Five digital trends in public services to watch out for in 2022
Hello and Happy New Year! We wanted to start the year with a few predictions - gained from conversations with our clients, team members and experts - about what 2022 has in store for the future of digital public services.
Here are our five trends to watch out for:
1. Proving who you are will rise to the fore
Identity management is big business - Crunchbase tracked over $3.2 billion venture capital investment into the field last year.
And, with the UK Government Digital Service making “single sign-on” and “digital identity solutions” the forefront of its strategy for 2021 to 2024, expect identity management to become a huge issue in public services in the year ahead. The UK’s lack of a foundational identity layer - a national, universal proof of identity - is likely to cause its own challenges which GDS will seek to overcome.
Another issue to watch out for is that with the initial focus being on central government, the myriad identity challenges faced in health and care and educational settings look like they will be met by a separate solution. From a citizen perspective, this is likely to perpetuate long-standing frustrations regarding the differences between central government and wider public sector digital services.
2. The world, in terms of data sovereignty, will shrink and deglobalise
Data residency laws, or data localisation requirements, are likely to continue to be normalised. With the EU GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act already setting down requirements for where and how data is stored, processed and hosted, expect new demands on public services as they need to comply with increasingly complex national and international rules.
With the UK recently consulting on this area expect changes on the horizon. For health and care organisations looking to leverage the benefits of population health management, the already significant data governance requirements in this area may be set to change.
3. Everything-as-a-service to gain traction
The data skills gap isn’t getting any smaller. DCMS’ recent report into this issue found that:
Almost half of businesses (48%) are recruiting for roles that require hard data skills but under half (46%) have struggled to recruit for these roles over the last 2 years.
And the challenge is hardly confined to the UK, either. With this in mind, the major cloud technology providers - Amazon, Microsoft, Google - are embracing simplification, with the aim that everyone can be a consumer and creator of data-based insights, not just a few data experts. Public services seeking to make gains from these trends will need to understand the potential offerings of low code development platforms such as Microsoft PowerApps, Amazon Honeycode and AWS Amplify. As with any supplier engagement, effective management of such relationships will be critical in ensuring public services avoid lock-in and get best value.
4. Open source to gain currency
We noted with great interest - and some pleasure - that last year NHSX/I/E commissioned a number of reviews encouraging the adoption of open source technologies in the NHS. Open source, which inhibits vendor lock-in by default, could provide a critical means of stimulating innovation, competition and driving down costs.
The EU is already actively encouraging an open source by default approach to technology adoption amongst member nations. This may deliver a welcome impact on suppliers which UK public services could benefit from. However managing open source supplier relationships requires different approaches and capabilities and public services will need to be abreast of the need to develop these in order to realise benefits from this trend.
5. Regulation tries to catch up with technology
The technologist Azeem Azhaar has pointed out in his fine new book, Exponential, that there is an increasing chasm between the world of technology, which continues to innovate and develop at pace, and the governmental regulations which set the rules for technology firms. In the EU, the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act look set to make significant changes to what is and isn’t feasible for firms and citizens to do online. And major antitrust investigations into Apple and Meta will also look to rule this year.
In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority’s Digital Markets Unit will also tackle antitrust challenges online, and the Online Harms Bill may finally come to pass. Major technology platforms are the gateway for how many citizens access digital public services - Google’s search engine is the primary means of accessing of Covid-19 information for much of the population - and so understanding how public services interact with the technologies on which they rely will be critical for digital leaders.
Overall, the era of Web2.0 will continue to evolve into an uncertain future. Tied together the trends highlighted will likely foster a new paradigm for public services. We haven’t even mentioned the huge investment continuing to flow into artificial intelligence, cyber security, robotics and of course the much hyped decentralised future of Web 3.0 and the Metaverse.
As the year progresses, we at The PSC will look to guide you on the way.
Antonio Weiss is a Senior Partner at The PSC and specialises in digital, data and new technologies. Antonio’s new book The Practical Guide to Digital Transformation is released this Spring.
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