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New book by Professor Jaideep Prabhu of Cambridge Judge Business School – How Should a Government Be? – outlines the state’s role in the 21st Century.

Blurred crowd of thousands of people walking through a wide street.

A new book by Professor Jaideep Prabhu of Cambridge Judge Business School explores the role of government in a world transformed by technology and stunned by the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Jaideep Prabhu

The book published 11 February by Profile Books, entitled How Should a Government Be? The New Levers of State Power, looks at what’s possible in government – ranging from a programme in India to provide a digital identity to one billion citizens, to a Dutch initiative that allows nurses to operate almost entirely without management.

“We are rapidly moving from an old model of government – top-down, inside-out, expensive and slow – to one that is bottom-up, outside-in, frugal and quick,” writes Jaideep, Professor of Marketing and Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at Cambridge Judge.

“For over a century, the most explosive question in political thought has been about the size of the state. Should it expand and take an active role in all sorts of areas of life? Or is that just meddlesome and wasteful? These questions might have made sense in the previous century. Now, with revolutions in technology and organisational structure, a revolution is also coming in the essential business of government.”

The book includes comparisons of cases and government approach in developed countries such as Denmark and Canada and developing countries such as India and Kenya. “This choice is fuelled by a conviction that cross-country comparisons matter,” the book says. “In important respects, governments are similar wherever they are: they have similar objectives, resources and constraints, and comparable ways of working and processes. But even where they differ, comparisons can be revealing.”

The book’s chapters include thoughts on ‘the responsive state’, ‘the experimental state’ and ‘the entrepreneurial state’ – with a particular focus on how governments can be more responsive to citizens. The book also engages with the government’s role in nurturing new technologies across sectors like autonomous vehicles and space exploration, including through smart regulation.

The book is designed to outline for both people who work in government and the general reader “how to make governments work faster, better and cheaper”, says Jaideep, who has previously published books such as Frugal Innovation that detail how to do more with fewer resources.

“When public impatience and dissatisfaction with public institutions are growing, this book hopes to inform and inspire people about the transformative potential of the state working in tandem with its citizens.”