In an updated extract from his new report for Socitm, Jos Creese explores the opportunities and risks of three leading technologies
The top three technology priorities for 2020 will be artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing, according to international research with public sector ICT and digital leaders in Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Until now, most AI applications in the public sector have been focused on improving workflows and in automating front-end citizen experiences, such as using Alexa (or similar devices) and chatbots in customer service settings. Robotic process automation (RPA) is also being used to simplify and reconfigure transaction processes, making them automated, less error-prone and more efficient.
In 2020, we will see the emergence of more sophisticated integration of AI with back office systems, more automated decision making and machine learning to anticipate individual customer needs, using natural language processing, augmented reality and other emerging technologies.
In the private sector, it has been suggested that AI will drive productivity and automation, but there is no strong evidence of this emerging from our research. ICT and digital leaders will also need to consider governance and ethics around AI use, especially in using personal data to manage the relationship between the state and its citizens.
Things to be wary of
IoT is taking off rapidly, especially in urban areas, with local authorities using sensors in a wide range of transport systems management scenarios. There is also a range of exciting possibilities in telehealth and social care, helping people to stay in their homes for longer and providing remote support when needed.
For the public sector, the next decade will see IoT used in a wider range of applications, such as asset management and control, equipment monitoring and logistical planning. It will be used in new security access controls as well as optimisation of resources, tracking under or overuse, with centralised monitoring and reporting.
ICT and digital leaders will need to consider how to configure IoT infrastructures in such a way that it does not become a legacy management problem or a security risk. The concern is that IoT could grow organically and unchecked, appearing in more and more devices and systems, without control or adherence to standards, and create new unexpected costs.
Head to the clouds
Cloud continues to offer a fundamental technology shift for the public sector, with most organisations surveyed expecting increased cloud usage in 2020. This trend will continue,replacing more traditional ICT outsourcing models, including a continued although gradual hybrid transition from ‘on-premise’/‘private cloud’ to ‘public cloud’.
Cloud will also stimulate changes in how public services are designed, delivered and governed, particularly in areas such as shared services, partnering with the private sector and mobile and flexible working for staff. Organisational change will need to embrace the full potential of cloud solutions and internal ICT teams will need to become a trusted broker of cloud solutions.
This analysis was completed before the coronavirus pandemic, which has inevitably skewed short-term digital priorities towards collaboration, remote working and automation. Issues such as delegated decision-making, digital signatures, collaboration tools, cloud dependency and data handling have been propelled to the front of the queue.
None of this invalidates the predictions in the report. Indeed, coronavirus provides the opportunity to take a broader look at digital and IT mastery for the future.
Socitm’s coronavirus resources: https://socitm.net/coronavirus