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Public sector technology predictions for 2022 and beyond

Tim Pitts

By Tim Pitts, Senior Partner at Agilisys

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 20 months has turned public sector organisations on their heads. Whilst some site that there has been a seismic shift in their digital thinking, others argue that the changes brought on by the pandemic were ones that public sector organisations should have made long ago.

Technology has been front and centre throughout the rapid digital transformation we have been seeing in the public sector. But as we move into the ‘new normal’ what are the areas of tech that savvy public sector CIOs will need to be focused on over the next 12 months and beyond?

  1. The changing role of IT

The barriers to digital transformation have come down. IT departments have been pivoting from being a function that’s about feeding and watering boxes and wires, to one which drives digital capabilities within the organisation.

In 2022, successful CIOs will increasingly recognise that the job isn’t just about looking after the infrastructure. They must think 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.

  1. The next phase of RPA

Many local authorities have already adopted robotic process automation (RPA) to remove time-sapping tasks within the organisation, so that staff can 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. I expect to see public sector organisations move tasks where human error could come into play, over to RPA in 2022.

  1. Driving forward experience through tactical digitisation

The digital transformation we are now seeing is more focussed on the way people are approaching problems versus 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 better leverage the data they’ve got on a citizen to make their life simpler across all their future transactions. They will use the tools at their disposal to create a digital experience that all citizens have come to expect. The good news is that solutions today provide much lower cost methods of managing contact than traditional methods, while also delivering a significantly better customer experience.

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

Demand for services have reached unprecedented levels at a time when resources have been stretched to their limits. Being able to automate decisions such as planning applications will be imperative. As will pre-empting and pre-authorising processes such as blue badges or parking to revolutionise the customer journey and automating the validation of care related services; removing weeks of uncertainty and hardship for many.

In 2022, digital leaders will increasingly look at information they have at their fingertips 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. For example, they may want to know who ‘Molly’ is, when she is likely to hit the system, what support she will need and who is best placed to support her. This is where the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) and in-home tech solutions can really come into their own.

  1. Better 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 their teams. This could be very timely. 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. If these roles could be switched to data specialists, analysts and home tech specialists, public sector organisations could end up shifting the narrative and allow themselves the space to deal with a much wider range of challenges.

  1. Promoting wellbeing through technology

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 wellbeing of their people.

  1. Moving into the cloud

To become a true digital enabler today you’ve got to move to the cloud. Most public sector organisations can’t afford the computing power to do proper machine learning to predict demand or understand how to communicate with people on an individual basis. Most of the money spent on innovation continues to be cloud based. Out of the hundreds of digital services released every quarter by all the big platforms, very few of them are now built with on-premises usage in mind. The big three cloud providers spent just under £70bn on development last year. That’s a figure all authorities need to be taking advantage of in 2022.

  1. The climate emergency will drive transformation

The climate emergency is, quite rightly, going to continue to be on everyone’s mind in 2022. Well over 300 local 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.

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