-92). A Member of the Council of Management and a Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Patrick Lane 
The Economist (1993-): Technology Correspondent (2011-). Formerly: Briefings Editor (2007-11); Economics Editor (2006-07); Finance Editor (2002-06); Frankfurt Correspondent (2000-02); Economics Correspondent (1993-2000).

Professor Helen Margetts 
Director (2011-) and Professor of Society and the Internet (2004-), Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford; Economic and Social Research Council Professorial Fellow (2011-14); Co-Director, OxLab; Professorial Fellow, Mansfield College (2004-). Formerly: Professor of Political Science and Director, School of Public Policy, University College, London (2001-04).
 
Mr Liam Maxwell 
Government Chief Technology Officer (2012-). Formerly: Deputy Government Chief Information Officer; Director of ICT Futures, Cabinet Office (2011-12); Adviser to Conservative Party on IT policy; Councillor, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead; Head of Computing, Eton College; Head of IT for business services, Capita.

Ms Sara Murray OBE 
Chief Executive, Buddi Ltd, London; governing board member, Technology Strategy Board. Formerly: Founder: Inspop (owns Confused.com), Ninah Consulting; founding board member, Seedcamp.

Mr Rajay Naik 

Director of Government and External Affairs, The Open University (2010-); Non-Executive Director, Big Lottery Fund (2009-); Commissioner, Department of Health Standing Commission on Carers (2009-); Governor, City College (2006-). Formerly: panel member, Browne Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance (2009-10); Chairman, British Youth Council (2009-10); Policy Advisor, Cabinet Office (2008-09); National Program Manager, Royal Society of Arts (2007-08); Council Member, Learning and Skills Council (2005-08).

Ms Chi Onwurah MP 
Member of Parliament (Labour) for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, House of Commons (2010-); Shadow Cabinet Office Minister (2013-). Formerly: Shadow Minister for Innovation, Science and Digital Infrastructure (2010-13); Head of Telecommunications Technology, Ofcom; Partner, Hammatan Ventures; Director of Market Development, Teligent; Director of Product Strategy, GTS; Engineer, Project and Product Manager, Cable & Wireless and Nortel, UK and France.

Mr Peter Seymour
Deputy Director, Information and Knowledge, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  Formerly: postings to San José (Costa Rica), Berlin, Vienna and Madrid.

Major General (Ret.) Jonathan Shaw CB CBE
Consultant/Adviser to security companies; public speaker on leadership, cyber security and geo-politics. Formerly: Ministry of Defence (32 years), latterly Head of the Defence Cyber Security Programme.

Mr Ian Wallace 
Visiting Fellow for Cybersecurity, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, The Brookings Institution, Washington DC. Formerly: Counsellor, Defence Policy and Nuclear, British Embassy, Washington DC (2009-13); Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; Ministry of Defence, UK: Policy Adviser to Deputy Commander, Multi-National Force, Iraq (Baghdad, 2007-08); Deputy Director, Capability Scrutiny; Chief Policy Adviser, Multi-National Division South East, Iraq (Basra, 2005); Assistant Director, Defence Resources and Plans; Head of Policy, Permanent Joint HQ (2002-03); Policy Adviser to Commander, Multi-National Brigade Centre, Kosovo (2001-02); Assistant Private Secretary to Defence Secretary (2000-01).

The Rt Hon. David Willetts MP 
Member of Parliament (Conservative) for Havant (1992-); Minister for Universities and Science, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2010-). Formerly: Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (2007-10); Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills (2005-07), Productivity, Energy and Industry (2005), Work and Pensions (1999-2005). A Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

UN/ITALY

Mr Vincenzo Aquaro

Chief, eGovernment Branch, Division for Public Administration and Development Management and responsible for Data Assessment and Management of the United Nations E-Government Survey, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Formerly: President and CEO, Formit Servizi SpA; member, Scientific Committee, NGO Formit Foundation; President and CEO, CARMA Scientific Research Consortium.

USA

Ms Bernadette Hyland 

Chief Executive Officer, 3 Round Stones; Open Data Advisor to the US Environmental Protection Agency; Co-Chair, Government Linked Data Working Group and Semantic Web Coordination Group, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Author, 'Best Practices for Publishing Linked Data', 'Linked Data Cookbook'. Guest Lecturer on lean start-ups and Web innovation. Formerly: CEO and Co-Founder, Tucana Technologies (Australia and USA); Systems Manager: Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors (San Francisco), Goldman Sachs (New York and Tokyo), Morgan Stanley.

Mr Emmanuel Johnson 
Masters in Robotics Candidate, University of Birmingham; Fulbright Scholar.

Ms Elizabeth Linder 

Politics and Government Specialist for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Facebook, Inc., London (2008-).

Ms Jan Schaffer 
Founder (2002) and Executive Director, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, American University School of Communication, Washington DC; member, Journalism Advisory Committee, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation; Speaker, Trainer, Author, Consultant and Web Publisher on the future of journalism. Formerly: Director, Pew Center for Civic Journalism; Business Editor, Pulitzer Prize winner, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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