A Unique Opportunity

December 5, 2012

British Prime Minister David Cameron has published an important op-ed on the role that open economies and open societies play in tackling global poverty and spurring growth. It is a timely piece as the United Kingdom is a key player in three international initiatives: co-chair of the U.N.’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, president of the G-8 and co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, the multilateral initiative to drive innovation and ambitious commitments on open government in over 57 countries. This next year is a unique opportunity for the UK to reinforce the link between openness, growth and development and it should ensure that the necessary resources and leadership are deployed to see through this ambitious programme.

Energy and resources will be needed to seize this unique window of opportunity to scale the open government movement. We will need to work together to foster innovative collaborations between reformers both within and outside of government, the private sector and civil society. To have a chance to succeed, we will need to work on the demand side, empowering citizens and their right to information, as well as on the supply side - identifying and supporting visionary leaders within government.

This is easier said than done, but consider the following:

The world has changed radically since the Millennium Development Goals were first established behind closed doors in the late 1990s. The ubiquity of the web and mobile phones now allow us to reach and empower citizens directly and achieve scale on an unprecedented level. In a post-Arab Spring world with over five billion mobile phones in circulation, peoples’ expectations of government have been transformed and governments will need to embrace this change. The High-Level panel should grasp this opportunity to use these technologies to listen to the voices of people as they recast the future of development.

The Prime Minister is right to suggest that a key component of development is to enable local entrepreneurs to build businesses, create jobs and drive growth. Omidyar Network supports entrepreneurial ecosystems which support those at the base of the pyramid and which can transform entire industries (our series in the Stanford Social Innovation Review explores this sector-level approach to impact investing in more depth). We believe that a unique combination of technological innovation, open government and entrepreneurship holds the key to eradicating poverty but also to empower every person to make a difference and together reinvent government to tackle social change in the 21st century.

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