At a glance

Future State advocates for the rights and aspirations of people in the digital era. We are a neutral, non-profit initiative of the United Nations Foundation that undertakes high-impact research and facilitates the transformations necessary for all people to benefit from the data economy. Through our research, advocacy and direct efforts to build public sector capacity around the world, we advance approaches that maximize people’s participation, individual agency, choice, and trust (PACT) in the digital era. Nowhere is action more needed than in frontier issues of data governance and determining how to prevent data abuses while empowering people to benefit from data generated by and about them online.

Future State is a not-for-profit initiative of the United Nations Foundation. Our work is made possible with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, Open Societies Foundation, Omidyar Network, Mercy Corps, The Commons Project, and the World Bank.

What we believe

Thoughtful and urgent action is required to ensure the digital future works for all. Governments are at the heart of ensuring all people are empowered in the modern, digital economy. Governments create policies, define protocols, invest in talent, and establish the institutions charged with overseeing the digital economy. Further, governments can seize the opportunity to embed the use of data and technology in public service delivery to strengthen the government-to-citizen compact and trust in the digital ecosystem.

Unfortunately, there is a major lack of investment and support for governments. Multilateral banks dedicate less than 1% of their annual commitments (approximately $1.2 billion/year) to digital development, virtually none of which is for government policy support.

Countries such as Estonia and India offer important insights for ensuring the digital revolution serves people and the goals of an open society. Notably, new policies and technologies employed in both countries are showing it is possible to put data into the hands of people in order to shift the power dynamics back toward the individual, hold the government accountable, and create new pathways to prosperity.

Significant resources—intellectual and financial—must be devoted if more emerging markets are to embrace these solutions.

How we work

Future State is building a movement of digital empowerment by working with some of the largest financiers and influencers. This includes:

  • Donors/international finance institutions: Future State has worked alongside investors such as the World Bank to craft new strategic positions around the ecosystem of trust surrounding digital infrastructure.
  • Private Sector: Future State has served as advisors to large disrupting forces such as Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency as well as smart upstarts like The Commons Project. We bring a thoughtful approach to ensuring new product launches cultivate the trust of new clients and reinforce the values of PACT.
  • Governments: Working through convening organizations such as the UN Economic Commission for Africa and Smart Africa, Future State supports African governments to embed ethics and values into policy decisions and platform design.