Tony Blair: Modern technology heralds a new era of governance

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The former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, said modern technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), provides unparalleled opportunities for effective governance. Speaking at the Future of Britain conference in London, Blair opined that the transformative nature of technological advancements means "there has never been a better time to govern."  Sachin Dev Duggal, the founder of Builder.ai, also offered a nuanced perspective on AI governance.

The former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, said modern technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), provides unparalleled opportunities for effective governance. Speaking at the Future of Britain conference in London, Blair opined that the transformative nature of technological advancements means "there has never been a better time to govern."

Blair lists several initiatives, including AI integration across the private and public sectors, preventive healthcare, digital identity, and education through technology. He argues these measures could drive economic growth and realize significant financial benefits.

According to the Tony Blair Institute (TBI), if implemented by the 2024–25 fiscal year-end, these reforms could generate additional fiscal space totalling £12 billion per year. The rapid adoption of AI within the private sector could potentially double these benefits.

Tony Blair: Modern technology heralds a new era of governanceTony Blair: Modern technology heralds a new era of governance
Tony Blair: Modern technology heralds a new era of governance

Blair's vision for the use of AI in public service is particularly promising. According to TBI projections, this could save the UK around £10bn over the next five years through simplifying processes, automating tasks, and improving service delivery. This is a clear indication of the positive impact that AI can have on public service and governance.

Blair emphasized the potentiality of preventive healthcare technology, which he believes can lead to healthier people, a more robust economy with more people at work, and improved government finances. For instance, TBI cites a case where, within five years, an extra 70k people may be able to work again due to prevention programs on cardiovascular disease, thus leading to annual savings worth £600m for the UK Treasury, escalating to £1.2bn after ten years.

In addition, the former Premier also advocated for a digital ID system, arguing it could save about £4 billion in 5 years by tackling benefit fraud and improving tax collection. However, while setting up infrastructure costs approximately £100 million p.a., at least over three years after which its setup charges will be covered, thus raising circa £2 billion p.a. for HMT after that.

Blair's belief in the potential of AI in the education system to increase the UK's GDP by about 6% is a testament to the transformative power of technology. Sachin Dev Duggal, the founder of Builder.ai, also offered a nuanced perspective on AI governance. He emphasized the need for a balanced approach that addresses ethical and regulatory complexities without stifling innovation. He advocated cooperation between regulators and technologists to bridge knowledge gaps and create effective governance frameworks.

However, Blair admitted that properly exploiting these technological advances would necessitate a new direction in politics and governance. For him, the highest political authority must use technology to reestablish government sometime around the mid-21st century, with more public investments in technology, AI-era infrastructure, and lower-level responsive government.

Blair asked politicians to take advantage of these technologies and rethink how they govern today. He said that unless growth is improved, productivity is increased, value is added, and efficiency is enhanced in public expenditures, our nation's prosperity will be significantly eroded.

Although Blair's vision is rosy regarding the role of technology in governance, it should be acknowledged that achieving these changes will require much work, money, and thinking about problems and ethical issues. Nevertheless, Blair's optimism is infectious, and he believes that, by fully capturing the 21st-century technological revolution, the UK can change its economy and public services like never before.

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