In Melbourne all three levels of government converge to shape the city’s future.
This extract from a 2015 report by Deloitte Gov2020: A Journey into the Future of Government forecasts the global drivers of change and mega-shifts that will soon impact a globally connected city like Melbourne to re-shape the relationship between its citizens and governments.
A journey into the future of government
Drivers of change
Demographic changes will have a significant impact in 2020. The ageing population will dominate many policy and workforce discussions in the West, while population growth will continue to slow across most developing nations. The world is in the midst of a massive, long-term shift in wealth, economic power and population growth from West to East. As Asian areas outgrow their western counterparts, new political, social and consumer constituencies start flexing their power on the world stage.
Globally, the improved socio-economic status of women will bring billions more people into the formal workforce in the future. Megacities burgeon across the globe, while increased global migration leads to mingling cultural identities and the rise of the truly global citizen.
Society grapples with the undesirable effects—security and privacy concerns—of a hyper-connected digital lifestyle. Governments are faced with a balancing act: using the latest technologies to meet the rising expectations of hyper-connected citizens, while still reaching those offline. Citizen consumers, empowered by information and technology, play a bigger role in societal problem solving as well as in fighting corruption. Unprecedented advances in health care, neuroscience, technology computing, nanotechnology and learning begin to allow human beings to expand their physical and mental faculties. However, potential innovations that enhance cognitive capacity also pose new regulatory and ethical challenges for business, government, social institutions and international organizations.
Building off the early bitcoin example, currencies will take on new digital and databased forms in the near future. Social consciousness surfaces as a common theme, with more organizations and citizens contributing to societal change and driving a renewed sense of openness, innovation and empowerment. Governments grapple with fiscal stress, infrastructure bottlenecks and rising income inequality among citizens. But even while disparities between rich and poor persist, scarcity of basic requirements such as food, water, energy, healthcare, housing and education will begin to get addressed as technology raises the basic standards of living for many.
Climate change remains a major concern in 2020 and differing national policies concerning the sale and ownership of natural resources become a top priority area for international organizations such as the UN and World Economic Forum.
The digital revolution hinges on the convergence of four prominent technologies—social, mobile, analytics, and cloud—collectively called SMAC.
In 2020, social networks penetrate all realms of life as individuals and governments explore new ways to tap into the power of the crowd using advanced analytics and sentiment analysis. Mobile devices of all shapes and sizes, including wearables like watches and glasses, keep millions around the world constantly connected, entertained and informed. Mobile tools revolutionize health care and education while mobile payments via Near Field Communications (NFC) become the norm.
Cloud computing accelerates the capabilities of technologies like mobile and analytics. Remote computing services allow mass collaboration around huge data sets, bringing affordable scale to computationally intensive problem-solving. Advanced algorithm design and faster computing, along with a growing cadre of data scientists, unlock value from digital exhaust, influencing decision making by governments, corporations and individuals alike.
Data is viewed as a tradable asset: by 2020, most consumers collect, track, barter or sell their personal data for savings, convenience and customization, making information a currency in the truest sense.
“Exponential technologies” have a far-reaching, transformative impact across geographies and industries. These technologies represent unprecedented opportunities and existential threats; but their wide-ranging impact is indisputable.
Developments in “additive” manufacturing, or 3D-printing, spur a second industrial revolution. Falling prices of 3D printers, coupled with growing expertise and new applications, increase the demand for and availability of this technology 2020 sees robotics gain momentum and become vital components in a number of applications. From swarms of “microbots” to self-assembling modular robots to strength-enhancing robotic exoskeletons, applications using robotics cut across industries and transform the way work is done. Robots paired with Artificial Intelligence perform complex actions and are capable of learning from humans, driving the intelligent automation phenomenon. The centuries’ long quest to develop machines and software with human-like intelligence moves closer to reality. Scientists develop intelligent machines that can simulate reasoning, develop knowledge, and allow computers to set and achieve goals, moving closer to mimicking the human thought process.
Cyber-physical systems technologies: Previously, computers were embedded in stand-alone and self-contained products. With the advent of the web, these embedded computers became networked and are evolving into cyber-physical systems (CPS) that sense, monitor, and control the human and physical environment. This feedback loop of sorts in which embedded computers and networks control the physical processes, and physical processes in turn affect computations hold tremendous economic and societal potential. These “smart” systems permeate into the infrastructure around us.
In 2020, unmanned aerial vehicles or drones contribute to domestic policing, geographical surveys, maritime patrol and delivery of goods, among multiple other commercial and military applications. The future also promises radical improvements in augmented reality technology with the introduction of gestural interfaces and sensory feedback that fuses the physical world with digital information. As the size and cost of sensors and communication technologies continue to decline, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) grows by leaps and bounds.
