Cranlana News

Kim Williams: The unwavering march of general ignorance

Below are the full remarks delivered by Kim Williams AM at the Alumni Speaker Series on 21 July 2016. Photos from the event can be seen on the gallery page.

 

We are gathered tonight on the lands of the Kulin nation and I would like to acknowledge them as the traditional owners. I pay my respects to Elders past and present and to the Elders of other indigenous communities in Australia. I also take this moment to acknowledge the diverse peoples and cultures who have been welcomed to this nation. Finally I recognise our shared freedoms and responsibilities, inherited from Magna Carta and on through the common law. All these three elements shape modern Australia.

As an Australian I value the opportunity to acknowledge country as a simple act of reconciliation. I also increasingly feel compelled to recognise the many peoples, ethnicities and faiths which comprise our nation, given the never ending assault on difference which too often permeates society today. The common rights we all enjoy at law also need to be recalled and defended relentlessly in providing bedrock to our future.

History matters. Symbols matter. Especially in a speech at Cranlana which has such devotion to centrally important precepts of a just and civil society. 

I have chosen to speak about the ‘challenge of leadership in the digital diaspora’ – is it impossible?

Many here tonight by virtue of their positions and devotions, represent what I might describe as strands of a broad, for want of a better term, ‘public academy’. Rather different from the original Greek Academy but nevertheless an academy in a broad sense of those committed to discourse, the pursuit of wisdom and skill and above all the defence of truth. 

What I describe as the ‘public academy’ – the social extension and application of ethics from learnt principles and behaviours - has a vital role as never before. It must respond to radical new methodologies which provide very real challenge to leadership.

I will offer some thoughts on the key elements of digital disruption highlighting common challenges to leadership and policy formulation in this unpredictable time– lively discussion will, I hope, follow.

This discussion occurs soon after a recent federal election which dramatised the distinct absence of preparedness in the national change toolkit on many fronts. 

The velocity of contemporary change produces thoroughly altered behaviours and expectations in the community - both follow from the application of digital technologies. These forceful changes require adaptive ingenuity and the need to change cultures ground up in order to sustain real understanding in the world generally. And it requires real assistance from that extended ‘public academy.’ 

People often say the world is changing. This misses the point. The world is not changing – it has changed. Forever. 

We have witnessed the largest power transfer in human history. I refer to the unprecedented transfer of power from producers and authorities to consumers, or as I prefer, citizens. The significance of this shift is difficult to exaggerate. Impossible to stop. 

Those who ignore the essential elements of change, where citizens are now increasingly in charge, are destined to fail. Those who enter this new environment openly, with a determination to adjust and adapt, have the best opportunity to prosper. 

Meeting these potent forces which demand reconfiguration is not easy. Relevant responses with new approaches are essential to driving sustainable futures. The impact in the public and private sectors are equally massive. 

All strands of endeavour are seeing unprecedented turbulence. The effect on politics and direction of governments is presently unclear, although on all available evidence it is often deeply troubling. 

Dramatic change is everywhere, reflected in wholly different commercial and social operating models and in people’s behavioural responses. The game has changed. 

The future is for many a pretty scary place, and making future predictions is always a risky business. The famous futurist George Gilder in the 1990s predicted the death of television before the start of the 21st Century. A bold effort with a messy outcome for him. But all he really did was get the timing wrong – TV as we know it, will change over the next decade, or much sooner. No doubt about it. It is happening now. 

So at the risk of getting the timing or other elements wrong, here are just some of my personal observations as to central elements in the digitally empowered future and the impact from these great change forces on our societal culture and leadership:

