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Enabling technology: A megatrend shaping governments

Jul. 1, 2014 - 01:20PM   |  
By JEFFREY STEINHOFF   |   Comments
Jeffrey Steinhoff is executive director of the KPMG Government Institute and former assistant comptroller general of the United States for accounting and information management. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG LLP.
Jeffrey Steinhoff is executive director of the KPMG Government Institute and former assistant comptroller general of the United States for accounting and information management. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG LLP. ()

National leaders must look far to the future to prepare for megatrends that could affect long-term economic prosperity, social cohesion, environmental stability, and national defense. With the assistance of the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre at the School of Policy and Governance, KPMG identified and studied nine global megatrends that will impact governments. These are addressed in our research report, titled “Future State 2030: The global megatrends shaping governments.” A May 8, 2014 Federal Times essay highlights the first megatrend – demographics. This essay addresses a second megatrend – enabling technology.

We are in an age of enabling or, as some call it, disruptive technology. The landscape of society and government has changed dramatically. The impacts of enabling technology include: (1) transformation of communication, (2) advent of ‘big data,’ (3) blurred boundaries between what is considered public versus private, (4) cyber crime, (5) new and daunting national security risks, (6) new social service delivery models, (7) dramatic changes in the future for manufacturing and (8) transformation of transportation systems and work places. For example, we have seen:

■ An explosion in global internet users from 360 million in 2000 to 2.4 billion by 2012;

■ 90 percent of digital data in the world created in just 2 years;

■ The global value of the ‘app economy’ projected at $151 billion by 2017;

■ $300 billion to $1 trillion in global losses from cyber fraud;

■ Cyber security become a serious and growing US national security threat;

■ Plans by a Chinese electronics company to introduce 1 million robots into its manufacturing process in just 3 years;

■ A dramatic decrease in the average number of years companies spend on the S&P 500 index from 75 years in 1937 to 15 years by 2011 to a projected 5 years by 2025, creating major challenges to the economy and employment.

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The pace of change has been staggering, with no end in sight, as the boundaries continue to shift and expand. The future implications for government – both positive and negative – are enormous, placing a high premium on being prepared. What do governments need to do or change to best support the US economy and public well-being through enabling technology and to prepare for what will be continuing innovation and rapid change?

■ Think, assess and plan more rigorously to address the impact of enabling technology across all sectors of the US economy and levels of government, including risks rising from an increased rate of economic, industry or market obsolescence, changes in the complexion of fraud, waste and abuse and risks to our national security from cyber attack.

■ Leverage technology advancements to transform government service delivery to be integrated, quicker, more scalable, more responsive and far more cost effective and to support similar efforts in the private sector, such as automated health records for which government plays an important role.

■ Address higher present and future rates of skills obsolescence across all sectors of the US economy by planning for new skills and developing ‘re-skilling’ training programs, such as training people to support the burgeoning ‘app economy.

■ Apply the growing power of ‘big data’ to better inform and target decision-making and service delivery.

■ Use new and emerging technology as a means of two-way communication with the public.

■ Be an early (and ‘smart’) adopter of proven technology a priority, rather than being a follower, which may require a commensurate shift in governments’ risk appetites and structures to facilitate innovation.

■ Increase the awareness of government executives to the potential and use of new and innovative technology.

■ Ensure continuing access to leading-edge thinking on new and emerging technologies, technology trends and their application to government; such as through continuing partnerships with leading research institutes and universities.

Megatrends, such as enabling technology, which has already dramatically changed the world we all live in, will continue to shape governments globally and will continue to be of interest to national leaders as they look to future. Let’s be fully aware of them, and let’s fully leverage these opportunities to the betterment of our nation and the public we serve.

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