Throughout the centuries, private enterprise has brought people together, introduced new value-based activities, and created ways for individuals and communities to develop more fully. Whether it was early artisans, risk taking explorers and traders, or seafaring merchants, the more people were connected by valuable information and economic activity the more they prospered.
The 21st century is no different; yet the circumstances and means of bringing people together are radically different.
Information technologies (IT), the Internet, mobile devices, smart phones, and increasingly available broadband have made information more pervasive, instantaneous, individualized, and customizable.
Today billions of mobile information devices are in use complementing the existing platforms of desktop, laptop, and cloud computing. Worldwide there are over 2 billion Internet users and 6 billion wireless subscriptions. This is giving rise to what is referred to as the era of the “first global citizens and customers”, creating opportunity for societal improvement and commerce irrespective of geography and national borders.
Recognizing these dramatic developments, the companies of the Business Roundtable (BRT) established the Information and Technology Committee to address many fundamentally new issues confronting the private sector and governments across the United States and world.
Over thirty leading CEOs from industrial sectors as diverse as utilities, consumer products, information and communications technologies, financial services, and many others came together to better understand how information and technology are changing our lives and the communities in which we live and work. One key area the CEOs identified for focus was the deployment of information technology for social development.
Led by Ajay Banga of MasterCard and Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm, a working group was established to profile leading examples of companies, once again, taking the initiative to bring people together through new approaches designed to make their lives and our world better.
Leading Examples of Change: Deploying IT for Social Development focuses on five key areas of life in 21st century America: education, healthcare, personal finance, public administration, and entrepreneurship. Each of these areas is confronting new issues and fundamental challenges given the abundance of information and data in today’s world, the rapid pace of technological change, and an increasingly more integrated and global economy.
The common thread throughout each of these areas is how information and communications technologies are enabling:
(1) enhanced innovation in goods, services and ways of doing business;
(2) higher productivity, efficiency and lower costs;
(3) increased quality through measurement, and
(4) broader participation by reaching new stakeholders & new markets.
Combined with good public policy, information technology and new approaches to deploying it can be a platform for social development across our nation and the world. BRT member companies are at the forefront of this effort.
This paper highlights leading BRT companies and their efforts in these five areas. While many more examples exist, the committee felt it was important to bring some key programs to the forefront so that policy makers and others can appreciate the potential for positive change coming from the private sector. They are not the total solution for the many challenges confronting these five areas of our society. Our nation is dealing with an environment of constrained resources and need-based choices. However, private sector initiatives and leadership is one way to recognize our current environment but not yield to the temptation to put things off to another time.