  • The strong trend in power transfer to consumers will accelerate. 
  • Consumers will continue to channel trust with their friends and online communities of complete strangers before they trust traditional authorities, leaders and commentators or well established brands. Often ‘truth’ itself will be under ferocious attack in this process. 
  • Fragmentation and new fusions in many things will accelerate. The outcomes will be unpredictable – the only constant will be the necessity or inevitability of dramatic change.
  • With so few barriers to entry in a digital world, the cost of failure has never been lower because the cost of innovation, never lower, will continue to decline. This is crucial, representing a massive change especially for incumbent enterprises as previous protection benefits erode.
  • Many sustainable commercial models are either unresolved or still shaky. However as they are worked out, much commercial carnage will follow, ensuring these will continue as choppy, uncertain times. Indeed digital models almost always tend to be really quite destructive of existing delivery.
  • Which means that the turbulence and speed of change, the disruption and breakup central to digital life is going to be with citizens, their governments, businesses and investors for a long time because upheaval and all its, in many ways, messy impacts has only just begun. This will require creativity and agility to succeed – both with the broad community and with the myriad niches in society.
  • As part of this turbulent process technology will continue to become an almost genetic extension of ourselves. Touch, gesture and voice commands are all becoming second nature in modern product constructs embedding technology patterns and personalities from the youngest age. The technology is now an embedded part of most of us and for teenagers almost core to their being.
  • The new cultural paradigm is that if I can imagine it, it simply has to be there – I just have to find it (or invent it myself). A weighty reset in thinking!
  • We will continue to see increasing consolidation in markets and fiercely heightened competition internationally where technology smarts define both the field of battle and success on it.
  • Large international software players, who innovate for a living, will offer a stunningly wider range of products and content services, through worldwide distribution management where geographic separation will become ever less relevant. 
  • Nations and their legal frameworks over time, will be substantially bypassed in this process. The impact of this huge disintermediation has not yet been examined or really understood by governments. With political parties it is almost entirely ignored. 
  • Network speeds and the ubiquitous connectivity from wireline and wireless technologies will increase relentlessly. Huge network speed and capacity expansion will be matched with ever more sophisticated software tools empowering astonishing change in the way in which we produce, manage, store, deliver and consume information and use new digital products.  
  • A central element on which there can be little debate is that mobile technology and allied software will continue to rise and rule, ensuring ubiquitous software as the dominant change force.
  • Consumers now expect mobile devices to become the central controllers for other devices and services in their lives. The handy ‘computer in your pocket’ will rule the day with ever better functionality. 
  • Consumers will demand that a wider variety of devices work together harmoniously and seamlessly. Moreover they will want them to work together in ways that change fundamentally how they consume and interact with content and a vast array of life services. In fact many now almost expect the technology to know them and anticipate their wants and needs. 
  • New players and on-line providers will continue to grow and enter the Australian marketplace which will be remarkably vulnerable if it doesn’t change the game as it operates currently. We attach too much virtue and benefit to incumbency. It means many large players are unusually vulnerable because they have the wrong cultural settings often drawn from protection, with an incapacity to respond swiftly and with requisite, confident dexterity.
  • In this connected world societies which don’t achieve consistent innovation and productivity improvement will experience unusually harsh declines in living standards with competitive advantage vanishing quite quickly.
  • The nature of work will change profoundly. People will experience much longer working lives and need regularly refreshed training.
  • On all available evidence employment levels will decline. On the one hand automation will assert itself ever more aggressively and on the other there will be widespread fresh collaborative models with cross border alliances. 
  • Cities will continue to grow and will depend on the quality of their distributed technology and services sophistication to maintain agreeable, competitive amenity, central to efficient work and social harmony. Great cities will have networks of deployed smart hubs with little relationship to nineteenth century organisational principles currently seen.
  • Education, which has to date been one of the slowest respondents to change, will be revolutionised. Parents will demand new performance and efficient delivery standards in primary and secondary levels. The flow of talent and teaching around the world will quicken as will truly tough comparative assessment. Tertiary institutions will be judged ruthlessly across geographies with striking force by students, employers and commentators equally. 
  • The digital divide will be very real and will expand with the fresh irony that the wonder of all that is available will also see a new information ‘dark age’ for many who will be locked out.
  • Without determined action by informed governments cohorts of education advantage and disadvantage will expand with severe consequences as to equity, aspiration and direction.
  • There will be a lightning speed in uptake of increasingly intelligent software tools with advanced learning capacity and omnipotent automation. Machine to machine conversations will be central to society. M2M will be as common a term as B2B and B2C are today.
  • The advances in data science and analysis by statisticians will continue to prove astounding. Developments in data collection, storage and analysis – known collectively as ‘big data’ – will transform business and consumer horizons with the best known use being in ever better refined search, intelligent learning software and new flexible stacked organisation frameworks. Presently the primary laggard in this space is government itself.
  • The autonomous autarchies already enabled from internet search algorithms will continue to provide one of the most independent potent forces into unpredictable territory. It will be a force for good and bad equally, substantially outside traditional supervision controls of governments.
  • The application of search in all things from jokes to physics; real estate to recipes; employment to games and virtually all areas of human endeavour means that people will think and react very differently. Algorithm has after all, become part of daily vocabulary.
  • The phenomenon of that post 1981 generation – Gen Y or the "millennials" depending on your preference – already sees a large community which has a different attitude to self, work, play and interaction. This generation will need to be better understood if one is to productively engage commercially, politically, creatively and in creating durable attractive employment and social environments.
  • Enhanced reality and its devices will become second nature to millennials and their children.
  • Fundamentally central to this new world is the augmented power of social media, based increasingly on mobility extending into active consumer directive engagement with everything from opinions to products and services. Trust is the primary currency here and established notions of truth may well be the main victims. 
  • Time is the other great currency of the era we are entering and technology is central to managing it. Technologies we have even yet to know we want will rise powerfully and be adopted or discarded rapidly. Remember that American millennials already spend over 5 ½ hours with social media daily. They check their phones at least 50 times a day and 82% sleep with their phones on!
  • And therefore of course, that ‘instant expert’, now an established part of digital social life, will become ever more irksomely pervasive!
  • The interconnected nature of that generation arising from social media and constant digital engagement will see travel increase powerfully with huge social impacts in many countries affecting life partnerships, immigration, health, infrastructure, education, security and in countless other ways. 
  • The implications for defence priorities in military deployment and technology potentials will be in a realm which would make H G Wells, John Le Carre and Neal Stevenson gasp in disbelief. The rise of the modern ‘militarized economy’ as William Fulbright described the USA decades ago will, regrettably continue inexorably - seen particularly in the United States, the Russian Federation and the PRC. The consequences for clear thinking and informed decisions are pretty frightening.
  • On the brighter side personalised medicine and the field of genomics mapping from birth will be matter of fact realities transforming healthcare delivery. Healthcare will see a flip where it will become more about wellness management than sickness care. Thank goodness as we are all going to live a heck of a lot longer!
  • The consequences for such issues as sustained peace, sustainable environment approaches, and common life issues from education through the retirement age, income planning and future healthcare are only now starting to be seriously discussed. The intergenerational issues which arise are and will continue to be complex. 
  • Equally importantly, notwithstanding the unpredictability and insecurity such turbulent change and consolidation generates, the opportunities will be on a very large scale and, one hopes, compelling. Change is a given but the liberation to human ingenuity with this era of inventiveness unleashed and the opportunities it affords, is central to our future. And remember, the journey is only in its infancy.
  • From all of this transformation we will continue to see change in our political systems and the way we relate to each other as fellow citizens. Who knows where that will take us all culturally but the implications are quite mind shifting, going into completely unchartered territory. 

However it is clear that political parties are insufficiently engaged with these change processes and their profound implications. I regret to say that many systems in the bureaucracy that supports them are also insufficiently engaged, often lacking what I might call ‘digital smarts’. 

Does it all reflect a strange amalgam between the writings of J G Ballard, Phillip K Dick, Aldous Huxley, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov and George Orwell? Does this all seem remarkably dystopian or will it offer new horizons of wonder, optimism and social improvement?  

Truthfully the answers are probably yes and no in equal parts. But it is obvious that disengagement is not a realistic option. After all, these things will happen. We have commenced a fascinating, albeit compulsory, ride. One which will have ever increasing speed with the necessity of adjustment to digital disruption at its centre. 

Let me turn to some issues I would observe are central to the experience of disruption demanding reimagined cultural responses.  

Culture here may be seen on two parallel sides. The first is that of the personality of our societal and domestic lives and the spirit which is reflected in the way we manage, decide, communicate and interact. 

The second side is of course that which reflects the total outputs and delivered creative products in our society – in other words those things that make up ‘capital C’ Culture. 

The notion of periods of stability and static movement followed by modest incremental change or bursts of invention have vanished. The evidence of this revolution is everywhere. Incrementalism is an historical facet of pre 21st century culture.

We see it in the changing consumption and interaction habits driven by digital technology. Think of how you graze the world and buy things now compared with your parents. Imagine what will happen with all the key services and goods you will consume in fifteen years’ time – there will be little resemblance with today. I am sure you will all have your own examples of this change. But few of you would disagree that it’s upon us like a hurricane.  

In all this turbulence many of our most prominent ‘capital C’ Cultural institutions confront issues of how to sustain relevance. More importantly they must confront an enemy which provides a fascinating paradox in such an information rich age. I refer here to what I would describe as the unwavering march of ‘the general ignorance.’ 

Our great cultural institutions: and here I refer to our parliaments and courts; our universities, museums, galleries, archives and state libraries and their parallels in the performing arts, now frequently operate in a perplexing context. They can however, if purposefully renewed in applying resources imaginatively and above all responsibly, confront this fascinating feature of modern society.

 I suggest the challenge is to confront the march of ‘general ignorance’ directly. A head on direct knowledge and communication attack on growing public ignorance.

Many here may be thinking given my preamble about change – what planet is he on? Where is he coming from?  What is he referring to in the march of ignorance – doesn’t he know the internet pervades our very being? Isn’t he aware of social media and its ubiquity? 

Doesn’t he know about the ‘Appopcracy’ in which we live and of almighty Google uniting and linking us all in a knowledge economy which shares endlessly? Where is he at?  

I say in response Yes – I do know all of that. 

And I would say it provides the essential challenge. A challenge for all public institutions. And particularly for our great institutions whether parliamentary, judicial, educative or in the realm of creation, collection and performance. A challenge which is both confronting and healthy, a challenge with many parts. 

Part of the challenge is seen where the instant expert I mentioned earlier, presents unusually confident views on a daily basis. 

The challenge where she or he is empowered with remarkable resources as never before, invariably from the friendly omnipresent ‘computer in your pocket’ with immediate access to so much, some would argue virtually all, of the world’s accumulated knowledge.  

But and it is a very big B. U. T., so often the reception of that information is absent the core discipline of active listening and the critical allied skills of analysis, synthesis and assessment in terms of context, accuracy and perspective. Which must also include the application of necessary scepticism which conditions all good, disciplined thought. And it is disciplined thought which provides the bedrock of learning, clear thinking and wise decision making. 

Let me summarise that challenge simply; in two words: Donald Trump. He is but one fine example of the march of the general ignorance and its unseemly allies – spectacular hubris, indulged vented rage and indifference to truthfulness. He offers no regard for wisdom, history, responsibility or accountability.

A fine notion of wisdom was described by the great American historian Barbara Tuchman in The March of Folly, as representing ‘the exercise of good judgement acting on experience, common sense and available information’. Such wisdom is absent in too much modern discourse. Elders provide wisdom and we need to elevate their role and use.

All too often in modern exchanges we lack the marriage of discipline, doubt and its necessary partner in driving to find answers – insatiable curiosity. These are attributes inherent to wisdom and evolution in thought, teaching and learning. 

Curiosity and its essential partner, scepticism, are frequently absent in the search for that immediate answer and the opportunity to present an instant, technology facilitated, often ego-fuelled, opinion. 

I raise these issues to highlight the self-evident fact that few countries currently enjoy good and, on old fashioned objective appraisal, effective leadership. 

Demagogues rise on each continent; a blatant ‘kleptocracy’ rules Russia; there is rule from personality cultism in China; and the US presidential primary contest was dominated by many contenders who exhibited fundamental flaws in character and experience. 

Closer to home, the four primary parties in the last election were found wanting when tested at the ballot box with several historically low vote levels and an unprecedented rise of independents including the new extended phenomenon of surname based political parties, of which four – Xenophon, Lambie, Hinch and Hanson – will be seated in the new parliament. 

Why is leadership so challenged? Has it ever been this serious? And what is the cause? 

There seems to me to be an insidious torpor affecting the world, one where the populace is tuning out. Our politicians are rarely held to effective account because of all-too-frequent national memory failure. Slogans rule and acronyms are the lingua franca of political discourse. In large measure it derives from the unusual trifecta of media change, digital technology and growing community isolation, resulting in a phenomenon of this unwavering march of the general ignorance. There is a matching leadership failing in response. A dearth of caring, informed, persuasive advocacy. 

We live in a bizarre netherworld where narcissism increasingly rises. Where citizens feel unconstrained in offering opinions, often extraordinarily firm confident ones, with alarming assertiveness on the altar of nothing more than their own ‘feelings’ or worse, undefined ‘beliefs’.

Opinions are landed with no more perspective than a single often anonymous, source or idle comment on any diversity of subjects without regard to accuracy, perspective, alternate propositions and in blind disregard for the time taken to learn, think, test, listen, refine and then finally offer a thoughtful response. This was once seen as essential to the process of providing ‘worthy opinion’ which followed from an important but increasingly challenged skill - ‘deep thinking’.

Look at climate change and the way in which personal ‘belief’ is held higher by some leaders, than expansive scientific research from the world’s scientists spanning decades of close objective observation, debate and appraisal. 

