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Technology, business intelligence, knowledge and change

Over the last two years, Georgetown University has been offering a rather interesting experiment in leadership development.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK

Georgetown University has been offering a rather interesting experiment in leadership development for the last two years. Under the title “Leadership for Competitiveness,” it defines the four month program as “an original alternative to train emerging leaders for Latin America.” The brainchild of Jose Maria Aznar, the former president of Spain who is now on the Georgetown faculty, it has graduated around 50 high leadership potential individuals from a number of different countries. At last count, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Spain and Venezuela have been represented in the roster of participating nations. The expectations are that over the next couple of decades, these young men and women will have a shot at serving in prominent positions back in their countries; and what they learn at Georgetown gives them a solid base from which to launch new policies and initiatives.

Our role in this program has been to introduce the importance of technology as a driver of change and explain how leadership must create the necessary conditions for this to happen. In particular, we try to make the point that technologies are important primarily because they contribute directly to the wealth of nations, and that without a strong technological base, wealth creation at the national level will languish.

How do we define technology for them? Very, very broadly. We give them the well-known definition of the late University of Maryland contrarian economist Julian Simon: “Technology is the know-how to convert what we have into what we want.”

Should a country be trying to pick winners and losers in term of what technologies are going to be important? We provide them with a case study or two such as how the Japanese did it just prior to 1990, when their Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) put together the following list of technologies to push in Japan: microelectronics, biotechnology, computers (hardware and software), materials, aerospace, machine tools and robots.

Bringing us to today, we suggest that there are three meta-technological revolutions in progress that deserve attention because they deal with life (bio-molecular revolution), matter (quantum revolution) and mind (information technology revolution). Then, we proceed to explain that they overlap in many ways as they proceed from science to their application through technology.

A panel introduces students to a broader understanding of technologies by delving deeper into some of these areas. A historical overview of medicine is presented from a technology perspective, and as the future of medicine is discussed, the importance of information technology starts to become critical (Dr. Guillermo Gutierrez, Professor at George Washington University School of Medicine). Information and communications technologies are likewise introduced, and the convergence of IT and communications is highlighted (Mr. Oscar Bazoberry, Chairman of World Data Corp.). Lastly, students learn about energy technologies – wind, solar, nuclear, hydraulic, as well as fossil fuels – and address the current and future dilemmas they present for the planet and their individual countries (Dr. Michael Telson, former Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Energy). In all cases, we try to bring out both the challenges and opportunities that these present for the Latin America region.

Then, we lecture the group on science and technology policy in the United States. Without necessarily stating that the way we do it is best – since there are certainly enough flaws with our approach and it’s open to much controversy – but at least it provides a model for students to understand and critique as they think about what might later on be appropriate in their own context. This lecture is also conducted by Dr. Telson, who served for almost 20 years as the expert on energy, science and technology for the Budget Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lastly, we divide the class into several teams and engage them in a case study requiring them to develop and present a science and technology initiative for one of the participating countries.

Yet the bulk of the one-week module is built around knowledge management and business intelligence. A full day is dedicated to educating students on the basics of the discipline and discussing its importance in the context of technology and public policy. We provide the findings from the World Bank’s Knowledge for Development (K4D) initiative indicating the value for developing countries to shift toward knowledge economies if they are to make progress in moving out of poverty and stagnation. We show them how they rank in the K4D web site based on an index computed from multiple variables around the so-called four pillars of the Knowledge Economy Framework:

  • Economic and Institutional Regime
  • Education
  • Innovation
  • Information Infrastructure

The session has been thus far received with much enthusiasm by the students. Furthermore, the model could be easily adapted for groups from other parts of the world such as Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Now, we must sit and wait while these young men and women return to their lands and make their way into positions of leadership. Only then will we see whether what they learned at Georgetown will be of any value to their countries.

Dr. Barquin is the President of Barquin International, a consulting firm, since 1994. He specializes in developing information systems strategies, particularly data warehousing, customer relationship management, business intelligence and knowledge management, for public and private sector enterprises. He has consulted for the U.S. Military, many government agencies and international governments and corporations.

Dr. Barquin is a member of the E-Gov (Electronic Government) Advisory Board, and chair of its knowledge management conference series; member of the Digital Government Institute Advisory Board; and has been the Program Chair for E-Government and Knowledge Management programs at the Brookings Institution. He was also the co-founder and first president of The Data Warehousing Institute, and president of the Computer Ethics Institute. His PhD is from MIT. Dr. Barquin can be reached at rbarquin@barquin.com.

Editor's note: More government articles, resources, news and events are available in the BeyeNETWORK's Government Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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