January must be the most predictable month of the year. Gym visits go up, decorations come down, and we all reflect on what the year ahead could bring. Here at Deloitte, every January we report on how trends in technology, media and telecommunications will play out in our TMT Predictions report. As the saying goes, I never make predictions and I never will, but three of this year’s predictions stood out for me as especially significant for government and the public sector.
The first concerns smartphones. Deloitte predicts that smartphone penetration will surpass 90 per cent of adults in developed countries by 2023, which is a five percentage point increase on 2018. Importantly, the main driver of that higher rate is take-up among older age groups, and we expect ownership among 55-75-year-olds to reach 85 per cent in developed countries by 2023, representing a ten percentage point increase. For this age group, being digital will increasingly mean proficiency on a smartphone and decreasingly about having a PC.
More widely, we expect the smartphone to consolidate its position as many people’s primary access to digital services and content in the next five years. And while our phones in 2023 are likely to look pretty much the same as they look now, enhanced connectivity, processors, sensors, software, artificial intelligence and memory will deliver an upgraded experience for users.
All this means that smartphones – already the most pervasive technology of our times – are set to become even more widespread and even more useful in the next few years. For government and the public sector, that represents two opportunities: greater potential in interacting with citizens using mobile devices, and greater potential for the public sector workforce to use make productivity gains through smarter mobile working. Government get this, of course. Last year, we took a snapshot survey of 815 civil servants, and some 60 per cent said mobile technology has the most potential to impact the delivery of public services.
The second of our TMT predictions with implications for the public sector is on machine learning. Deloitte predicts that the use of machine learning – a technology which enables systems to learn from experience and data – is set to intensify this year. We expect the number of pilot projects that explore machine learning’s potential to double in 2018 compared to 2017 and then double again by 2020, driven by new kinds of chips that will perform machine learning tasks better while consuming less power.
Given its access to data, the potential of machine learning for government and the public sector is far-reaching. Take health care for example. As our Global Health Care Outlook report points out, machine learning could turn health data – from medical devices, smartphones, electronic health records and more – into powerful insights. It could, for example, predict public health issues, detect patterns in drug use or combine data from disparate sources to help create holistic data-led views of patients.
The third of Deloitte’s TMT predictions with big implications for government is on augmented reality. At its core, AR enables digital images to be super-imposed on real ones, and we expect that more than a billion smartphone users worldwide will create augmented reality content at least once this year. By this summer, we expect to see examples of people pointing their smartphones at bus stop signs and seeing visualisations of local maps, places of interest and places to eat. And we expect that enterprises and governments will increasingly use it for applications ranging from instruction manuals to interactive training and more. The ability to overlay digital information over real time images has endless potential for how public sector workers are trained and supported by technology.
However, public bodies may be fast followers rather than early adopters or trailblazers when it comes to augmented reality. Our survey of civil servants found that it is seen as one of the least likely technologies to impact how government departments or public services run in the near future.
Deloitte’s TMT Predictions 2018 is out now. Please take a look at the full report or the taster video and let me know which technological developments you think have the most potential for government and the public sector.