7 Emerging Public Sector Technology Trends

Piers Kelly

Thanks to rapidly changing public expectations, advances in technology and tech-driven human behaviour, it’s no doubt the public sector has faced challenges within the last five to 10 years. Because of that, it’s worth becoming aware of the current technology trends in the public sector that are becoming ever more important.

Here are seven technology trends that can unlock value for the public sector.

  1. AI-Driven Organisations
  2. Blockchain for Government Departments
  3. Automation for Ethical Data Handling
  4. Further Focus on Citizen Experience
  5. Enhanced Connectivity
  6. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Intelligent System Interfaces
  7. Digital Accessibility

1. AI-Driven Organisations

AI has a brilliant capacity for enhancing data-driven decision-making and generating worthwhile insights. For public sector organisations, it’s worth finding a place for AI within the organisation’s agenda. It’s good to focus on the interaction between human and machine to discover how AI can solve for specific processes.

For example, the NHS currently uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help put doctors back on the front line rather than performing back-office administration. The referral process is automated, which helps to speed up triage functions and calculate reimbursement.

2. Blockchain for Government Departments

Blockchain is a record-keeping technology. It’s predominantly used within the realms of banking, investing and cryptocurrency, but is starting to provide value for public services. In 2018, the UK’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) successfully completed a pilot that tracked the distribution of meat in a cattle slaughterhouse using blockchain technology. The trial was the first time distributed ledger technology was used to monitor compliance in the food sector.   

Other government departments have trialled blockchain too. For example, the HM Land Registry looked into whether the technology could enhance the land registry and property buy-sell process. And last year, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) investigated whether blockchain could help enable a better way of transferring payments to benefits claimants

It’s clear this advanced piece of technology, which was previously reserved for the financial world, is capable of making huge enhancements to the public’s lives.

3. Automation for Ethical Data Handling

Data ethics is an incredibly crucial part of any technology, be it legacy or emergent. The issues of ownership and control of data is a major concern for public sector organisations and will be for the foreseeable future. The UK Government is pioneering the ethical handling of data from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI). They work to quantitatively and qualitatively investigate data processes such as ethical issues in AIsocial media regulation and policing algorithms and data bias.

While the ease of sharing data across public sector departments unlocks improved decision-making (especially if married with AI and/or cloud computing), it can also open up some big ethical issues. One way to solve these issues is by automating the process in a way that’s consistently compliant with data protection policies.

This automation helps organisations better analyse data to make more informed decisions that support citizens across the board.

4. Further Focus on Citizen Experience

As systems become more integrated, public sector services are looking to capitalise on technology that improves both user focus and citizen experience.

Improved digital technologies and data management has allowed the public sector to do this to an extent, but there’s still a long way to go. According to recent statistics, only one in five UK citizens use online government services

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is currently championing this. Since 2012, the GDS have worked to take around 2000 separate government sites and turn them into one single platform. This was done to make the citizen experience of online government services more accessible. They stated recently that their ambition is to “serve users based on the way they want to interact with government.

By supporting the focus on citizen experience, the public sector can ensure their services both on and offline become more universalised and inclusive, meaning they serve for the majority and the marginalised. In the future, the effectiveness of overall user experience will be based upon accessibility.

In effect, this helps to create an easier environment for important responsibilities, such as renewing a passport or even registering to vote. 

5. Enhanced Connectivity

Enhanced connectivity means advanced networking - services such as 5G, ultra-broadband and edge computing. These advancements in connectivity can transform the public sector by enabling a more intelligent, easier digital journey for organisations and citizens alike.

For example, think of public sector field workers. Enhancing connectivity means these types of operatives can benefit from an increased bandwidth on mobile devices which could have beneficial implications for the police and health services. Enhanced connectivity also promises easier use for facial recognition, image recognition, AI and a slew of other digital processes.

WM5G in the West Midlands are a great example of this in action, implementing a 5G network for local authorities in the area. They’ve been working with healthcare in the area, from University Hospitals Birmingham to ambulance services to provide new functions such as remote monitoring of a patient’s vital signals, connected ambulances and wireless data connection to monitor implants.

6. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Intelligent System Interfaces

You’ve probably experienced issues with software in the past where interfaces aren’t up to scratch and instead of making your job easier, they’ve made it more difficult. An emerging trend for public sector organisations is an increased focus on the use of intelligent interfaces.

Things like natural language processing (NLP), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), auditory analytics and intelligent search facilities improve system interfaces. They can take a run-of-the-mill software and transform it into something increasingly successful and universally accessible.

For example, intelligent search facilities can help identify increasingly relevant information. NLP and voice recognition can handle public enquiries and VR-enabled training can further develop an employee’s ability to deal with a real-world scenario.

7. Digital Accessibility

It’s said that as many as 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability. And this doesn’t include the people who may be experiencing temporary impairments or disabilities. 

This is why it’s important to ensure the digital content you put out there is accessible. It’s not enough to simply put the content online. The content (and this includes the design) needs to be as clear and simple as possible so most people can use it without needing to adapt. At the same time, it should still support the people who do need to adapt. 

For instance, someone with impaired vision might require a screen reader to navigate a website and read the content out loud, braille display or a screen magnifier. By ensuring your website’s content and design are optimised (worded and designed as simply and clearly as possible), you can accommodate this user’s accessibility requirements. 

While all of these emerging technology trends in the public sector are important, they’re based on an efficient cultural and digital transformation within an organisation. These two things can be hard to actualise but with the right guidance, they’re not just pipe dreams.

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