A citizen of a virtual country? Might be closer than you think...

Posted on
30 Oct 2018
by Hugh O'Reilly, The Wheel

A country not defined by borders but by values

I've stopped reading! In truth I was never really an avid reader in the first place only really doing it in spurts in my youth, in college and while travelling or on holidays. But I like ideas. I've been an avid consumer of ideas for a long time. So Ted.com, YouTube and access to good wifi have become the three foundation stones for me to keep up to date with new ideas and new thinking without having to read a book. The lazy mans solution.  

This is where I, and some 5.4 million other souls, came across Simon Anholt. In his June 2014 TedTalk he launched the Good Country Index www.goodcountryindex.org. He and his colleagues wanted to show a measure of what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity and lo and behold, Ireland came first in that first index. (Incidentally we are currently 7th). 

Given the 5 million+ views his TedTalk garnered it influenced him in taking the index further. Since 2014 he has embarked on launching a virtual country. A country not defined by borders but by values.  He was in Dublin last week on the 24th October to speak at the www.thegoodsummit.com and I had the 'good' fortune to meet him and share a Falafel with him and his travelling companions. 

The concept is compelling. In another TedTalk I listened to Alexander Betts when talking about the reasons for Brexit state that the "The fault line of contemporary politics is between those that embrace globalisation and those that fear globalisation". Simon's work on the Good Country lead him to understand that about 10% of the worlds population are outwardly collaborative. He was initially disappointed that the number was likely so low until he did the math and realised that this would be 750 million+ people, the third largest nation in the world if you were to think of it in those terms.

So he did! He set about establishing the Good Country with his co-founder  Madeline Hung which has only recently launched in September 2018. They are inviting in the first 200,000 citizens to take part between now and the end of December and impressively they have had citizens sign up from more than 130 countries so far.  I am glad to say I am one of them. For US$5 you become a citizen of good country and get to take part in their first collaborative policy selections.  It's unique in that the technology is there to enable all citizens to have an active say in what the Good Country does with minimal infrastructure. All goes well in this initial pilot phase in early 2019 and they will open up to all citizens from Sept 2019 onwards.

And that's where it gets interesting. With a potential global audience of 750 million an initiative like this could generate a budget of  $3.75 billion. That's a GDP larger than 50 countries in the world or given that the UN's most recent budget approval was $5.4 billion for the biennium 2018-2019 then it would be more financial influence on an annual basis than even that global organisation.

Interestingly, as I sat listening to Simon's talks in Trinity last week it struck me that perhaps

as the UN attempted to unite nations after the second world war that Simon is attempting to do something equally as ambitious in uniting citizens in the 21st century.

Perhaps, the technology is finally there to connect the citizen, not just the state, and to realise the ambitions and ideals of the UN in the 21st century. It also chimed with things like the Sustainable Development Goals and our own work through our Spark Change initiative www.sparkchange.ie; local action, global impact.

It also chimed with other things I have been watching (and even reading) from Carne Ross on self ruling societies, or the producers of the documentary movie Demain, or Hans Rosling and his global ignorance project with GapMinder Foundation, or Pam Warhurst, Tshering Tobgay, Shawn Achor, John Kay, Dan Pallotta our own Mary Robinson, and, and, and (who has time to read when you're consuming this amount of video content). 

So what can you do?

Well, you could always become anti-social and start watching all that content I just referenced. But more importantly you should become a citizen of the good country like me and get involved in this new initiative. It only takes a few minutes to sign up here: https://goodcountry.org.