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January 31, 2008

Security and Society

We’re deep in the throes of winter and the GIO team is hard at work planning the next round of deep dives on a brand new topic area. Though we’ve been toying with the idea of exploring this topic for years, allow this to serve as the official unveiling of the next GIO focus area: Security and Society: Minimizing Risk in a Global Economy.

It may seem an obvious topic, but in true GIO style, we’ll be coming at this from what we hope will be some unique and productive angles. Here’s the basic idea:

The 21st Century has brought with it a near total redefining of the notion of security. Be it identity theft, border security, or corporate espionage, the security of every nation, business, organization and individual is in constant flux thanks to sophisticated technologies and a growing global interdependence.  All aspects of security are being challenged by both large and small groups -- even individuals -- that have a disruptive capability disproportionate to their size or resources. 

In the midst of all this, the arms race of security technology continues to provide unprecedented ways to sense and deter theft and other security breaches. It’s a vicious, possibly never-ending, cycle. And though costly, these are battles that we all must fight, continually, lest we become the path of least resistance. 

Security threats of all kinds cost us billions every year. Everything from the cost of doing business to our tax bills are affected by the many threats. That’s what makes this is a perfect GIO topic. It affects all of us, in lots of big and small ways. And few would disagree with the sentiment that we could be doing it better.

The big question is simply this: Given the constant increases in global interconnectedness (is that a word?) and technological sophistication, can we ever feel secure again? And regardless if the answer to that is yes or no, can we at least address global security concerns in a meaningful way, and allow our societies and businesses to grow and prosper?

Now, every GIO topic has its own set of challenges. For example, when we examined healthcare, every global region had such different needs, it was difficult to reach consensus on the best collaborative projects. And Africa brought with it the very delicate balance of addressing long term economic growth in regions that had very immediate social and political crises.

But Security and Society brings with it a new kind of challenge for the GIO. This is an area where there is much already being done, so to some extent it precludes the idea of so-called “Greenfield” opportunity. There are many established businesses working on cutting edge strategies and technologies to address everything from national security to data protection. And many of these businesses are not going to be willing to share their intellectual property, even in a setting as collaborative and collegial as the GIO.

So the onus will be on the GIO community to do two things: 1.) Gather together the right mix of action-oriented, big thinkers that are ready and willing to work together for dramatic change, and 2.) push the conversation forward an order of magnitude, considering global strategies that could only be accomplished collaboratively.

We’re currently researching the topic and crafting compelling lines of discussion for the deep dives. But we could always use help from the broader GIO ecosystem. After all, it’s not just the deep dives that are collaborative. The planning is too. So if you have thoughts on experts in the security field that you think would make valuable contributions to this global discussion, please don’t hesitate to send their names to the comments sections of this blog. And if there are specific areas of focus that we should be considering, don’t hesitate to direct our attention to them. We’re happy to consider your suggestions.

In the meantime, I’ll be ramping up the coverage of security related news on this blog in anticipation of the first deep dive in April. So stay tuned.

January 31, 2008 in Security and Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2008

The Eco-Patent Commons

Today I get to share some very exciting news.

Way back in 2006, participants in GIO deep dive discussions on environmental sustainability hatched a great idea. They proposed a place (virtual, of course) where companies could openly share intellectual property and patents that could have a positive effect on the environment. They called it the Eco-Patent Commons.

Well I’m pleased to announce that today the Eco-Patent Commons has become a reality. Along with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and in partnership with Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony, IBM officially announced the Eco-Patent Commons, hosted here at the WBCSD web site.

It’s a simple enough idea, really (as most of the best ideas are.) The thinking is that many companies are protecting environmentally beneficial IP. But if that information were made public, then the benefits could be multiplied many times over. Not only that, but when IP gets widely distributed, it gets iterated and improved. And the costs to take advantage of those innovations go down for each individual company. Just look at open source software.

So there is an open invitation to companies (and individuals) to share, royalty-free, their environmentally responsible patents with the world. The patents can pertain to just about any aspect of environmental consideration, such as energy conservation, fuel efficiency, pollution prevention, materials reuse or reductions, and recycling opportunities. For example, IBM has pledged a cost-effective, shock-absorbing packaging tray that uses 100-percent biodegradable fiberboard and no glues. Nokia is contributing a patent designed to help companies reuse mobile phones by transforming them into other useful products, like cameras or monitoring devices.

You get the idea. The point of all this is that when you get hundreds of smart people representing the right organizations, good things happen. So go to the web site, browse the patents, and see if there is something that you or your organization can use, or improve upon, to make a difference.

And stay tuned for an update on the 2008 Global Innovation Outlook topics. It’s going to be another big year.

January 14, 2008 in Security and Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack