By Martina Larkin, Head of Europe and Euroasia, Executive Committee, World Economic Forum

In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, nobody knows with certainty what tomorrow will look like. But what we do know is that if we do not shape the future, we may arrive at a future that we have not chosen and that we do not want. We also know that we need systemic thinking, on a scale never before undertaken, to prepare our institutions, our organisations and our societies for an era in which the physical, biological and digital worlds converge with a scale and scope never seen before.

The speed and scale of these developments is putting enormous pressures on organisations, including public institutions. How can they ensure they develop regulatory frameworks which also for a positive impact of developments such as artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, and many others? There are four key areas which public institutions need to champion in order to really adapt to the changes brought forward by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Understand the transformations

Public institutions need to better understand and gain leading edge intelligence about the latest developments ahead. While not all institutions might have the capacity to develop these capabilities internally, they may think of innovative models of cooperation and collaboration with research institutions, pooling resources or turn to the vast knowledge available online and through virtual tools.

Develop new decision-making methods

The traditional way of decision making methods is under great pressures due to the drastically increased complexity, speed and impact of this new digitised society. Public institutions need to solve new issues through more agile, flexible governance and policy making frameworks.  Different methods of decision making need to be explored to adapt to this new reality.

Public private cooperation

The challenges brought forward by the Fourth Industrial Revolution call for a more horizontal, global and multistakeholder approach which can identify innovative principles, norms and policy frameworks that facilitate a fast global adaptation of new technologies for inclusive positive impact, while minimising the potentially negative consequences. The World Economic Forum has just created a new Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution which will act as a hub for public private collaboration for leading technology companies, policy makers, regulators, academia, civil society and international organisations and drive action on closing the governance gap which was developed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses.

Engage with society and the next generation

Young people across the world do not feel sufficiently able to actively contribute to shaping decision-making in their countries. They are growing up in this digital world and are very well versed with its realities, virtual and physical and they need to be given a space at the table to help ensure that the developments brought forward by the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefit society at large. We need to learn the lessons from the past and ensure that we develop a global system which is more inclusive and allows people to benefit from the progress. Young people can help champion this new way forward, they combine new ideas and an optimistic outlook with the energy, competence and passion to bring their vision to life. Young people want to contribute to the important challenges of our time and we must make them part of the conversation and part of the processes that guide us towards a future that we want.