2022 brought several new challenges that affected our daily lives. Civica’s Harold de Neef shares seven key trends to help housing providers and public sector organisations prepare and adapt to these challenges.
1. Survival mode switch ‘on’
This year, UK inflation reached levels not seen in 40 years. With significant increases in living costs around the world, the UN confirmed that 71 million people have been pushed into poverty. We have moved into survival mode.
Public service organisations will have to focus on supporting those most vulnerable, while also combating their own rising costs and reducing budgets, so more efforts are needed to drive productivity. That said, we don’t believe it is sustainable to continuously do more with less, so greater adaptability and more technology-enabled innovation will be paramount.
More can be done with what is available, whether through better use of assistive technologies or modernising existing applications. Public services will also need to look at increasing self-service, reducing red tape and improving data sharing and interoperability for better insights and faster actions.
2. On-demand living
People’s expectations of personalised services have increased. It is now the norm in the consumer space, and we expect the same round the clock self-service and a personalised approach in how we interact with public services. This will require more data and system sharing between public service organisations.
Done well, personalisation offers great opportunities to improve the citizen experience and technology will be paramount in making this possible in a safe, secure and transparent manner. Personalisation, by essence, requires some form of identification to verify and offer a tailored approach, so identity management technologies will become increasingly relevant in 2023.
3. Insight into greater actions
The public sector has access to enormous amounts of valuable data. Yet that data is often not used to its full potential. Data needs to be turned into actionable insights, starting where automation can deliver better and faster results than humans.
While the desire is there to do more, one of the main barriers to overcome is poor levels of data sharing and interoperability between systems and organisations, and we need to focus more on the predictive value of data. Higher priority should be given to improving our standards, skills and sharing of this vital resource.
4. To trust or not to trust
Many of us share personal information with Uber, JustEat, Google or our bank. We accept and trust them with our data, and in return get access to valuable services that make our lives easier. But here lies the crux: without our data, these companies can’t deliver these smart services. In other words, trusting an organisation with your data helps them deliver better services to you. But when it comes to public services, the same level of trust is not always there.
As published by the ONS, only 35 per cent of the UK population trust their government. It’s a figure that varies across the world; 61 per cent of Australians trust their public services, while in USA the figure falls to 20 per cent.
To counter this fear, the public sector needs to better explain why they need our data, how it will be used, that it is secure, and clearly explain the value we will get in return.
5. COPing with green
Recently, the cost of fuel and energy has increased people’s willingness to be more environmentally conscious. Most governments have made carbon-neutrality commitments (e.g. Paris agreements, COP) and many public sector organisations have made their own. So, change is expected.
With every commitment comes a plan. Yet many organisations don’t know how to calculate the extent of their carbon footprint or other environmental impacts, let alone make a credible plan to neutrality. To add to the complexity, citizens are more sensitive to ‘greenwashing’ and vague commitments. The sector needs to build on initial progress and start converting their ideas into green actions.
6. Social media altering democracy
Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter have changed how we interact with each other, consume media, are entertained or informed. There’s no denying that social media has impacted political engagement. It has been a key channel to reach new demographics, especially younger people.
Social media has also increased polarisation, populism and distrust in institutions. From the Arab Spring to the US Capitol riots, or even elections and referendums, social platforms have played a significant role in shaping civic opinion. In times of crisis, it can also disseminate key information across wide groups very quickly, as we saw during the pandemic.
Social media’s influence on our democracy and public institutions will continue to grow. It will be important for public sector organisations to not only be more present on these platforms, but also take the lead to ensure they are safe and add more value to everyone in our society.
7. Redefining our working patterns
Many of us now blur our professional lives between home and the workplace. We don’t expect a massive return to the workplace to happen this year or the next. Office days are more focused on interactions, meetings and workshops, affecting both usage and the layout of facilities. And, for many organisations, this has also meant offices are less busy and raises the question of what to do with the available space.
As we spend more time at home, social media is likely to have an increasing impact on how we interact with others. It also gets us wondering if ‘web3’ will become a relevant part of our lives or merely the latest buzzword. As we continue to adapt to this hybrid world, the sector needs to balance work flexibility with the cybersecurity threats of remote working.
As we share our seven trends for the year ahead, one area we need to pay close attention to is the risk of a bigger digital divide. Whether linked to finance, digital literacy, disability or data infrastructure, it’s a topic that we all can and should work together to address. Civica’s NorthStar lab will spend more time and effort trying to understand digital inclusion.
Civica’s Perspectives series (civica.com/en-gb/perspectives) will explore our govtech trends in more detail and the potential fit of assistive technologies for the sector. After another year of global disruption, we believe that it will be our collective innovation spirit that will help us adapt and create a better society for everyone.
Harold De Neef is the group director for product and innovation at Civica.