Co-authored with Heather Keleher.







The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a new beast: progressing at a faster and more aggressive pace than any of the prior three revolutions. This revolution is characterized by oceans of big data, the rise of autonomous machines and robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, distributed ledger, and the Internet of Things. The sheer speed of innovation and rapid adoption of new technologies pushes traditional government to its limits: today’s governments must be more data-driven, people-focused, and agile than ever before. But what does agility mean in terms of government?

Agility enables governments to create legislations and policies that address the innovations of 4IR. Agility requires governments to be “future-savvy,” relevant, and proactive.

What challenges and opportunities do technology advances add for government?









World Economic Forum defines an eight-piece toolbox to guide agile governance:
















Why is agile governance important to drive 4IR?

Governments must become agile to both keep up with and take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The changes that 4IR inevitably will bring demand new solutions to employment, faster policy-making, and an unparalleled ability to encourage and take advantage of innovation. Those governments that open their borders to business in our ever-more globalized world, those governments that take advantage of new technologies like blockchain, those governments that give citizens a voice in the narrative of change and changing policies – are those governments that will thrive in 4IR. Furthermore, agile governance is necessary to ensure that people are not placed second to progress: systems – employing new technologies – to encourage citizen engagement, to put data safeguards in place, to design responsible policies to protect citizens, and to monitor social changes and vulnerable populations are crucial. In an era where technology is politicized, regulating and keeping up with technological evolutions positions governments to address the changes that emerging technologies bring.

So, what can a government do to become agile one step at a time?

Data-driven Infrastructure

The first intersection a government will likely reach is the crossroads between big data and agility. With massive amounts of citizen and municipal data on their hands, governments can make data-driven impact.

At our World Economic Forum Assembly of City Leaders session in Tianjin this year, Lokesh Nara, shared several examples of data democratization in Andhra Pradesh, the eight-largest state in India. As the Minister for Information Technology, Panchayati Raj and Rural Development for Andhra Pradesh, Lokesh has worked to create a dashboard to track water tankers and minimize water leakage, moved rural street lighting online to facilitate monitoring, and launched e-Pragati –  a platform to open data to citizens, improve data privacy, deliver government services digitally, and bring citizen engagement online. Lokesh’s initiatives are multi-faceted, pulling in many of the tools in our box – not only do they promote innovation, but they also give citizens direct representation in governance, encourage public-private data sharing, and use technology to promote agility.

Another example near and dear to us at Cisco is the city of Las Vegas’ initiative to create and expand a digitally connected and smart city. Leveraging Cisco’s Kinetic for Cities platform and partner solutions, Las Vegas uses data to reduce idling time at stoplights, increase pedestrian safety, drive efficiency in waste collection, and alert maintenance teams to problems in the city. Better yet, the city’s Open Data platform liberates data for citizens to develop Smart Cities solutions. Not only does this data make Las Vegas a safer city for citizens and tourists alike, but it also maximizes worker productivity and increases innovation. Las Vegas is another example that optimizes the Agility Toolbox: they emphasize smart data use, use technology to encourage citizen engagement and entrepreneurship, and adopt an innovative perspective.

Agile Regulation

At the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, stand Autonomous Vehicles. Governments around the world are racing against rapidly evolving technology to decipher how to regulate this new sector. In the future of mobility, where computer logic and algorithms might replace human decision-making on the road and automotive cars will interact daily with human-operated automobiles, first – where do governments begin to legislate and second – how can they create legislature that will evolve alongside the technology?

Singapore utilizes two of the tools mentioned in our Agility Toolbox: regulatory sandboxes and policy labs. Through the Road Traffic Act, Singapore has created a five-year regulatory sandbox for autonomous vehicle trials and testing using public roads. A regulatory framework will be flexibly implemented to address challenges as they arise. Likewise, the Netherlands has created an evolving legislative infrastructure (the “Law Governing the Experimental Use of Self-Driving Vehicles”) to govern experiments in automation and pave the way to testing and, later, to market.

Closing Thoughts

Nelson Mandela once said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” As we face and build this new world, we too are faced with a choice. Will we fear what is yet to come and the change it will bring? Or will we hope – hope that we can create a better world, hope that we can embrace innovation, and hope that we can build a more agile future? We stand at a pivotal moment, a moment in which we can shape and steer our systems of governance and center them around opportunity and efficiency. So – let us choose hope, be innovators, dream big, and foster agility.

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Arvind Satyam

Managing Director, Global Business Development

Smart+Connected Communities