Acute new vulnerabilities for Business, Governments and Systems in the new Public Information Space By Nanyang Visiting Professor Nik Gowing
The public information space has been turned on its head. But few at the highest levels of power are willing to realise that its new capacity to disrupt threatens their reputation or brand. There is a reluctance to learn from the destabilising experiences of others in multiple fields and locations.
This presentation and discussion focus on the new executive fragilities and policy implications for government ministers, civil servants, defence and security agencies plus corporate institutions and NGO’s from the new matrix of real-time information flows and transparency created especially by the explosion of social media. The new digital connectivity and IT realities are disruptive game changers. They challenge mercilessly the inadequacy of the structures of power to respond both with effective impact and in a timely way. As vulnerabilities increase, mindsets and systemic behaviour at the highest levels of executive power lag behind these new realities.
The sudden emergence of Islamic State and the mass e-connectivity of migrants entering Europe both confirm the new challenges to normative leadership assumptions of who controls the Public Information Space. The street deaths from police actions in the US – recorded on smart phones – mobilised significant national anger about police behaviour. After the China chemical storage catastrophe in Tianjin, the Nepal earthquake, BP’s Gulf of Mexico tragedy, the Japan tsunami and nuclear disaster, terror attacks and natural incidents, plus Syria, upheaval in Ukraine, the downing of MH-17 and Russia’s subversive actions, plus multiple concerns about the stability of other regimes, Nik Gowing, presents an overview and update on the implications for power of his peer-reviewed Skyful of Lies analysis. It confirms how in moments of major, unexpected crisis the institutions of power - whether political, governmental or corporate - face a new, acute vulnerability of both their influence and effectiveness, with their legitimacy and credibility challenged.
The professional price paid by senior corporate executives, government ministers and senior commanders over operational failings in a major crisis highlights the new professional vulnerability. In no more than a few hours brands and reputation can be damaged and executive careers threatened or destroyed. This has been reconfirmed by the dramatic impact of corporate disasters for TEPCO in Japan or BP after the Gulf of Mexico explosion, plus the ongoing public pro-reform pressures in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, China and Myanmar along with protests exemplified by the anti-corruption street mobilisation by Anna Hazare in India, the internet campaign in the US that swiftly halted the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), or the G20 and Student Fees violence in London.
The question posed by this presentation is: How prepared are you? How well do you understand the relentless impact on your power of both social media and the new, fast changing public information space