The award of the Nobel Prize for Peace to President Barack Obama has both caught many by surprise and stressed how compelling his vision for change is on foreign policy. Some commentators have criticized this choice, indicating that it is more an award to hope than to achievement. Some of the processes he has set in motion, from nuclear disarmament to peace in the Middle East, will give results in many years from now, and may be delayed or derailed by future events. Yet, in a world threatened by economic crises, health crises and countless conflicts, Obama’s initial steps seem to go in the right direction.
This makes me think about another pillar of his mandate, i.e. the role of technology to support change and return to wealth.I am sure most will agree that never before we’ve witnessed such a rapid change in the role of IT and such a blossoming of new initiatives as we have seen over the first eight months of the Obama’s administration.
Both on technology and on other fronts the administration offers an exciting vision, showing endless possibilities. A world without nuclear weapons is like a government that becomes a glass box, allowing citizens to understand, criticize, participate in ways that where simply unconceivable before. The end of decades-long conflicts is like the end of turf wars for owning and controlling IT assets, once they are virtualized, commoditized and made available as pure services.
The more ambitious and compelling the vision, the more difficult the execution though.
Decommissioning thousands of nuclear weapons while new countries pursue a nuclear program is not a task for the faint of heart: it will require relentless diplomatic efforts, concessions on other fronts (trade? subsidies?), a continuous engagement with several international organizations and a long-term involvement in monitoring and supervision.
Virtualizing and commoditizing IT will require a relentless effort to overcome pushback or inertia from individual agencies, to make sure that vendor involvement remains fair and balanced, that security and lock-in issues are overcome.
Rather than pushing the boundaries further, it is time to roll up one’s sleeves and start executing. Many of this administration’s visions span well beyond its term and – in some cases – a second term too. As usual, with campaigning time approaching in less than two years time, there will be calls for quicker wins and shorter term results.
Striking the balance between the heartbeat of government and these longer term goals and aspirations, some of which are worth the greatest award, will be the greatest challenge for the years to come.