Erdem Ovacik, Founder and CEO Donkey Republic

27.03.19 DIB News

Opinion: New Age Of Governance with Big data

It’s everywhere! ...The critique of technology, and of the few rich who control them. It seems that capitalism is moving full steam ahead with ever more burden put on our societies and planet.

We cannot expect tech companies, or tech workers - “to act responsibly” in a system where the incentives are skewed towards maximizing shareholder value without counting for social impacts.

Hence, we must govern.

To catch up with the lack of regulation and sustain a healthy level of it, we need to make some big brave leaps in our thinking of governance and regulation. And it can be done employing data and technology, with new ways of thinking government itself - fairly quickly and at a large scale.  Especially, here in Denmark!

Imagine a system where we have internalised the impacts that companies have on society. In simple words, this means tracing all kinds of socially relevant data in many (individual, neighbourhood and overall levels) and connect the impacts that companies have (through their products / services, and also their employment policies) on society with the companies’ profit and loss.

Now, imagine that we would ask each ministry to come up with 20 (or 100?!) of the most relevant KPIs (key performance indicators) that they aim to achieve. In example for the Ministry of Health, these KPIs would include (a reduction of) the rate of diabetes, alcohol, social isolation etc. By connecting these KPIs with the public budgets spent to reach these aims, we would also be able to figure out the unit cost of achieving these impacts in our public institutions. E.g. we would claim that it costs 50K kr. to prevent a person in danger of developing diabetes type II, or 2K kr. per year to keep the average citizen aware of key political facts and debates.

Next step would be to make these KPIs a part of companies’ profit and loss statements. Donkey Republic, a bike sharing service I co-founded and serve as the CEO of, creates a lot of positive public impact. Yet, it does not receive anything for those positive impacts - impacts such as creating more space in the city center by decreasing private cars, getting people to be more active, or the improved economic outcomes from tourism (visitors sight-seeing further outside the center, helping businesses in larger CPH, etc). Inclusion of social impacts in companies’ P/L means that companies who get away with focusing on their sales without the impact on society will suffer financial losses, while others like Donkey will enjoy better economics.

The thinking with outcome-based service delivery is not all new. We have done this now for a couple of decades with CO2 emissions. Companies do not only consider reducing CO2 emissions to look good on their CSR report - it will actually impact the business bottomline.

Yet given the tools of the day, we really can strive for such grand vision now. The main hurtle keeping us away from such public delivery management is collection and processing of data. By marrying data- and outcome-driven regulation with market-based thinking, we will essentially use markets to deliver social goods instead of private goods.

When we do this, we will provide the framework conditions for new business models towards more and better social impact.  We will also end up opening new markets. Denmark could in fact create companies that innovate in public space, and get far ahead of anyone in the world. 



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