Socitm has highlighted driverless transport, smart materials, edge computing and quantum computing as crucial technologies for the public sector over the next decade.
The public sector IT association has emphasised their importance in its new Public Sector Global Technology Trends 2020 report, produced with partners the Association of Local Government Information Management of New Zealand, the Linked Organisations of Local Authorities ICT Societies and the Major Cities of Europe group.
It says that progress will be made with the four technologies this year, although it will take longer to become for them to take on a high profile.
In the case of driverless and assisted transport there are still technical issues to resolve and problems around risk, liability, insurance and legal aspects of their use. But they will provide opportunities and local authorities need to take them into account in road management and infrastructure planning, ensuring there are enough vehicle charging points and they are integrated with public transport.
Smart materials – which are designed to respond to changing conditions such as heat, moisture levels or electricity – are likely to be important in areas such as safety, energy management and environmental protection.
On the edge
Edge computing involves extending and moving cloud infrastructure, data and apps and processing closer to where the data originates. This offers faster processing and will be important in the use of the IoT, and will require digital leaders to consider how they structure the processing of data.
The report says this needs to be kept in scope for planning as it will be important in making use of emerging technologies and balancing the data processing loads that they generate.
Quantum computing could make a contribution to a wide range of public service applications, particularly in complex health analytics and security. This will, however, take some years as the public sector is likely to follow the private sector in its application.
The report also emphasises the importance of three key technologies – artificial intelligence, the internet of things and cloud computing – over the next year. It says the former will create the need for a strong focus on data safety, ethics and the potential for unintentional bias.
There will also be concern around public trust in digital government, based largely on how the services work and how personal data is used.
On a broad front, the report highlights issues for dealing with new technology demands. These include the need to mitigate data risks, which has still not been achieved, and that technology is mixed and often dated, which can create confusion around the best choices.
In addition, responsibilities and ownership of how technology is applied are often lacking, policies and processes are often incomplete and poorly understand, and for many authorities infrastructure needs upgrading – especially Wi-Fi.
Report author Jos Creese said: “In the current climate all bets are off about what technology trends matter most in the public sector – those that are at the forefront now are supporting mobile and flexible working.
“All public services are under huge pressure from COVID-19, and some are wishing services had not been so badly cut over the last decade. More importantly, those that are coping best with the need for their workers to function remotely are those that have invested wisely in collaborative technology over recent years and encouraged flexibility in working practices.”
He added that ICT leaders need to focus on the maturity of digital culture, policies, processes, governance and risk management as much as exploiting new technology.
The report is based on interviews with public sector digital chiefs in the UK Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
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