The root and branch modernization and professionalization of the public sector happening in Saudi Arabia—required to usher in an era of diversified economic growth and increased opportunities for Saudi citizens—is a change almost as big as Vision 2030 itself. It will have implications for the global public policy discourse. This week the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman started his American state visit, engaging the world in his vision for the future of Saudi Arabia and the opportunities it provides beyond its borders. Vision 2030 is an ambitious plan to liberalize the economy and introduce social reform and is amongst the biggest socio-economic change in the country’s history. The scope and reach of these reforms demand a rapid modernization of the way Saudi Arabia is administered. And they raise interesting points to consider for all governments and decision-makers on how to harness technology and data to drive transparency, accountability and efficiency in public policy-making. The Saudi Vision’s governance model promotes efficient planning within government agencies and enables coordination among them to achieve common national goals. The Crown Prince’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs has introduced a series of new government bodies to support reform efforts, encouraging a culture of greater efficiency. These bodies include the National Center for Performance Measurement (Adaa), the Delivery and Rapid Intervention Center (DARIC) and the Project Management Office of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs—all focused on enabling and supporting change. Adaa was established to measure the progress and delivery of public entities within Saudi Arabia, enabling them to achieve greater efficiency. Adaa tracks progress on initiatives, programs, and objectives through internationally established measurements, supporting all ministries working towards the ambitious goals set out in Vision 2030. However, Adaa is also looking outwards and has created a first-in-class interactive platform that collects and visualizes global data to help support better data-led policy making for the global community. The International Performance Hub (IPH) captures 1.2 million data points from leading global indices such as the OECD and the World Bank, using technology developed with Microsoft and Dell, and covers areas ranging from education and energy to society and industry. It is aimed at helping governments, NGOs and multi-lateral agencies make the transformation towards data-driven decision-making, something we believe is key not just for fast-developing economies, but for long established ones too. We hope the IPH can help empower institutions and individuals to get one step closer to addressing today’s most pressing worldwide development challenges. Importantly, Adaa has been praised by the World Bank on its ability to build a strong in-house team with extensive expertise on performance measurement. In some areas, such as quality assurance or data presentation and visualization, the Bank views Adaa’s expertise as astonishing, saying it is “at or beyond what could be found in many OECD governments". That indicates our journey may provide an important contribution to the discourse on public sector reform, from Boston to Beijing. Easy, intuitive data delivery is key to making sure that the Saudi population is kept abreast of progress, which is essential for Vision 2030. That is why Adaa is also capturing citizens’ feedback on public services, to make sure that the voices of the different communities are heard in the evaluation and improvement of government performance. Beneficiary Experience employs several methodologies to capture this feedback including evaluation applications, mystery shoppers, public satisfaction polls and focus groups. This is something that governments across the world are increasingly focused on. There are early, encouraging, signs that reform is already working in Saudi Arabia. Business licenses for women, for example, went up 11 percent in the last quarter due to deregulation and policy enhancements. Government online services have drastically increased. The WEF Global Information Technology Report Saudi Arabia now ranks 18th globally, compared to the less stellar 73rd position in 2012. Lastly, the Kingdom is moving towards its goal to augment SME contribution to GDP: in the third quarter of 2017, total operational income for the segment increased 11% compared to the same quarter of 2016 (USD 218 million). We aim to improve the private sector contribution to GDP from 40% to 65% under Vision 2030. The only way we will know if we achieve that, and the Vision 2030 program more broadly, is if we track and measure progress, regularly and transparently. The task at hand is monumental. We want to move away from an economy based solely on oil, so we must completely transform the way we look at our resources and evaluate our economic potential. Our geographic, cultural, social, demographic and economic advantages are all conducive to creating a more diverse and sustainable economy. But we need a public sector built on technology, rigor and quantified, established metrics to get there. It’s easy to talk about scale and change, but people don’t believe talk, they believe numbers. We are measuring a broader sweep of indicators than ever before. We understand the world is watching, and we understand our citizens are watching. As we change, we hope to share the lessons of our journey with others—the complexities of the modern world will demand much of our public sector, but it also demand similar transformation from government agencies and development communities across the globe. About the author: Husameddin AlMadani is the Director General for the National Center for Performance Measurement in Saudi Arabia (Adaa). He is at the forefront of the performance revolution in Saudi Arabia; the Center he leads is tasked with measuring the impact and delivery of the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 agenda. He is also a member of the Vision 2030 Strategy Committee headed by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. In his capacity as a leader of Adaa and the country’s foremost authority on performance measurement, Al Madani has been featured in media including NPR, Sky News, the Times and the World Bank blog.  

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.