Here reposes a core challenge to our capital C Cultural institutions. How do we refashion institutions to respond in ways that unite people with the glory of knowledge and study afresh, in a way which is imbued with humility, respect for thought, and with an enduring sense of wonder?  

Cultural leadership in a digital era has many very real continuing tests. There is a clear current shift focusing on the self to the detriment of community, where evidence from various studies reveals really substantial increases in personal assertiveness, self-importance and narcissism. 

I would suggest our great institutions must offer a challenge which is creative and provocative if they are to liberate connections to knowledge and inquiry effectively. They need to stimulate renewed pathways to deep thinking. Frankly they need to relearn the art of effective advocacy.

At the centre has to be a renewal in our approach to the core notion of articulated purpose and the ability to appraise performance against detail. We all need leadership which reflects articulated purpose of sufficient clarity and quality to have it serve as a ‘true north’ in policy formulation and operational delivery. 

Ponder the impact of modern technology on the way in which we read and process information and actually think, then read Nick Carr’s salutary The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Clearly for healthy social connection and deep thinking to survive new resourceful skillsets are required in a context where there are many increasingly fuzzy and diffuse signals.

Change is demanded to ensure we manage the journey liberated in using these new digital tools, well – because digital chemistry and personality now permeates all engagement. 

But let’s not be romantic about it. The core logic, intelligence and imagination informing that process must come from understanding the settings and experience of history. Our great institutions need to rethink ways which reinvent their audience relationship coherently to help make this happen.

As Elie Wiesel, the recently deceased Nobel Laureate and writer of the four great books Night; Dawn; Day and Twilight said: “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”

From that notion let’s look at the last election and the published policies of some representative groups of political parties elected – the Liberals, Nationals, Labor, Greens, Nick Xenophon Team, Jacquie Lambie Network and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

Of all those parties, only one had what might be described as a full policy manifesto – the ALP- with a 239 page document setting out its core policy agenda across a representative spectrum of commonwealth responsibilities. There is much to challenge and debate in it. Whatever your politics and whatever the merits of the content, it does read as a working summary of that which the party stands for in aiming to win office. Surprisingly not one of the other parties published such a document. I think it represents an approach which in our collective interest, should be encouraged from all parties.

The Liberals offered a set of top line, and it has to be said alarmingly superficial, summaries (with no back up detail) on what was called ‘Our Plan’. For the second election in a row they offered no policy at all on arts and culture. And one would not want to venture into much of the remaining policy terrain if you value detail and commitment from which a party can be held to account. There simply was little substance to hold any of it high as a public policy proposition. And I do mean that dispassionately and as much as is possible, apolitically.

Like the Liberals, the Nationals offered a core plan across 33 policy areas beefed up if you will pardon the pun, with a series of published media releases. 

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation had 27 matters including an alarmingly slight policy on euthanasia (for those interested it requires two adults and one doctor to authorise euthanasia, no ifs, no buts) before venturing into its wacky policy content on the alleged international conspiracy about climate change. It then went through various grab bags of obsessional rants on policy including matters on Islam with the banning of halal food; dress; immigration; mosque construction; and the use of the Qur’an for parliamentary oaths. 

The Jacquie Lambie Network offered 16 pages of policy with fourteen areas of dedicated concern, interestingly not any of which cover Tasmania specifically. Preferred positions were on Defence, Veterans’ Welfare, Education, Tax Reform, Sharia Law, Halal Certification, Indigenous Australia, Parliamentary Conscience Votes, Foreign Aid, Special Economic Zones, Energy issues and Agriculture.

 The Greens offered a very glossy layout with more photos occupying its 47 pages than words. It covered a well-known range of concerns with rather confident substantial financial commitments, none of which they have to deliver.

Rounding out the range of offerings is the Nick Xenophon Team which had a different approach with no actual policies but rather ‘policy principles’ to guide formulation across 42 domains which reflect primary concerns to that party. Different!

I encourage you all to read the published pieces. It is salutary in terms of the stated purpose set out or not, as the case may be, against which our political leaders’ performance can be measured and held to account. In the main, it descends into policy by media release with all the substance that does not connote. 

Only a supreme optimist would see any of these approaches addressing even in part, the future context I described earlier. Personally I think it evidences contemporary political decline. 

Regrettably only two parties offered any policy at all on the arts, creative life and cultural matters. The evidence of modern political priorities is starkly, sadly, before us. 

