This overview is based on relevant trend reports and on the outcomes of a trend workshop carried out in the course of drafting development plan, which focused on the significance of key technology trends of Estonia. The list of trends is not exhaustive and serves as a starting point for further analysis.
Already today we are influenced by megatrends, such as growth of mobility, ever-increasing spread of social media, use of cloud computing and increasing volumes of information and data. These trends are disruptive on their own, but, in Gartner’s view, their greatest value lies in their synergy: which is revolutionising business, the functioning of the state, business models and management. In other words, these trends give rise to many other important technology trends.
One of trends arising from the above forces is the pervasiveness of computer and communication technologies. Due to the rapid development of sensors, data processing and wireless communications, more and more physical items and abstract definitions are linked to the internet. It is forecast that in the future each object (fridge, lamp, TV, etc.) and concept will have its own uniform resource identifier (URI). Examples of such connected world are the Internet of Things, near-field technology that enables contact free communication between devices, augmented reality, etc.
The Internet of Things enables, for example, remote diagnostics, smarter energy consumption (the so-called smart homes) as well as safer traffic and transport management. Augmented reality refers to making services and applications smarter by adding a digital information layer. Users can obtain relevant information about the surrounding world in real time (e.g. smartphone users can obtain detailed information about objects of sightseeing and get recommendations for cafes, museums etc.). Augmented reality has a great potential to bring additional value in education and culture; it also allows creating new services in law enforcement and other areas.
Advanced analytics and big data are also important trends. Considering the always-on lifestyle and and growing volumes of information, it is important to find new methods and technological solutions to manage complex and voluminous data and benefit from their use. This is all the more important as data is not only growing more voluminous but also comes in greater variety and is often unstructured (e.g. audio and video). Greater volumes of data will bring along the necessity to change the nature of ICT(information and communications technology) solutions: while to date data have been directed to programmes for processing, in the future programmes will be moving to the data.
Advanced analytics and big data enable real-time analysis of data. This will be a huge step forward from the existing model, where data processing has mainly been used to analyse past events. In the future, even predictive analytics will become increasingly important. It will make decision-making both in the public and the private sector smarter and more future-oriented, and allow for more intuitive and preventive service development.
Big data is linked to several other trends, such as open data. This refers to making non-personal public sector data available to everyone in a machine-readable format to enable automatic processing. The purpose of opening up data is for businesses to create new innovative products and services, for individuals to develop community services, analyse social trends or use the data for other individual or joint activities. Open data is, in turn, related to linked open data — a trend that enables different applications to use and analyse open data faster and in greater volumes, improving thus potentially the quality of management decisions. The use of big data, open data and linked open data requires more efficient privacy protection as well as increased analysis and take-up of privacy-enhancing technologies.
Revolutionary changes can also be predicted in the field of user interfaces, allowing for increasingly natural user interaction. Touch screens have already become the norm. In the future, an increasing number of interfaces will be based on sign, face and speech recognition technologies. The use of speech technologies, including speech synthesis, will increase. All these interfaces will make technology use more convenient and intuitive.
In the field of e-governance, the main current and future trends are the following: digitisation of processes and interoperability of back-end systems, take-up of eID, personalisation of services, use of social media, open data and open platforms, and cloud computing. Moreover, ICT related challenges in the public sector in the coming decade will be influenced by other factors like open, inclusive and cooperative provision of services, commoditisation of ICT, which means that new ICT solutions are first used by consumers and after that by companies and the public sector; focusing on employees; information continuum and the combining of different devices and data sources. Another important factor to be brought out here is the spread of voluntarism. This is expressed, for example, in the increasing willingness of people to have a say in societal affairs and to participate in or even initiate the co-production of services.