Great to have the opportunity to hear this lunchtime from Chris Vein. He is the new Chief Innovation Officer for Global Information and Communications Technology Development at the World Bank.
He leads the implementation of the World Bank’s Technology strategy, particularly helping developing countries build their communications and open government infrastructures, and is in the perfect position to come and talk innovation, in particular his plans around rolling out the World Bank’s technology strategy and their work on open government and open data.
If I’d had the tech in my hands, I’d probably have live tweeted lots of what he said – it was a real reminder of the inspiring examples that were shared at the Open Up! conference last year and the sort of stories I wish many more of my DFID colleagues could have heard.
His three main points were:
1. Technology is an amazing asset when made directly available to people.
2. The digital divide as an issue is growing. Its changing the relationships between government and citizens. There are many different ways that an increase in the use of technology can have an impact – both positive and negative. One challenge that must be faced is the expectations that can be raised by activities on social media – people expect that real changes can happen and their voice matters, then can feel even more frustrated and let down when change isn’t immediate.
3. In general, we are too timid in our willingness to try new things.
This last point was the one that struck home most firmly. He shared loads of examples – talked about the internet of things, approaching 50 billion connections, mobile is everywhere, social is everything, and the role of big data.
He talked the language that needs to become commonplace – of minimum viable products, of pilots and iteration. He emphasised the absolute need to focus on the effects of interventions on the individual.
Questions from colleagues followed – and answers included new approaches to solving problems, the Presidential Innovation Fellows, how it was important for leaders to protect the overall vision and let innovators do their work, and how important it is to assemble and involve people who are not locked into the ways things have always been done.
One answer that really struck a chord with me was the importance of sharing stories of what works – and using prototypes to show what is possible.
I’m also intrigued to follow up his comments about the extension of Code for America and the idea of civic commons.
An inspiring lunchbreak.