Public-sector tech trends for 2022

Civica shares seven key trends to inspire more innovative public services now and in the future


Advertorial As we entered 2021, we eagerly waited for the moment when the pandemic would end, and we could return to 'normal' life. Instead, we've endured a further 12 months of varying restrictions, freedoms, and threats. Yet our thirst for innovation remains stronger than ever.

Digital and mobile are now dominating many aspects of our lives; what were once just 'cool apps' are becoming central to how we engage. Restrictions on retail have accelerated the uptake in technologies like augmented reality to 'try before we buy', while the rise of chatbots continued, now becoming essential members of our team and further improving frontline services.

Closer to home, our way of living and working has evolved into a blended pattern that looks set to continue. For many of us, this is an opportunity to rethink and change. Into 2022 and beyond, we're likely to refine our expectations and assumptions of this new way of life – and these are the trends we think will shape it.

1. Personalisation as a service:
Citizens now expect the same level of personalisation in public services as they currently get with digital services like Amazon and Netflix.  This growing trend for personalisation will offer opportunities to improve the citizen experience and even provide improved support services. It's a view shared by public sector leaders: in a recent Civica survey, 88% said personalised services could benefit their sector.

2. AI + Human Collective Intelligence = ?:
It's a trend we highlighted last year, and is one that has accelerated further. The reality is that with increasing demand for public services, there are simply not enough people to meet the demand. One possible solution is to embrace the collective intelligence of humans and machines.  This is not about robots replacing our jobs, but about 'augmentation': using the processing power of intelligent algorithms to make services more resilient and put valuable insights into our hands.

3. Embracing the hybrid life:
The blended home and office environment has become part of our daily lives, and we believe this is here to stay.  The next iteration of virtual interactions is already arriving with tech companies like Meta and Microsoft investing heavily into the metaverse. This year will see demand for inclusive, hybrid physical/digital offerings that ensure high quality services for all, regardless of how they choose to deliver or access them.

4. A smarter society:
There are now more smart devices in the world (12.3 billion) than people.  The spaces around us are becoming increasingly more sensor-driven, generating data about everything from energy usage to air quality. Demand will increase for in-home, urban and personal wearable devices to communicate with each other and create a complete 'internet of us'. We predict continued interest in connecting more devices and building a smarter society.

5. Trust as the new currency:
We are now at a tipping point of trust. Having robust data standards in place will help ensure both transparency and confidence address the wider question of how our data is used, by whom and for what value. With public services facing increased scrutiny, we will see new technologies such as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrencies and blockchain being investigated for managing funds and putting transactions into public view.

6. Supercharged digital democracy:
People are investing more time in their local communities and consequently taking more interest in local decisions. The rising demand to include the citizen voice will be an important trend when designing and delivering future public services. But an important challenge for public services will be to have all voices heard, not just the loudest.

7. Rising social consciousness:
Social impact has become mainstream. The demand for public services to demonstrate practical action on some of the biggest environmental and social issues will impact their desirability as an employer as well as influencing public support and engagement. Data and AI will play a key role in supporting transparency, evidence-based decision making on social impact as well as helping track and share its progress. We will also see more innovation around social impact investing, development of local economic systems and carbon credit trading.

In 2022, our NorthStar lab and Perspectives* series will be exploring how data, AI and new devices can help public service organisations respond. And we've made a start by sharing a new report on how we can collectively inspire more innovative public services. Now is the time for us to use more technology and support the evolution of our society for the greater good.

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