In heartfelt defence of culture I would say that if we care about history and love our collections and the people who made the documents, paintings, books, sculptures, maps, manuscripts, objects, stories, studies, science and tools that inform them, then we owe them the continuing honour of rethinking the challenge of sustained community connection with old and new work.

On all sides the community connection challenge must be accepted clearly. It must avoid being condescending and must energetically celebrate the policy formulation journey itself. Because as I set out in my future summary, we have big issues to digest and address. 

We live in an era of conundrums. It is often said that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are the bywords for the current era. The Economist has in the inevitable way of things provided a new acronym for it - VUCA - in the excellent short monograph, Frugal Innovation. 

One of many cultural challenges in this age of digital disruption seems to me to repose in how we martial the amazing resources of the institutions and talents of the nation to ensure that policy responses and the actions which follow from them provide stability, confidence and clarity in addressing that complex future. This is core to a restated sense of purpose not only in in sharing the policy journey itself but in applying knowledge, creativity and the power of informed thought in adopting outcome focussed approaches which resource society to address needs and the future coherently. 

 Much of that process has at its core the fundamental importance of formal articulated purpose. Purpose which bears scrutiny. There is nothing in the 24 hour news cycle that can harm a reversion to the old fashioned principle of figuring something out and advocating hard for it with adjustments as necessary, in the light of other contributions or proven flaws in that which is proposed. 

It seems clear to me that our society is increasingly governed by several sustained characteristics, which are each profoundly unhelpful to committed improvement and clear direction in national public policy formulation – especially for those institutions dedicated to intellectual and creative life. Consequently that much abused term, the public interest, is serially disrespected. 

We see this particularly where money is treated as the measure of value in all things rather than as one of many important measures. This is seen in a growing tide of devotion to a style of managerialism which often evidences contempt for subject matter expertise or varied approaches to problem solving. In this period we see all too often, the rise of ‘econocrats’ who all too often don’t even have renovated tools for measurement and comprehension of the forces around us. Many profound impacts in social activity, for example the sharing economy, are either not measured or measured only in modest inadequate glimpses. 

We see it in lowered priorities from some in power, through neglect and disengagement in not seeing creativity and intellect as the vital drivers of the national future. We see it in commentators often being unable to disconnect discussion of science and the humanities from rigid ideological positions and all too often indulgent ranting. 

And we see it in society generally adopting a perilous course to celebrate the anti-intellectual and the triumph of what I have referred to as ‘the general ignorance’ over considered respectful debate which aims to test ideas and assumptions so as to arrive at evidence supported durable outcomes. 

An allied fearsome trend rejects considered knowledge based debate, replacing it with dogmatic assertion. I would describe this process as the ‘infantilisation’ of Australian cultural and science policy dialogue.  

It simply is not good enough. Surely we all must recognise that digital technology has changed forever the nature of information access, exchange and the direction of society through politics, commerce, creativity, education and communication in life as we know it. Continuing fragmentation is guaranteed – the ferocity of attack and the velocity of change will not abate. Merit, ingenuity, speed, flexibility and performance increasingly rule the day across the planet. 

As I think was seen in the recent election, Australia is losing in this process because of national policy weakness. The urgency of public policy renewal especially in education, the humanities and science is impossible to over emphasise. 

We are a small country at ‘the bottom of the world’ (notwithstanding the internet) with many parochial pillars, which are venomous to bold national ambition and achievement. A nation of 24 million, which speaks English is either profoundly advantaged or potentially disabled as a result almost entirely of its public policy settings and the ambition and outcomes they reflect. 

I suggest in an era of digital disruption it is essential that we respect our duty of intergenerational care and acknowledge the need for national ground up policy and institutional review to ensure a healthy, dynamic cultural landscape. One which is innovative, connected, ambitious and challenging. 

For social renewal and confidence in our institutions to grow, we need a different, informed policy approach focussed on advocated purpose, allied to targeted outcomes and substantive appraisal. If we do not redirect our approaches then social stagnation, declining education standards and a marked talent drain will inevitably result. We will have a poorer society and it will become in a digitally driven era, ever harder to rebound. 

We will all be failing if these issues are not confronted with imagination, logic and I would suggest, a decent measure of passionate commitment. 

We need leaders who will fortify the nation with necessary intellectual strength and resilience to succeed in an era of endless disruption ensuring we provide independent ramparts of solid committed purpose with real performance delivery which secures a confident future.

 

Kim Williams 

21 July, 2016