A tweet alone might go unnoticed, but a swarm of them can make quite a buzz. Take the examples of movements such as Black Lives Matter, or online petitions like the one in favour of women on banknotes in the UK, or demonstrations in the Middle East and elsewhere organised on social media. Collective action made up of individuals microdonating effort, time and money on social media to political and social causes is characteristic of our turbulent times. Political Turbulence shows how social media activism works, who is involved and what consequences it might have. 

Goethe said, “He who lives must be prepared for changes.” The fourth industrial revolution will certainly bring about significant changes that we will have to be prepared for. Japanese estimates suggest that the use of big data and analytics in some divisions of Japanese manufacturers could lower maintenance costs by almost JP¥5 trillion (€41 billion). Other estimates suggest that new technologies could boost value-added in Germany’s mechanical, electrical and automotive sectors, among others, by an additional €78 billion by 2025. 

©OECD/Michael Dean

Did you know that each of the OECD’s 35 member countries is represented by a mission with full diplomatic status? The size of these OECD delegations varies by country size, but each one has a permanent representative at ambassadorial level, including this author. Together we make up the OECD Council that oversees the work programme set by member countries for the organisation. But our role goes beyond mere representation.  

©David Rooney

A systems approach can be applied to more complex administrative challenges, from transport and tourism to the environment.

©Rights reserved

BEPS multilateral instrument will close loopholes in thousands of tax treaties worldwide.

©OECD Observer/Reuters*

Public trust is not doing well in many modern democracies. If it is the canary in the coal mine, in survey after survey, the canary has been brought up wheezing at best.

Digitalisation has already been under way for about half a century, yet it is only now that everyone is talking about a digital revolution. Why? One reason is the spread of faster and better connectivity. In 2013, about 80% of OECD countries had complete broadband coverage, fixed or wireless. Another reason is the global surge of smartphones–today, many millions of people walk around with constantly connected minisupercomputers in their pockets. With these changes, the transformation morphs from being economic to being social as well.

©Serprix

The first generation of those born into the internet age is already joining the workforce and yet the internet still manages to disrupt. The phenomenon of fake news is one of the by-products of digital transformation and it is worth taking a look at what is new, and not so new, and how it fits in to the rest of what some are calling the “post-truth world”.

Think back to a time when your purse or wallet was stolen, or your laptop with all your files in it lifted from your bag, or any other possession taken from you. What did you feel? Probably outrage, anger and even despair, perhaps with a surprising sense of helplessness.

The healthcare sector is awash with data, whose range and volume are growing exponentially. But they will sit unused in data warehouses, often from fear of being misused, unless fundamental action is taken. The OECD Recommendation on Health Data Governance can help countries in managing the risks and harnessing the benefits from health data.

©National Board of Health and Welfare, Sweden

The word “patient” comes from Latin, and means “the one that suffers”. Healthcare has historically been about “taking care” and “protecting” the patient that suffers. Under this view the patient is more or less helpless. The healthcare professional on the other hand plays the dominant role, as an authority, to be heeded and obeyed. This attitude is all too prevalent today, in that the passive patient is not seen as having useful knowledge or capacities, and so must wait patiently for the doctors’ orders. 

©Rights reserved

We often say that in healthcare policy there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But despite the many differences in how countries define, organise and deliver health services and medical care, a number of common challenges can be tackled together. Most national health systems face unprecedented pressures to evolve, be it because of demographics, technological developments, changing epidemiology or patient engagement, and they often struggle to deliver tailored, patient-centred care, while keeping their spending in check.

©Photosensitive/Reuters

The UN Sustainable Development Goals could be a real game changer for gender issues, with wins in fraught areas such as reproductive rights. But there will be challenges, and opposing voices, to contend with in the years ahead.

Joan Clos ©UN-Habitat

If urbanisation is one of the most important global trends of the 21st century, with some 70% of the world’s population forecasted to live in cities by 2050, then urbanisation in Africa–and the ways in which that growth occurs–marks one of the most significant opportunities for achieving global sustainable development.

Seven years after creating the Wikigender portal in English, the OECD Development Centre launched the French version on 16 December 2015. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, International Francophone Organisation and the French Development Agency were among those associated with the launch.

©Korean government

Of the abundant resources given to mankind, what is the most underused resource of our time? Without a doubt, women! 

