January offers the perfect opportunity to assess the technologies that will be making an impact in the public sector this year.
2015 is the year that over 1,000 police officers will be equipped with new mobile tablets after a £1 million investment initiated by Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis. It is also a year in which the economic climate is once again predicted to be tough, with all political parties in the UK committed to making cuts – which means that using technology for increased efficiency and achieving cost savings within the public sector is vital. In the Stoke Sentinel this week, investor Matthew Ellis claimed that his initiative will free up an extra 5,000 hours per week for frontline policing.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and another austerity measure that will be realised is the integration of health and social care in the UK, a project enabled by data sharing and IT systems. The aim is to use technology to provide for the often multiple and complex needs of individual citizen, with new reporting requirements to be in place by April. The benefits of this new and improved approach to health and social care services are discussed in more detail in a previous article, which looks at the increasing pressure to improve efficiency following high profile breaches of child protection.
Clinical dashboards have also recently extended beyond their pilot phase. This technology can provide relevant, real-time specialised data to clinical teams in urology, A&E and GP practice to improve patient care, at a time when the NHS is declaring a number of ‘major incidents’ and struggling to cope with patient numbers. This week, Mike Proctor of the York Hospital NHS Foundation Trust explained to BBC News: “I’m seeing pressures in the system that I have never experienced before.”
These ideas for development of technologies for the public sector are echoed in a recent report by the Public Service Transformation Network, which calls for further change. Another report from a chief government adviser, Professor Mark Walport, claims that the phenomenon of the Internet of Things may have an even greater impact on society than the first digital revolution. As more and more devices become interconnected, Gartner has forecast that the number of connected units will reach 26 billion by 2020. Smart energy systems, for example, are well on the way to becoming a daily reality.
This year, digital advances and data sharing have also led to a rise in transparent, open policy making from government and political parties. In this way, digital technology is helping to enhance and improve parliamentary democracy – which can only be a good thing in the lead up to this year’s General Election.