In a recent op-ed, Reuters’ Chrystia Freeland suggests that if nations have any hope of restoring trust in their core institutions, they should focus on adopting technology to the extent that Silicon Valley has:
After all, whatever your political allegiances, it is hard to disagree that in recent decades, when it comes to transforming the world, [Silicon] Valley has outdone the Beltway.
One reason for that gap may be that while our private and business lives have been transformed by the technology revolution, government largely has not…
Unquestionably, technology can be useful in enabling governments to provide services more efficiently. For instance, Google has pioneered a “Government Transformers” program to demonstrate how public-sector employees can use Google Apps to improve the delivery of services. Google has showcased workers who have developed an online scheduling and payment system for volunteer firemen, made group purchasing by municipalities across Virginia more cost-effective, and increased citizen feedback on the budget of Georgia’s Fulton County by a factor of 100.
That said, the biggest strains on the federal budget are entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and it’s not clear that technology is powerful enough to solve the budget problems that these programs pose. Any discussion of reforming these programs boils down to fundamental moral and political questions: How much taxpayer money should be spent on the elderly or the poor? How much revenue should be collected from the well-off?