An undeniable change is afoot. No country is spared from the forces of digital disruption. Experts are sounding dire warnings of a near-future that will be profoundly disrupted by digitization, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), industrial automation, the internet of things (IoT) and rampant cyber threats, which have already undermined the cornerstones of democracy and trust in institutions. In response to these relentless changes the world needs a new breed of civic engagement that goes beyond Facebook activism, true political compromise, and, perhaps most importantly, the emergence of a new breed of elected leader who can champion people’s rights in a time when all lines are blurred. These leaders are veritable Digital Democrats and their numbers are scarce in the U.S. and around the world.
A Digital Democrat is a progressive leader prepared for the technical and technological challenges of the 21st century. These include the prospects of wide scale job loss due to industrial automation, combating hidden biases built into AI, while fostering a policy and security environment that cares for the people behind the binary code. Few if any leaders in office are adequately harnessing the risks and rewards of our time or our form of government. Any talk of government accountability, efficiency, or greater stewardship of scarce taxpayer resources that does not contemplate digital transformation, is simply not serious and will produce the very waste that is emblematic of a dysfunctional Washington.
Just as the workforce needs to reinvent itself to adapt to an increasingly digital world, our political class needs to confront the reality that so few of them are well-equipped to make sense of the 21st century. As with all organizations, the best decisions are made in an environment that prizes diversity. For this the U.S. Congress and Senate not only lack adequate representation of women, minorities, and other groups, they are decidedly light in their technological bench, with most elected officials coming from a legal pedigree.