In many ways, the year 2023 seems like a table-setter for a seismic 2024. We have two escalating regional wars with global impact, an economy that can’t seem to find its footing, and a looming U.S. presidential election that seems inevitably headed toward a rematch of two leaders with historically low levels of popularity. Added to all this was the emergence of generative AI, a shock to the system that promises to be the most transformational technology since the internet. Unless it turns out to be a minor blip.
Here’s an overview of the trends I predict will most impact the public sector in 2024.
Government agencies will experiment with Generative AI in controlled environments
President Biden’s Executive Order on Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence released in October sent a strong signal to government agencies: AI is here, and we need guardrails, policies and operational insights to promote its positive use and counter AI used inappropriately. There were particular directives to the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, but some of the broadest, most impactful elements of the EO aimed at agencies include accelerated hiring authorities for AI professionals and acquisition shortcuts for specified AI tools and services.
What this means is that 2024 will be a year of experimentation with the latest AI tools inside the confines of government agency networks. Generative AI, when applied within a government network, can assist employees with tasks such as “create an RFP for a perimeter security system” or “create a hiring announcement for a contracting official.” Over time, government employees will learn when to trust (and when not to trust) their generative AI companions (OpenText has introduced OpenText Content Aviator as our entry in this market), and you will soon begin to see generative AI chatbots on government websites.
Tools that can help government organizations become more comfortable with AI include intelligent capture, which automatically categorizes, tags and routes documents as they are scanned; and AI-infused FOIA search tools, which can automatically redact information.
Public sector unions will wield more influence due to the rise of AI
The idea of AI and humans working side-by-side will stir government labor unions into action. The pay gap between management and American auto workers, actors and writers led to work stoppages in 2023, which raised the profile of labor unions who made their case that the average worker deserves a better deal.
Public sector unions are poised to make similar noise in 2024. Transportation strikes have become common throughout Europe, so that there are apps to help travelers plan around rail and airport closures. While there exist constraints around most public sector union authorities (ex: there is generally no right to strike by armed forces, the security services, the judiciary, and police and prison officers), the presence of AI in public sector workplaces will prompt labor unions to head to the bargaining table to negotiate worker protections against loss of jobs as a result of AI.
AI will propel Total citizen experience, moving the public sector out of last place
Citizen satisfaction rates with government portals always finishes dead last when measured against other industries. I predict that 2024 will mark a major milestone, as government moves out of last place for the first time (don’t ask me what industry will replace it).
The reasons for this are: (1) government is shifting from a silo’ed technology approach to a true enterprise, end-to-end approach (Forrester predicts that 30% of technology spending in 2024 will target cross-departmental citizen experience); (2) Generative AI-fueled bots will help create efficiencies with external and internal process flows, giving citizens answers to their inquiries faster and more accurately; and (3) any modest improvement will feel like a major breakthrough, given most citizens’ rock-bottom expectations around online government service delivery!
Advancements in analytics will help public sector agencies move forward in their drive for diversity, accessibility and inclusion
For far too long, government has measured its impact in terms of dollars spent versus whether the investments have actually benefited society. Analytics will help make government agencies make giant leaps forward to make larger societal impact. For example, comparing government grants, research, loans and benefits outlays against demographics data will help agencies ensure they are being fair and equitable with taxpayer resources. This is an important step forward to what will be a gold standard of government analysis – predictive analytics to help guide government investments where the funding will have the greatest impact.
Governments are also increasingly focused on how they interact with Indigenous populations. Ensuring accessibility and inclusion requires that governments find a technology partner who can help them create exceptional—and accessible—digital citizen experiences, no matter their technology or community needs. Te Puni Kokori, the New Zealand government’s policy advisor on Maori well-being and development, has embarked on a digitization effort in order to make records (they refer to these as “taonga,” which means “treasures” in Maori) more accessible to the indigenous community.
Industry-specific clouds designed to address specific government needs will proliferate
As the public sector has lagged behind commercial firms’ migration to the cloud, programs designed to provide a trusted marketplace of highly-secure cloud providers have continued to grow. FedRAMP was signed into law in 2023, fortifying this independent federal security organization for years to come to provide shortcuts and lessen risk for U.S. agencies procuring cloud services.
Similar programs for other public sector organizations are becoming standard, including Protected B for the Canadian government, IRAP for the Australian government, and StateRAMP for U.S. states. Each program contains hundreds of security requirements, as well as a commitment to provide in-country resources and cloud data sovereignty. At OpenText, we are committed to supporting government-specific clouds, designed according to specifications as outlined by federal governments worldwide. We recently received the “In Process” designation for our ITMX solution – our company’s third solution listed in the FedRAMP marketplace – demonstrating our commitment to providing government-specific cloud solutions.
After a debilitating attack, cyber security spending among global governments will grow exponentially
The global cyber security market has been growing at a rate of 11-12 % over the past several years. The zero-trust model, entering its fourth year since the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Special Publication 800-207, has become widely adopted globally and has established a solid framework for government to follow to secure its data and infrastructure.
With technological advancements fueling deepfakes and ever escalating and innovative cyber attacks, I predict there will be a major hack of a government agency that effectively shuts down operations for days, if not weeks, putting critical activities (such as payments to citizens or food or healthcare deliveries) at risk. This will serve as a wake-up call for governments to increase their cyber security spending by far more than an incremental budget increase from the prior year. National governments can pass laws with appropriate funding, and keeping government operating is a cause that will have all parties on board in support.
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