Tech predictions 2017 for the public sector

As Deloitte publishes its annual Technology, Media and Telco Predictions report, Rebecca George reflects on what its findings mean for the public sector.

January traditions aren’t the most uplifting. Just as we begin reneging on New Year resolutions, along comes the annual ‘Blue Monday’ three weeks into the month, which is apparently the most dismal day of the year. At least we got that out of the way this week.

Hopefully Deloitte’s January tradition is more inspiring. For the past 16 years, we have published an annual Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) predictions report that captures our thinking on the major trends ahead, and which we think major organisations should note. It’s a good read for strategists in any sphere, but this year’s report has three powerful insights for the public sector.

First, the report explores the potential for governments in biometric data. We predict that the active base of fingerprint reader-equipped devices will top one billion this year, and suggest that the number of countries using biometrics in national identity schemes will grow – subject to societal acceptance of the trend. The largest scheme so far is in India, which has collected facial, fingerprint and iris data for one billion registrants. Such technology could be used as an additional way of accessing services such as tax payments, medical records or even e-voting on mobiles. The latter might encourage younger people to vote – this group tends to have high levels of smartphone ownership but lower than average participation in voting.

Second, the development of self-driving cars has significant implications for the public sector, not least in terms of accident prevention, consequences for road infrastructure and regulatory changes. TMT Predictions suggests that the next phase in the development of autonomous vehicles is an increase in Automatic Emergency Breaking (AEB) technology. AEB uses cameras, radar and lasers to see obstructions and slow cars down before human drivers typically start reacting. We predict that a sixth of US cars and trucks will be AEB-equipped within five years, potentially cutting the road death toll by 16 per cent or 6,000 lives – this assumes, of course, that other behaviours remain constant, and that better tech doesn’t lead to increased complacency.

Third, we predict that indoor digital navigation will become significantly more commonplace over the next five years. Satellite navigations systems have revolutionised how people find places but they have one weakness: their signals, sent from a height of 24,000 kilometres, are often too weak to penetrate roofs. But being able to use a smartphone to navigate buildings could be particularly useful to the public sector. Patients, visitors and staff could move more effectively around sprawling facilities like hospitals. Employees in major public sector offices could save time finding free desks, meeting rooms or each other. And the emergency services could quickly pinpoint individuals in need of help. All of this is possible by using Wi-Fi routers or other beacons that could track location alongside digital indoor maps.

This year looks set to see some technologies continue to develop faster than many organisations can exploit them. But staying relevant, innovating and meeting expectations means keeping track of the latest developments. That’s equally true for public bodies – and our latest report illustrates how fast-developing technologies such as biometrics, automatic braking and indoor navigation could have particularly profound consequences for the citizens they serve.

Rebecca George OBE

This blog has been informed by discussions with Deloitte LLP subject matter experts.

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