Eight public sector technology predictions for 2022

Tim Pitts shares his technology predictions for the public sector for 2022, including the better harnessing the power of data and driving customer experience through tactical digitisation  

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 20 months have turned organisations on their heads. Whilst some site that there has been a fundamental shift throughout local government IT and digital thinking, others are arguing that the changes brought on by Covid-19 were merely the catalyst needed to make organisations adopt the changes they have long known they needed to make.

Technology has, of course, been front and centre throughout the rapid digital transformation we have been seeing. But as we move into the ‘new normal’ what are the areas of tech that savvy CIOs are most likely to be concentrating on over the next 12 months?

1.    IT’s changing role in digitally savvy organisations

The barriers to digital transformation have come down over the past 20 months. IT departments are pivoting away from being a function that’s about feeding and watering boxes and wires, to one which is around driving digital capabilities for the organisation.

In 2022, CIOs and CDOs will increasingly recognise that the job isn't just about looking after the infrastructure. Now, they are thinking differently about where the organisation could go and what their leadership can do for them. Local authorities will continue to put tech leaders on the board as they realise they can’t pivot without having digital leadership properly challenging the business to re-think.

2.    The next phase of RPA

Many local authorities have already adopted robotic process automation (RPA) to remove time-sapping tasks from colleagues, allowing them to focus on more citizen-centred experiences. Thus far, RPA has been primarily used by business functions such as finance, HR, and IT. However, in 2022, data and risk management will become a core driver of RPA. Where you can use the ability of bots to not do anything unexpected it really plays to that compliance and audit aspect. Because they're not going to deviate or do anything other than what they're expected to, there's a direct risk mitigation aspect to their role and I expect to see organisations move some tasks that could be deemed risky, and where human error could come into play, to RPA.

3.    Driving customer experience through tactical digitisation

The digital transformation we are now seeing is more focussed on the way people are approaching problems vs the technology itself. With the increasing range of technological options now available, being able to connect services, data and citizen interactions is just a small part of what has been made possible. In 2022, local authorities will look at how they can leverage one contact and the data they've got on a citizen to make their life simpler across all their transactions. They will use the tools at their disposal to create a digital experience that all citizens expect. Solutions today provide much lower cost methods of managing contact than traditional methods, while also delivering a significantly better customer experience.

4.     Using technology to accurately predict, pre-empt and pre-authorise

IT departments will continue to put resilience into their services with the expectation that demand will continue to creep back up as we move out of the pandemic. Being able to automate decisions such as planning applications will speed up the economy. Pre-empting and pre-authorising processes such as blue badges or parking will revolutionise the customer journey and automating the validation of any care related services will strip out weeks of uncertainty and hardship for many.

In 2022, digital leaders will increasingly look at the information they have available and use it to understand where demand is coming from. Adult social care is a good example. Using data, and ideally working as part of an integrated care system, local authorities can understand what the demand is going to be by person. They may want to know who 'Molly' is, roughly when she's likely to hit the system and what support she’ll need. Then, who is best placed to support her. This is where the world of IoT and in-home tech solutions can really come into their own and is a good example of a game-changing operational pivot towards in investing in change that will pay off in the future.

5.    Harnessing the power of data

Organisations are starting to recognise the power of what can be done with data, but we are all still only scratching the surface. Think about the world of IoT and in-home tech solutions like sensors. By harnessing the power of these data sets, an authority could theoretically cut the number of adult social care workers, allowing a fundamental shift in the skillsets required within these teams. This shouldn’t be seen as a negative, though. It has always proven difficult to get good social care staff, and we are seeing this more so now with the lasting effects of the pandemic, Brexit and social care reforms. But if the majority of these roles were switched to data specialists, analysts and home tech specialists, you end up shifting the narrative and allowing yourself the space to deal with a much wider range of challenges.

6.    Using technology to promote well-being

Across all industries, there is currently an acute need to manage staff wellbeing. Whilst there were plenty of issues before the pandemic, these have been intensified over the past year and a bit. Never has there been a better time to identify and measure where the biggest problems are and address them urgently. In 2022, technology will increasingly be used to help. One of its main benefits is that it takes emotion out of the equation. If decisions and plans are based on data, it is easier for businesses to remain objective and respond to the issues that have been identified as causing problems for the general productivity and well-being of their people.

7.    Moving up into the cloud

I don’t think many would disagree that you've got to move to the cloud if you are to become a true digital enabler. For example, if you want to do proper machine learning to predict demand or understand how to communicate with people on an individual basis, most can't afford the computing power to do it properly. Most of the spend on innovation continues to be in the cloud – there are hundreds of digital services released every quarter by all the big platforms and very few of them are built with on-premises usage in mind. In fact, the big three cloud providers spent just under £70 billion on development last year. That’s a figure all authorities need to be taking advantage of, and one that we expect to see authorities leverage into 2022.

8.    The climate emergency will drive transformation

The climate emergency is, quite rightly, going to continue to be on everyone’s lips in 2022. Well over 300 authorities have already declared a climate emergency and the recent COP26 summit monopolised headlines for weeks. Moving to the cloud is a no-brainer for local authorities with environmental aspirations. Plus, with all three big cloud providers declaring they'll be carbon negative by 2030, let alone carbon neutral, it is yet another compelling reason to head to the cloud.

Tim Pitts is Senior Partner at Agilisys.

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