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ElBaradei Says Egypt Faces Vast Economic Opportunity, but is Imperiled by “Royal” Mismanagement of Post-Mubarak Transition

The Egyptian Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei warned Saturday that Egypt’s political revolution “is being aborted by parts of the old regime and the military,” endangering not only adoption of a new constitution and stable government but formidable economic opportunity, much of it stemming from new digital technology.

“The army has been mismanaging the transition royally,” ElBaradei told the Cisco Public Services Summit 2011 in Oslo.

Dr. ElBaradei speaking in 2008 (courtesy WEF)

As a result, ten months after a political uprising ElBaradei said “would not have been possible without social networking,” he described the Egyptian mood as “gloomy.”

“People are used to having one person tell them what to do, but now there is no one person who is going to provide salvation,” he said.

Addresses from ElBaradei and former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton highlighted the Summit’s second day. Delegates from more than 40 countries journeyed to Norway for three days of discussions around the theme “Empowering the Edge: Boosting Resiliency and Productivity in the Public Sector.”

ElBaradei said Egyptian economic productivity can mushroom if stability is achieved. He predicted Egypt could earn as much revenue as a fiber optic hub for networking – taking advantage of its location at a geographic crossroads in the Middle East – as it earns from operating the Suez Canal, which would make his country an influential and prosperous player in the increasingly interconnected digital world.

“If we can do this there is vast economic opportunity ahead,” said ElBaradei. “In ten years Egypt will not be dissimilar to what we see in Turkey or Singapore. But we need first to put ourselves on the right track.”

He said “nobody will put a penny” into a country they regard as unsafe.

ElBaradei said Egypt and indeed much of the Arab region remain stymied by “an increasing lack of adequate governance” and “hand-wringing” during crises, while citizens expect more participation and faster solutions to poverty, corruption, disease, and an “obscene” gap between rich and poor.

“We are condemned to live together,” ElBaradei told PSS delegates gathered in the Norwegian capital. “We have to find a social contract that understands where others are coming from.”

ElBaradei’s PSS address was avidly anticipated throughout the Arab world and viewed worldwide via an Internet-based video stream.

ElBaradei said the West could contribute to Egypt’s stability by addressing regional conflicts from the Israeli-Palestinian impasse to Iran and Afghanistan. He said he rejected the view that Middle East tensions constitute a “clash of civilizations.” Instead, he said, the culprit is “mismanagement by governments.”

The struggle by governments to adopt new practices and systems to serve digitally adept citizens has been a recurring theme at this tenth Public Services Summit. Also addressing the delegates was Kroll Associates Chairman Bill Bratton, a former Los Angeles police chief and expert on law enforcement process analysis.

“We all face scarce public dollars,” said Bratton, “and collaboration can help us combine limited resources to create more positive force for change.”

Bill Bratton (courtesy LAPD)

All around the world, said Bratton, when public sector leaders innovate, the solutions that follow are invariably based on connecting people in radically new ways.

“There is raw power in collaboration,” said Bratton. “In today’s networked world virtually everyone is connected whether you want to be or not.”

“Collaboration releases the power of the many to do together what none can do alone. Technology can certainly speed change, but in the networked world success depends more than ever on the right people saying yes.”

Bratton, who in his career improved law enforcement effectiveness and reduced crime in New York, Boston and Los Angeles using collaborative methods, quoted Gandhi to the PSS audience: “To create change we must become the change. Moving forward requires leadership that is willing to move forward and be held accountable.”

Bratton urged public officials not to view their particular personal challenges as separate from those around them, and to remain plugged into the “energy source created by connectivity that can change the world.”

The Public Services Summit 2011 concludes today.  You can contribute to the ongoing discussion on Twitter at #CiscoPSS.

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