Governments and public authorities around the world continue to face an unprecedented combination of challenges that test their resilience and resources to the limit. A second year of COVID-19 produced new and constantly evolving impacts on citizens, workforces and economies, while the need for structural change and decisive, collective action to slow the growing effects of climate change has become more imperative than ever. But public sector organizations are embracing technology, innovation, data and analytics and new ways of working with skill, commitment and pace.
1. Cloud adoption will continue to accelerate, but tailormade approaches remain crucial
The global pandemic has greatly accelerated the public sector’s journey to the cloud, delivering transformational improvements to service choice, quality and the user experience, for employees, citizens and businesses alike, as well as substantial cost and efficiency benefits. The speed with which governments and public authorities have developed and launched vital pandemic response services is demonstrating a growing spirit of confidence and innovation. As the public sector’s cloud adoption journey continues, we expect a shift in focus away from TCO and towards business value, agility and leveraging cloud platform capabilities.
Administrations are also recognizing that there is no uniform journey to the cloud: There are many, with a portfolio of options available – private, public, hybrid, multi – providing the opportunity to tailor the journey that best suits each organization’s needs. To get there they must review their application and data landscape and identify which cloud environment is most appropriate for each workload.
The public sector is increasingly focused on cloud sovereignty. This means working closely with service providers to ensure transparency, control, choice and autonomy over the strategic landscape and IT assets such as data, systems and critical software. Benefits include security, regulatory compliance and the building of trust with citizens and other stakeholders.
Trust is the vital component that will enable the sector to deploy the best of cloud technologies with confidence – including AI, machine learning and edge computing – and build the partnerships with business and civil society that will help deliver the visionary public policy goals that are at the heart of Society 5.0.
2. From owning departmental data, to accessing data from an ecosystem: Realizing the power of data sharing
COVID-19 has proven the benefits that the harvesting, combining and sharing of data can deliver for society. The public interest-driven requirement for multi-agency, multinational data sharing has been critical, enabling the research, testing, treatment, track and trace and vaccination programs that have been the hallmark of the collective global response to the pandemic.
We see a shift toward accessing data outside the traditional departmental boundary, rather than “owning” it directly. This is gathering pace as the public sector perceives the benefits it brings, including real-time access, agility, cost and accuracy, and finds compliant ways to achieve them. Healthcare has taken a lead in this space: Telecoms companies, hospitals and Departments of Health have combined in new ways, using data sharing to improve processes. Analysts all point toward a rapid increase in investment by public organizations in viable data sharing platforms, delivering ever more insights to act upon. In parallel, the continued emergence of Open Data will also fuel the information environment that public services can rely on and use together.
Citizens will have a major role to play in these new data ecosystems, by controlling the use of their own data, deciding when and with whom to share it, and by exercising their right to choose becoming smart citizens who contribute to the data-powered society. In this context the public sector will need to adopt a finer grained level of engagement with citizens, heading toward hyper personalization as citizens’ expectations evolve based on their digital experience with the financial services and retail sectors.
Enlightened authorities will increasingly see their citizens as partners and active participants in the pursuit of public policy goals, enlisting their support and involvement, for example in the reporting of cybersecurity attacks or in donating their data to help inform public health campaigns.
In 2022 we will witness new data sharing models emerging in many promising fields where a bigger picture is crucially needed – such as skills for employment agencies, international supply chains for customs authorities and earth observation for environmental actors. In all these fields, the effort will require rules-based, internationally respected collaborative data platforms and ecosystems that contributors and users trust, enabling access to rich and diverse sources of data and analytics, to be available, shared and deployed for the benefit of all.
3. Going beyond guidelines: Why a digital social contract is needed to build trust in technology
Trust in, and acceptance of the authority of governments and public institutions is coming under increased scrutiny and challenge. The need for responsibility, transparency and accountability in the use of citizen data and new technologies is becoming more important.
Unless public trust is earned, it is inevitable that resistance to the use of citizen data and the continued rollout of digital technologies will grow, hampering progress and making it more difficult to achieve the EU’s key digital targets by 2030.
Responsible AI is an emerging technology in government. Gartner has found only 7% of government CIOs and technology executives have already deployed responsible AI; but 70% plan to do so over the next three years. So, there is cause for optimism that during 2022, the damaging erosion of public trust may be slowed, and momentum created for the recovery of lost ground in this vital area of democratic society.
In our recent blog, Digital trust is the heartbeat of public sector transformation, we made the case for a digital social contract: agreements between society, politicians and industry on how, and to what extent, we use technology to serve society, observing the key principles of transparency, explainability and logic. In the development of the digital social contract, co-created by governments and their citizens, the ideal will be a balance of freedoms, responsibilities and protections, underpinned by clear digital values and principles.
4. Tightening our defenses against the cybercriminals
No exploration of public sector trends would be complete without the latest forecast of inexorable growth in the volume and sophistication of cybercrime, further fuelled by the inevitable exposure of data and systems, caused by the need for fast-tracked responses and solutions to COVID-19.
As we become more and more digitally reliant, new opportunities to exploit weaknesses are constantly emerging, to be instantly exploited by hackers. In particular, governments around the world identify critical infrastructure as a key cybersecurity battlefield, with some hospitals reporting a 500% increase in cyberattacks.
No surprise then that Gartner reports that the highest increase in all spending by 70% of global governments is on cybersecurity. Encouragingly, another upward trend is the level of international co-operation in the fight against cybercrime. For example, the UK and INTERPOL are setting up a new cyber operations hub in Africa working across Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda to support joint operations against cybercrime.
Investment and collaboration will undoubtedly grow in the years to come, to ensure that public authorities keep pace with the limitless ingenuity of the cyber criminals, maintain resilience and enable governments, citizens and businesses to operate normally, without imposing intolerable restrictions on everyday life.
5. Public authorities will become innovation hubs, deploying technology for good
As the public sector’s confidence in its ability to innovate and develop imaginative solutions with agility and pace continues to grow, so those authorities will become increasingly entrepreneurial for the good of society. In her book Mission Economy, Professor Mariana Mazzucato argues that the state needs to transform itself into an innovating organization, and develop the capacity to mobilize different parts of society around a common goal in a purpose-oriented economy.
The scale of the challenges facing governments today – from post-pandemic economic recovery to the climate crisis – demands bold and ambitious action. The pandemic has highlighted the need for government to lead the response to our biggest systemic challenges, while also showing that digital technology and data are vital tools we can use to tackle them.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals with their 2030 timeline offer a framework for government at all levels to mobilize business and society to address the most significant global challenges. As this decade progresses, we will see public sector organizations establishing their own digital cultures and data ecosystems, forming new coalitions, and providing vital resources for citizens and small, local tech firms to collaborate to deliver bespoke solutions that meet the specific needs of local people and businesses.
Our look at 2022 trends in the Public Sector was compiled in conversation with:
Public Sector Global Industry Leader
Global Offer Leader – Data & AI in Public Sector
For further reading about technology in the public sector, you might like to read one of our many blogs, for example Why the future of the Public sector is increasingly automated, and our report on technology trends, TechnoVision Public Sector Edition 2021-22.
Find out more about about our services for governments and public sector organizations.
Gartner, Inc., 2022 CIO and Technology Executive Agenda: A Government Perspective, Apeksha Kaushik, Rick Howard, and Bill Finnerty, 18 November 2021 https://www.gartner.com/document/4008460