Top public sector tech trends for 2022

To round out the year we spoke to some experts from public sector IT providers about what they think will be top tech trends in 2022.

Posted 21 December 2021 by Christine Horton

1. Using third parties to close the skills gap

Marc Power, regional VP at Auth0 says the public sector will use third party technologies to help address the digital skills gap.

“On the back of launching a raft of digital services, the next big challenge for public sector leaders is a digital skills gap for maintaining them,” he says.

“It’s not a new problem, but one made more urgent by the ‘great resignation’ and attrition to the private sector. The UK government is already realising that even the brightest technical teams need a hand, and we’ll see an uptick in adoption of third-party technologies and tooling in areas like identity and cybersecurity. There’s plenty of data out there for building a business case, including that software-as-a-service (SaaS) components improve overall job satisfaction (88 percent) and productivity (87 percent) for dev teams.”

2. Old buildings to become smart and sustainable

“It’s estimated that 80 percent of today’s UK public buildings will still be in use by 2050, and with many built before even basic energy regulations were in place, urgent transformation is required. Research shows that for nine in ten properties, physical retrofitting won’t be enough – they’ll need to be digitally retrofitted to meet net zero. This will be a major public sector priority in 2022.

“Digital retrofitting means using intelligent technology to track, optimise and govern building-wide energy usage,” says Kas Mohammed, VP digital energy at Schneider Electric UK & Ireland. “Connected to the IoT, these software management systems perform analysis to provide actionable insights into real-time property performance. Building conditions such as occupancy, temperature and air quality are monitored to automatically adjust and optimise energy consumption and occupant comfort.

“With the right technology and guidance, these improvements can be integrated within existing infrastructure, meaning any public property can be digitally retrofitted into a smart, sustainable building fit for a net-zero future.”

3. Digital transformation re-shaping the sector

Mikael Sandberg, chairman at digital infrastructure specialist VX Fiber believes the public sector will be reshaped by digital transformation next year.

“With the increasing range of technological options now available, streamlining processes to connect services, data and citizen interactions will become a solution to providing lower-cost methods of managing contacts while also delivering a significantly better customer experience. 

“This growing dependence on and demand for data-intensive digital services will require high bandwidth capacity and more resilient internet connections. For digital transformation to be fully realised, significant investment into upgrading communication infrastructures will become increasingly vital.”

However, Sandberg noted the £1.7 billion outlined in the Spending Review for 105 ‘everyday’ infrastructure projects – including improving physical and digital connectivity – will still not be enough to adequately address the cuts of the past decade, especially in local government.

“As a result, we will see local authorities taking a more assertive role in the deployment of full fibre networks in their area, looking at alternative solutions and providers.”

4. Attracting top talent a focus

Attracting top talent with the right digital skills will be a focus for the public sector in 2022.

“The public sector can’t compete with the private sector in terms of throwing higher salaries at the problem,” says James Petter, general manager, international, at Pure storage,

“However, there will need to be increased investment from the public sector in 2022, not simply from a payroll perspective but in the training of employees to bridge the skills gap, and in the digitisation of roles and public services to make these jobs more appealing. 

 “That being said, the public sector can offer an incredibly rewarding career path today with more flexibility than the private sector in terms of employees moving between different departments, where they will amass a wealth of experience in several areas. Something that is particularly beneficial for the younger generation, early on in their careers.

“Lastly, to set themselves apart and retain/attract talent, public sector organisations should assess secondments and talent exchanges with private sector companies. This is a mutually beneficial practice whereby the public sector continues to pay the salary of an employee, while they spend time at a private company in order to develop new skills, knowledge or experience that will benefit their career and the public sector in the long term.

5. 2022: The year of ethical AI?

Pete Wilson, CTO public sector, EMEA, at Pegasystems argues that 2022 will be the year that ethical or responsible AI will move beyond ‘fluffy policy’ and become embedded in tangible tools and actual law and regulations.

“It’s been a fashionable trope in recent years for governments to talk about using AI in a way that is both ethical and responsible,” he explained.

“Lessons are being learnt from bad government by algorithm and in the UK and elsewhere you can see how AI will be regulated to lesser or great degrees. This cannot distract from how AI can help humans tackle the huge challenges created by Covid recovery, namely the backlogs affecting citizens accessing vital services. We need to acknowledge that there are processes that can be streamlined and accelerated through AI and intelligent automation to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks on how cases are progressed faster, and decisions made sooner.”

6. Risk management driving RPA

Finally, Tim Pitts, senior partner at technology and transformation provider for the public sector, Agilisys, notes that 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. I expect to see organisations move some tasks that could be deemed risky, and where human error could come into play, to RPA,” he says.

“By using bots, you remove the potential for human error, there’s a direct risk mitigation aspect to their role. This plays into maintaining compliance to increasingly stringent data regulations.”