Fixing government, digitalizing trust, and setting goals

One Tuesday a month, we curate and share three short talks on a theme. This month, as we kick off a new decade, we’ve gathered governing insights from around the globe. Surprisingly, there’s a lot that local officials can glean from their counterparts in Africa and Eastern Europe.

We start in Kenya where, until recently, the government moved at a snail’s pace. Imagine waiting 158 days for the utility company to connect your new business to the grid. Or, how about waiting 125 days to get a construction permit? When access to government services is inefficient, complicated, and just painfully slow, citizens look for workarounds — and that opens the door to corruption.

Travel 4000+ miles north to Estonia and you’ll find just the opposite: a government that’s virtually paperless and profoundly efficient. Here, citizens have been filing their tax returns online for nearly two decades. Estonians can easily challenge a parking ticket, start a business, or cast a vote right from their smartphones. And, yes, it is secure — exceptionally secure.

Seeing how civic leaders in disparate corners of the world are solving for problems that are at once local and universal may inspire you to set some ambitious goals here at home. Fortunately, we’ve got a TED Talk for that too. After all, there’s no time like the first month of a new decade to take stock of what’s important, think about what you want to accomplish, and identify a few measurable objectives. Enjoy!

Charity Wayua: A few ways to fix a government (12 mins)

What happens when government employees feel stuck and helpless? In 2014, cancer researcher Charity Wayua led a group of computer scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to Kenya where they met with hundreds of individuals who worked at government agencies. Wayua’s team was looking for a way to jump-start business growth in a nation challenged on numerous fronts. What they found was a broken government and employees who felt powerless to drive the change needed to right what was wrong. Discover what Wayua’s team did to help Kenya’s government turn the corner, implement reforms, and achieve World Bank recognition in just two years.

Anna Piperal: What a digital government looks like (14 mins)

E-governance expert Anna Piperal says that in most countries, “people don’t trust their governments. And the governments don’t trust them back.” Not so in Estonia. Thirty years ago state leaders there were forced to rebuild their government from the ground up after regaining their independence. They boldly went where few governments had gone before — and today, Estonia is considered the most digital society on earth. Find out what a digital government actually looks like and how a system built on security and transparency can engender trust.

John Doerr: Why the secret to success is setting the right goals  (12 mins)

Execution is everything. Meet engineer and venture capitalist John Doerr, the self-described  “Johnny Appleseed of OKRs.” Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, are a simple goal-setting system that help businesses, local governments, and even individuals drive results. Find out why measuring what matters is the key to achieving success — from the smallest of goals to ending global poverty. This is a quick and entertaining talk with lots of practical examples.

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