Bye bye democracy, Hello ‘Fairocracy’!
Democracy is the most revered form of government in the world today. I live in India, the biggest democracy in the world. Most people feel that democracy is a fair system of government. At least it feels better than competing forms of government like monarchy and communism. The reality is that democratic governments are often plagued by populist give aways, appeasement of majority or minority, inaction due to needless debating, inflation due to perennial budget deficits, rule of mob and corruption etc.
But I feel that the true purpose of democracy should be ‘fairocracy’. The aim should be to provide a fair and peaceful living environment to the citizens. I believe that the traditional democratic systems need to be augmented using design, science and management of 21st century. Most big countries follow an antiquated system of democracy suited to the 19th or 20th century. In those days there was no electricity, digital media or computing technology. Indirect system of democracy was OK during those slow and steady times. These days voting once every 4 or 5 years is quite slow and insufficient for good feedback.
We are seeing the use of social media like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter as a fast feedback system for democracy. Such social media has helped a bit in certain areas but it has raised new issues. Social media has made governments more unfair by making them resort to populist short term measures. It has also aggravated the blame game among politicians and journalists. New parties and groups composed of politically unexperienced people are winning elections due to there social media skills. Democracy is starting to become like the rule of the mob!
So how can the democracy of 20th century convert into a ‘Fairocracy’ in the 21st century? I think the answer is in new age thinking. Voting should be augmented by direct and responsible feedback. Social media provides direct feedback but many times it provides irresponsible feedback in form of biased and un-researched feedback. Many people give opinions more due to emotion than reality. Social media has made perception more important than reality. We need to change that. I am providing some techniques in this direction.
Value Analysis : At the end of the day any decision needs to incorporate value analysis. What is the value provided by government to the citizen? Ideally it should be :
- basic infrastructure
- fair regulatory framework
Socialist governments can provide thousands of other services but management gurus tell that any organisation should stick to its core competencies and should not try to provide hundreds of services or products in highly different areas. Value analysis should converge to form a clear vision for the country.
Agile thinking and Analytics : Instead of government allocating resources based on whims and fancies of majorities, minorities, opposition or media; resource allocation should be based on value analysis and distilled vision for the country. Government should try lots of small experiments instead of big bang budgets. Real time analytics should be used. These days technologies like mobile apps, ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and ‘Big Data’ can be used for analysing stuff and generating timely reports.
Example: How can the government know whether to build a road or not? Today government can make use of ‘IoT’ technology coupled with analytics to keep track of road usage. Every time a citizen uses a road, he or she votes for the road. This form of voting is fairer than the current voting system.
Startups need to be used as a force multiplier. Even socialist countries should use good capitalism for the benefit of citizens.
Uber like governance apps: Government should provide its citizens with governance apps similar to Uber. Most citizens are fed up with the government because of inconvenience in ordering services, bad user experience and bad quality of service. Uber provides a very good benchmark in this direction. Apps like Uber can provide convenience of ordering along with a good user experience and quality of service. Sanitation and health departments can use such apps very effectively. Government can even charge more from rich people using ‘surge pricing’. Even rich like to pay more for convenience. This extra money can be used for subsidising the extremely poor.
Dot Voting: All democratic countries have some system of voting. Unfortunately in this day and age the slow and inflexible ‘one vote system’ cannot capture the intricacies of complicated governance requirements. Dot voting provides multiple dots as a voting mechanism. People can place anonymous dots when voting to give there feedback. The quantity of dots per poll are predefined, limited and equally given to people. Dot voting allows a kind of weighted feedback.
Dot voting should be used extensively. Government can provide its citizens with feedback apps with dot voting functionality. So if I am fed up with a road’s condition I can place 10 dots for its repair while some one who is only a little fed up can place just 1 dot for that road’s repair. Thus the government can always keep a tab on the worst quality roads to repair.
Gamification: Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of day to day activity. Gamification is a hit concept these days with MNCs. Government should use gamification to enforce laws and provide services. Gamification has 5 Ps :
- Purpose : People should clearly know the purpose of laws and government’s services. Many times government has laws which people do not know or are very complicated for common man to understand. You cannot have just society if majority of laws are draconian on paper and not properly implemented in reality.
- Progress : People should be able to decipher their progress in abiding laws. Similarly people should also be able to track government’s progress in a transparent way. LinkedIn’s profile completion bar is an example of using gamification to indirectly motivate people to fill information. Government can also use similar mechanisms.
- Proficiency : Instead of making tougher laws, government should try to increase proficiency of people in doing tasks. For example, tougher laws would not stop road accidents, imparting good driving skills will.
- Pride : People should get pride in abiding laws. In countries like India, the basic problem is that laws are theoretically so tough and practically so toothless that people sometimes get pride in breaking laws. Why are laws theoretically so tough that no body can abide them? Due to controlling mindset and black mailing tendency of government machinery. Laws should be properly designed so that most people can abide them easily and feel pride in complying them. Leaderboards can help people to feel pride in following laws.
- People : Nothing can succeed without the active support of citizens. Thus citizen action groups should try to help the government in making things fair and transparent.
Thus ‘fairocracy’ is an ideal which can reached with new age practices. A strong will is required on part of citizens and the government to reach that ideal state. Digital governance can really convert a democracy into a ‘fairocracy’.