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Seven trends that will impact the way we live and deliver public services in 2021

Thu 4 Feb 2021 | Liz O’Driscoll

The top trends that will help the public sector think big and make real progress in the years ahead

2020 has been a year of endless uncertainty and constant change. The public sector overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges in what has been a defining period for both our public services and our community. Few could have predicted a global pandemic and the far-reaching impact it has had on our society. But despite it being the most disruptive period in a generation, it has seen our public services at their best and most innovative.

There’s no doubt the pandemic has, “turbocharged the digital transformation of almost every part of our days” as UK Digital Minister Oliver Dowden commented.

It’s unmistakably altered our lives and highlighted the essential role technology and cloud plays in keeping us working and connected. It’s unlikely that we will, or even want to, return to the way things were. So, as we look forward to 2021 and beyond, we believe there are seven key trends that will keep pushing the boundaries and inspire us to be bolder.

Tech-celerating citizen’s expectations

The pandemic has intensified citizen expectations and galvanised their demand for more digital public services. They are more aware of what can be done online, more comfortable in doing so, and increasingly critical of those not meeting those expectations. With a more tech-savvy nation, it will be vital for public services to further digitise and improve the experience for everyone.

Blended experience between physical and virtual worlds

As we step into our new future, where our home is now also our part-time office, we’ll see an increased demand for technologies to deliver and enable consumption of public services anytime and anywhere. Automation and conversational AI will provide initial triage, freeing up human support for those who really need it. Being able to seamlessly blend these physical and virtual environments will become key for improving the overall citizen experience, and public service resilience.

Contactless everything

The pandemic has accelerated the cashless agenda, but it’s also giving rise to a new trend – a contactless society. As the shadow of the pandemic lifts, the aspiration for contactless will remain. Therefore, we’ll see an increase in technologies that help us be part of society with less physical contact – be that using our mobile devices for more interaction with public services, or non-touch devices to monitor our health and pay for goods.

The datafication of me, the internet of us

We undoubtedly live in a data rich world, and one that continues to grow at exponential rates. But we also live in an era where we can better understand and use that data for the greater good.  In strengthening citizen trust, we see person-centric services becoming more important. Services that can adapt and respond to our preferences and provide earlier interventions for those most in need. We see 2021 heralding ever more personalised services and care… the internet through us, and the internet for us.

AI + Human Collective Intelligence = ?

As a society we’re facing increasing complex challenges. Collective actions have been a vital part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing intelligence and connecting broad experiences to solve problems. As we enter 2021, we’ll see the use of AI to assist this human collective intelligence; enhancing our capacity to make decisions, adapt and learn. By embracing this approach, our collective potential is limitless.

The growing need for safety and security

While the pandemic has brought the positive engagement of our communities, it’s also increased our understanding of risk, and our need for safety and security, both online and in the physical world. As cyber-attacks have unfortunately become an almost daily occurrence, the World Economic Forum has listed it in the top 10 biggest global threats. The need to remain safe in an ever-connected digital world will continue to be an important focus area for our public services. 

Revival of the local community

The past 12 months have seen significant challenges for both the UK and global economies.  With record government borrowing, Brexit fast approaching and the continued rise of the devolution agenda, we’ll see the growth of technologies to support the building of hyperlocal networks – matching those with need with those with the capacity to help.  If we get this right, these networks can help rebuild our local communities, enable closer working and improve local outcomes for everyone.

2020 has shown us what is possible when we work together. Data, automation, and new technologies powered by the cloud, offer the opportunity to respond more rapidly and adequately to these trends.

The last year has shown what is achievable when we have the desire to push ourselves, be innovative, go beyond and work together for the greater good. It’s been a very challenging year for everyone and for organisations in both the public and private sector. As we approach the New Year, now is time for us to reflect, build on those achievements and create the future of public services today.

Experts featured:

Liz O’Driscoll

Head of Innovation


public services
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