People make places. Do not miss President's Conference 2024 in Birmingham. Register now.

2020’s technology trends: predictions from other people

Graffiti of Michael J Fox on a hoverboard

Our public sector global technology trends for 2020 report was published this week. [Remind yourself of the technology trends for 2019.] Underpinned by an international survey, undertaken in collaboration with ALGIM, LOLA and MCE, it reveals that AI, IoT and cloud computing are the key areas where participating countries identified huge growth.

Among many other sets of future gazing, a few months ago The Guardian had an interesting list of software and hardware, some of which could have an impact (or at least an interest) for local government and digital delivery of public services.

Advertising through smart speakers

An article in October’s issue of In Our View included details about a pilot project in Shropshire involving the use of Amazon Alexa speakers and smart watches to support assisted living. Watch Andrew Boxall of Shropshire Council talk about their work with Hitachi Solutions:

With smart speakers being heavily promoted, and subsidised, by Amazon and Google, could using them as another advertising or retail channel be on the rise in 2020? This isn’t a reason to avoid investing in and testing IoT devices, but it’s just another factor to be aware of when putting people at the heart of service design.

One of the advances that won’t be coming our way is Google Duplex – an AI assistant that replicates human speech is already in use in the US – The Guardian notes that GDPR consents mean it won’t be something we see in Europe.

Wearable tech

Pilot schemes such as those mentioned above demonstrate how mainstream wearable tech is becoming. It’s nudging us to better behaviours and supporting us to stay safe and live independently for longer.

The bulk of these gadgets and garments lack an emotional narrative to differentiate themselves, connect with consumers and drive purchase…
Jim Prior, global CEO of brand consultancy Superunion

A project between Essex County Council and PA Consulting might have that emotional narrative – they’re looking into wearable technology, such as socks and slippers, to support people at risk of falls. Smart socks and smart slippers collect real-time data on the movements and vital signs of the wearer’s lower limbs – their gait, strength and balance.

Continued roll out of 5G

The expansion of 5G availability continues. This might be of more relevance to the smartphones in our bags and pockets than mainstream service delivery, but it can significantly impact who can and can’t access services. Just as there’s a disparate experience of broadband accessibility and speeds, this is matched by 5G deployment.
EE has now turned on 5G in 50 towns and cities:

but the results of using 5G handsets is still mixed, according to the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones:

Researching alternatives has worked in Norfolk and Suffolk, where the country councils are investing in LoRaWAN, which can offer low bandwidth communications over longer distances making it ideal for rural areas.

Article 13

Another one to just be aware of is the EU Copyright Directive. It’s concerned with the use and sharing of content subject to copyright – so for sites that contain huge amounts of user generated content, such as YouTube, this could be something major to tackle in 2020. There’s already plenty of things that local government sites do have to enact (such as the creation and updating accessibility statements September 2020) but it’s helpful for teams to be aware of other issues milling around. All of us can already make a request to Google and Bing to have content removed from search engine results but article 13 is different because it places the responsibility for policing content on each site.

Review your website with BetterConnected+ to discover if there are any areas that need your focus.

AI and cyber security

list of content from public sector technology trends

Awareness of and responsibility for cyber security should not be isolated in ICT departments. As more technologies are more widely used there will be unscrupulous people using them for breaking into and exploiting corporate and government networks.

Socitm Associate Director and Researcher Jos Creese is a past president of BCS and a leading authority on cyber planning. On the BCS he wrote, last year, a post Cyber protection of public assets, which explains why more funds need to be allocated to protect the UK’s digital infrastructure – as increasingly complex systems could make essential services vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Digital wellbeing

There’s an interesting observation from Ross Sleight, Chief strategy officer at tech accelerator Somo. With Apple and Google launching and upgrading apps that monitor our screen time, he wonders if will start to impact on regulation. It’s another starting point for a train of thought, something to reflect on (personally and professionally) rather than something to adhere to or apply.


At the top of the Guardian’s list is something that’s not going to happen! A new Tesla model will not be shipping. Which is already timely as local authorities are taking innovative and ambitious approaches to tackling transport problems:

Read all 20 of the Guardian’s predictions:

Find out where you can come and meet us to share your ideas for the future.