Networks on the ballot

National elections change the networks and directions of governments, while human and electronic networks help manage change and transform risks into opportunities.

In 20 countries between now and January, elections will create opportunity and risk. Elections can change the responsibilities of key officials and the direction of e-government. Managing change in leadership and in the policies and rules governing international e-commerce requires effective networks.

Networks have always been integral to human society. Networking means capitalizing on the knowledge, skills and influence of your contacts and respecting the limits of your relationships. Organizations that understand the interdependencies between their changing networks and business objectives will lead in the New Economy.

The network model of working optimizes the intellectual assets of all participants because information is shared globally but maintained locally. Three ele-ments are essential in building and using this model: rewards, reliability and results. Unlike older models that depend on slow, central control of information, the network model rewards participants who share information that is accessible, understandable and verifiable. Open self-disclosure also builds the trust necessary to increase information sharing. Most importantly, the network model increases speed and quality by enabling informed and interactive decision-making.

During the Year 2000 fix, the network model created a virtual roundtable that enabled government officials from 170 countries — along with executives from global companies and representatives from international organizations — to collaborate on proposed solutions with equal voices and opportunities. The International Y2K Cooperation Center encouraged countries to develop Year 2000 Web pages detailing their readiness and contingency plans. Nations that developed dynamic and informative pages early on and kept them current were rewarded as companies and citizens who consulted those pages took actions favoring the more-prepared nations.

That network continues, tackling information security and policy transparency. In places where change is occurring — through national elections, deregulation and government restructuring — special attention is paid to maintaining reliable information on the local situation, such as who holds key positions, the impact of short-term decisions and the potential impact on e-society policy. Participants have an incentive to share information in the manner they choose.

For organizations that want to enhance existing networks or create new ones, the network model can:

    * Optimize intellectual assets by replicating best practices and avoiding wasteful duplication across organizations.

    * Increase return on investment by solving complex problems at the intersection of business, government and technology.

    * Open doors that build sustainable local partnerships and work collectively across business and government.

McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at the Office of Management and Budget, is president of McConnell International LLC.

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