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Global Solution Networks – Don Tapscott, RSA

NetworkedI am a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) and always find the magazine and blogs fascinating.

Given my long-standing interest in all things “networked”, this latest article in the Fellow’s Magazine from Don Tapscott was very thought provoking.

Don argues that that non-directed networks, global in scope, are creating new ways to manage the world’s problems (and opportunities). He calls them Global Solution Networks and he identifies nine different types.

Here are the introductory paragraphs:

………………………………………….

“Thanks to the internet revolution and the digital space’s communication tools, alternatives to nation-state-based institutions have evolved in the quest for a better world  writes Don Tapscott

In December 2012, we saw two contrasting models of how we can solve global problems. On one side were representatives of more than 190 governments in a closed-door meeting in Dubai, hammering out how the internet should be run and who should pay for its operation. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a low-profile United Nations agency that sponsored the meeting, is in charge of setting out technical standards for the world’s communication technologies. In 1988, the last time the group met, the information superhighway was geek talk and the world wide web didn’t exist. The internet’s explosive growth occurred not because of the ITU, but despite it.

On the other hand was the self-organising ecosystem that runs the internet today. It is not controlled by states, but was fortunate to have the support of many western democracies. They were concerned about a dark agenda in Dubai. “Many states and corporations would like to get a stranglehold on the internet,” said Tim Berners-Lee, the web’s inventor. “The multi-stakeholder system that governs the internet works well and we need to preserve its openness.”

Letting an obscure ‘one vote per country’ UN technical agency decide who does what in the next stage of the internet’s development seemed to many to be the antithesis of what the internet represented. The blogosphere buzzed about proposals by repressive governments and money-grabbing telecommunications companies. One paper by the Russian government would have seen the ITU take over the internet. Another by European telecommunications companies would let operators charge high-bandwidth content providers
such as YouTube.

Berners-Lee’s fears were justified. The final treaty developed by the ITU was so potentially harmful that 55 countries refused to sign. They wanted to continue instead with the multi-stakeholder model of oversight that had fuelled the internet’s spectacular growth.

The successful governance of the internet to date suggests a completely different form of global cooperation to supplement or even succeed those based on the nation state, just as the nation state itself was built on the foundations of earlier forms of government. Due to a number of factors, global governance can now be co-owned by a variety of stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations, trans-national corporations, emerging countries and various traditional government entities. Even individual citizens have an unprecedented ability to participate and engage in global activities. As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once put it, “We [now] live in a world where human problems do not come permanently attached to national passports”.

We are clearly in the early days of an explosion of new, networked models to solve global problems; call them Global Solution Networks. But these new networks raise myriad questions and challenges. They seem to hold great promise, but how do we ensure their legitimacy, accountability and efficacy as vehicles for social justice and global cooperation?

Here’s the rest of Don’s excellent article at the RSA.


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