©David Rooney

Three out of four people access the Internet everyday across the OECD. But one-third of those daily users don't yet buy online. Why not? According to a 2014 consumer survey the top two concerns reported by EU Internet shoppers are the misuse of personal data and security of online payments. 

©Serprix

The digital economy is a transformative process, brought about by advances in information and communications technology (ICT) which has made technology cheaper and more powerful, changing business processes and bolstering innovation across all sectors of the economy, including traditional industries. Today, sectors as diverse as retail, media, manufacturing and agriculture are being impacted in some way by the rapid spread of digitalisation. In the broadcasting and media industry, for instance, the expanding role of data through user-generated content and social networking have enabled internet advertising to surpass television as the largest advertising medium.

© Klaus Ohlenschlaeger / Alamy Stock Photo

Running for elected office is a worthy but often costly business, and election campaigns increasingly rely on funding. But at what price for the political system? What are the democratic risks associated with the funding of political parties and their election campaigns? How might regulation address those risks and tip the balance in favour of the interests of all citizens, and not just the well-off? Financing Democracy sheds light on these key–and somewhat taboo–questions. 

©David Rooney

The political landscape of global governance is changing profoundly. This is posing great challenges to policy makers and organisations such as the OECD.

Ugo Rossi ©Rights reserved

Since 1982 the OECD Programme on Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) has advised governments and local authorities on how to respond to economic challenges in a fast-changing world. One key initiative in this regard came in 2003 when it set up the Trento Centre for Local Development, with the Italian government and the Autonomous Province of Trento in Italy, with a mission to help build capacity and inform policy actions. So far the Trento Centre has issued more than 127 reviews, studies, guides and manuals; over 21,000 local development policy makers and practitioners have also benefited from Trento Centre capacity development seminars and activities.

©David Rooney

Now more than ever, the digital economy is the economy. Digital technologies, or Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), are boosting trade, innovation, entrepreneurship, and with them growth and social wellbeing. Those benefits depend on openness. Openness has technical, economic and social dimensions, from open standards for core technologies and protocols, and competitively priced access for users, to the respect for human rights, freedom of expression and privacy. In essence, openness enables people to access, and do more things with, digital technologies: start a business online, create new products and business processes or revolutionise existing ones, express opinions, raise capital, share knowledge and ideas, conduct research, interact with government, improve skills, and much more. 

©Dennis MacDonald/Alamy Stock Photo

Connectivity is the foundation for the digital economy. The Internet has already connected more than three billion users across the globe and about 14 billion devices. 

Click to enlarge

Given Korea’s prowess in digital goods, it should come as no surprise to see the country leading the field in e-governance. Its lead, notably in open data, owes much to government efforts and investments in digital infrastructure and systems since the 1990s. In 2014 more than 70% of all Koreans reported having used the internet at least once over the previous 12 months to interact with the public authorities, whether to obtain information on a government website, or to download or file a form, for instance. That’s far more than the OECD average of 55%. 

In October, world leaders will gather in Quito for the Habitat III summit to launch the New Urban Agenda. This is on top of the start this year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

©Charlotte Moreau

Sanctions need to be imposed on offshore centres to make money laundering more expensive. And, in response to shell companies investing their wealth in the London and New York property markets, French stocks and German bonds, a worldwide financial register should also be created. 

©David Rooney

I’m sure you’ve all heard about “the open Internet.” The expression builds upon a rich pedigree of the term “open” in various contexts. It gives the impression that “open” is some positive attribute, and when we use the expression of the “open Internet” it seems that we're lauding it in some way. But are we, and if so, in what way?

©Alamy

The rapid rise of a new generation of connected, intelligent devices—collectively known as the Internet of Things, or IoT—is more than just the latest digital enabler to impact organisations of all sizes. The IoT presents vast opportunities for governments and businesses to improve internal efficiencies, serve their customers or constituents better, and enter new markets or provide new services. Such services will transform the way we work and live every day. As the IoT develops, it is essential that security-by-design be a core feature of the connected device ecosystem.

©David Rooney, originally for OECD Observer No 220, April 2000. All OECD Observers since 1962 are on www.oecd-ilibrary.org

Four decades after their adoption, the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises have never been more relevant to ensuring that businesses behave responsibly, wherever they operate.

If there is a silver lining to the 2008 financial crisis, it is that it was a catalyst for the unprecedented progress we have made in building robust international tax standards for the interconnected global economy of the 21st century.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

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