Businesses and governments struggle to integrate this evolving technology, using analytics to winnow insights from the treasure trove of data that improve delivery models in health care, transportation, security and defense, infrastructure management and many other areas. The exponential growth of the IoT could prove to be a regulatory headache, forcing governments to keep pace with the ever-changing technology.
These drivers will influence government differently. However, seven mega-shifts are more likely to be seen across government and have transformational effects.
Seven mega-shifts re-shaping government
These seven major trends have the potential to reshape government—in many cases from the outside—and transform the public sector.
Shift #1: Government as an enabler instead of a solution provider
In 2020, the most successful governments focus on developing societal solutions from outside government, rather than on trying to solve problems themselves. They build platforms, hold partners accountable for targeted outcomes, open up services to choice, and manage crowdsourced campaigns and competitions. One result: a big increase in public-private partnerships. This in turn encourages the growth of triple-bottom line businesses that pursue social and environmental goals along with financial ones.
Shift #2: Made-for-me service delivery
We are 20 years into a shift towards more personalized services, and government is not immune from the forces underlying this shift. Between now and 2020, scores of public service interactions in Western governments will be personalized and available from home and mobile devices. For example, a Fish and Game stamp could have a scannable barcode that ensures authenticity, so an angler can print it at home, eliminating an in-person visit.
Many government services continue to go mobile, moving out to neighbourhoods (perhaps on “taco truck” style vehicles) and deliver in-person services to constituents. Why? Because large centralized offices don’t make sense when different groups of people have different needs, or when many traditional functions can be handled remotely through digital services.
Shift #3: Distributed governance
Increasingly, “government” functions are being “co-created” with citizens, on their own or working with others. Technology makes it possible to distribute tasks to citizens. For example, Hawaii’s tsunami siren app coordinates citizen volunteers who adopt a warning siren and take responsibility to ensure it has functioning batteries.
Carefully designed co-creation processes will allow policy designers to work side-by-side with citizens to build better prototypes and test them more realistically, increasing the final policy’s effectiveness.
Crowdsourcing initiatives will allow individuals to share their experiences across many levels of the legislative process. Wikipedia-like sites could highlight problems— and solutions—about which citizens care most deeply.
Open data provide citizens access to the information that once required a staff of legislative experts to collect and analyse
Shift #4: Data-smart government
Predictive modelling and other types of data analysis allow the public sector to focus more on prevention, instead of just reaction and remediation. For example, rather than simply reacting to custodial parents calling to report they are not receiving child support, a predictive model can alert enforcement officers ahead of time about the non-custodial parents most likely to go into arrears.
Psychological approaches, like the UK’s Nudge Unit, can help communities move in healthy directions. For example, electric or water bills that graphically show usage stats can significantly reduce household waste. (Some power companies now show households how their usage compares to their neighbours.) Of course, nudging citizens is a delicate task, and governments will have much to learn about the right—and wrong—ways to do this.
Analytics give policymakers the ability to test potential solutions in advance. These tests won’t be perfect, but they represent a more fine-tuned approach to predict, say, whether a policy that worked for one segment of society will work for another.
Shift #5: Alternative forms of government funding
Technology opens up many unique alternatives to fund services and infrastructure, which is good news in our era of fiscal restraints. We already see increased use of payment-for-results models—such as social impact bonds and tax increment financing (TIF)—to finance costly development projects and services. In essence, these initiatives flip the old models and move some financial risks from governments to investors and contractors.
Dynamic pricing and pay-as-you-go systems will replace the blunt pricing models of the past. With greater frequency, governments will allow citizens to pay in real time for the services they use. To ensure the right balance between supply and demand for infrastructure services, governments will employ multiple forms of dynamic pricing for road use and parking. In simple terms, social costs and benefits get better reflected in the price.
Shift #6: Just-in-time civil service
Radical changes in the public sector’s talent model are possible. One option: governments apply the consulting staffing model to their workforces. Employees won’t stick to departments, but instead will move from project to project. Advanced HR policies will track skills, accomplishments, and certifications in ways that keep employees engaged.
Governments will also expand their talent networks to include “partnership talent” (employees who are part of joint ventures), “borrowed talent” (employees of contractors), “freelance talent” (independent, individual contractors) and “open-source talent” (people who don’t work for government at all, but are part of a value chain of services). This shift from a closed model to an open, more inclusive one will redefine what “public workforce” actually means.
Shift #7: A new basis for national prosperity
Critics have long criticized both GDP and GNP metrics for failing to measure social success. Bobby Kennedy famously said, “Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising… yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.”
Society has evolving attitudes about what defines success, and new methods will measure social good. They will include more holistic measures of progress and well-being such as personal safety, ecosystem sustainability, health and wellness, shelter, sanitation, inclusion and personal freedom. Taken together, they will change how societies assess their progress; placing new demands on government and business.