May 15, 2017 | Hizbullah Arief *

Fourth industrial revolution is underway. Article at World Economic Forum – entitled The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond – writes that the revolution – which had been happening since the middle of the last century – is disrupting every industry in every country heralding transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance.

The fourth revolution is characterized by the blurring lines between physical, digital and biological spheres following the digital revolution. The article mentioned: “The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited.”

Indeed, knowledge and information right now can be accessed at the speed of light thus transforming the world.

And these possibilities, according the article, will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

Here we face again to the term “access to knowledge”. After discussing the importance of using and producing knowledge – in the form of high quality and peer reviewed journals – that qualifies for critical thinking, now we are discussing about the potentials of using knowledge to empower communities, thus changing people’s behavior and government’s policy, especially in the face of fourth industrial revolution.

Changing policies and behavior are the objectives of advocacy. There are four important activities needed to building good advocacy and achieve those targets.

First activity is building awareness that can be achieved by “streaming” knowledge continuously to the mind of society thus increases their understanding about certain topics. Second activity is capacity building, by giving the right person the right skill to perform their duty. In this phase, knowledge is needed to help people increase their ability to do either general or technical skills. The third activity is lobbying and the last activity is networking with relevant stakeholders.

As an advocacy and communications specialist, I found the red line in these activities and the red line is evidence.

A working paper published by Knowledge Sector Initiative in May 2016, entitled Lessons for Building and Managing Evidence Base for Policy said that evidence is often needed rapidly to help policy makers respond to their pressing questions.

“It is therefore important to try to anticipate the sorts of decisions policy makers may need to take in future, and to work out what evidence is likely to be required,” Louise Shaxson, the author of the paper writes.

From building awareness followed by capacity building and then lobbying and networking, evidence is the foundation where the processes of changing policy and behavior start. Evidences can only be used and systematically collected by people who understand, who have the knowledge, the awareness about them. Capacity building program could help answer these needs.

After evidences are gathered, the next step is bringing these evidences to government to influence policy and sharing them to people to change their behavior. Networking plays important part to facilitate these changes. These orchestrated efforts we call it as campaign.

According to Louise, policy issues may suddenly emerge that require evidence: “It is important to be able to react to those issues as they arise and gather the relevant evidence as quickly as possible.” Therefore, Louise found in her paper 11 key lessons in “investing” to evidence.

Lesson number one is using broad definition of robust evidence that includes statistical data, evaluation, monitoring and surveillance activities, citizens and stakeholders and formal research-based disciplines. “Budget and planning processes need to consider these different types,” Louise writes.

The second lesson, policy makers are responsible for using evidence as effectively as possible to design, implement and monitor policies. The third, evidence needs to be able to support all policy priorities. The fourth is making sure to review evidence that already exist before commissioning new evidence. Fifth, build relationships around evidence involving many different organizations that can contribute to the evidence base for any policy issue.

The sixth, take the “whole organization” approach to managing evidence not only from individual policy teams. The seventh, make evidence part of business as usual. The eighth, leadership support from senior management is essential. The ninth, take time, do not try to do everything at once. The tenth, be aware of, but not scare of evidence and the eleventh or the last, learn, adapt and share good practice.

All lessons learned stated above are closely connected to the latest development in the era of fourth industrial revolution.

The WEF article mentioned that new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities. “Simultaneously, governments will gain new technological powers to increase their control over populations, based on pervasive surveillance systems and the ability to control digital infrastructure” the article said.

Overall, however, the article stated that the governments will increasingly face pressure to change their current approach to public engagement and policy-making, as their central role of conducting policy diminishes owing to new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power that new technologies make possible.

At the end, empowering knowledge means making sure that the people have access – with help from information, communication and technology – to knowledge, have awareness about the specific issue and capacity to determine government systems and public authorities’ survival.

If the governments prove capable of embracing a world of disruptive change – delivered by fourth industrial revolution – subjecting their structures to the levels of transparency and efficiency that will enable them to maintain their competitive edge, they will endure.

If they cannot evolve, they will face increasing trouble. Again, the key point of survival is how they can use evidence to create sound and transparent public policy thus making real changes in the community, as discussed by Louise Shaxson in KSI publication.


* Hizbullah Arief is national consultant for Knowledge to Policy Learning and Knowledge Product. Opinions expressed in this article don’t reflect Government of Australia, Government of Indonesia and KSI Indonesia.