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Professor Fountain Named World Economic Forum Council Chair

photo by Gabriel Pecot

Article by Sabine Cray

This past summer the World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Geneva, Switzerland, appointed Jane Fountain (political science and public policy) chair of Global Advisory Council on the Future of Government. Fountain, who is director of the National Center for Digital Government (NCDG) on campus and the interdisciplinary Science, Technology and Society Initiative, served as a Global Advisory Council member of the WEF for two years before receiving this significant leadership appointment.

An independent international organization since 1971, WEF seeks to improve the state of the world by partnering with leaders to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. It created the Network of Global Agenda Councils in 2008 to foster interdisciplinary and long-range thinking.  By combining the intelligence and cooperation of academia, government, business, and other fields, the Councils drive intellectual discussion, while monitoring and addressing the most pressing risks and challenges on global, industry and regional agendas. Each Council serves as the braintrust of the WEF and an advisory board to governments, international organizations, and other interested parties. The Network as a whole consists of over 1000 members from more than fifty countries.

While building on their achievements, the Councils this year, aligned with the WEF’s Global Risk Network, are focused on two key objectives: providing ongoing insights and developing response mechanisms. Each year these Councils share their recommendations at the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The event, scheduled for January, provides a key locus for the presentation and exchange of new ideas and proposals. In preparation for the Davos meetings, WEF hosted numerous virtual meetings as well as a global summit of these councils in Dubai at the end of November.

Fountain’s Council on the Future of Government includes about 20 government, business and NGO leaders from around the world. She will attend the Davos meetings to advocate for her council’s recommendations. Their work will also reach several other global and regional forums that are organized by WEF: regional meetings across the world, the Young Global Leaders meetings, industry sector meetings, and more.

“The Council chairs play a crucial role in leading deliberations and ensuring the members’ engagement in the process of rethinking and addressing global challenges and risks,” says Fountain. “This important work draws on the expertise and reputation of the NCDG and its associated faculty and students.”

An in-demand speaker, Fountain takes her message across the globe. Just this semester she presented a keynote address at the Portugal Tecnologica conference (Lisbon); a lecture on a case study of networked governance in Europe at Madrid’s Instituto Empresa (Madrid)—and she notes, “Undergraduate star and research assistant, Jeffrey Rothschild ’10, is a co-author of this study.”; the keynote at the Mobile Life conference in Brighton, UK; and the keynote at the national egovernment conference in Stockholm (and other talks while there) on top of her work for WEF and her teaching responsibilities every Monday.

Fountain is the principal investigator of the Ethics in Science and Engineering Online Resource Beta Site project and of the International Dimensions of Ethics in Science and Engineering project. She has served on the American Bar Association Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of e-Rulemaking and on several advisory bodies for organizations including the Social Science Research Council, the Internet Policy Institute, and the National Science Foundation. Fountain also has worked with governments and research institutions including the World Bank, the European Commission, Knowledge Management Asia Pacific, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Chile, Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Fountain’s book Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change(Brookings Institution Press, 2001) was awarded an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice and has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. Her articles have been published in scholarly journals including Governance, Technology in Society, Science and Public Policy, the National Civic Review, and The Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery.

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