This annual report offers a wealth of information on the trends and developments taking place in the e-health, e-education and e-government sectors. The report analyses the issues surrounding the development and growth of these services. It includes global and national statistics.
Subjects covered include:
Researchers:- Paul Budde, Kylie Wansink
Current publication date:- June 2015 (8th Edition)
Smart Societies based on Big Data
M2M (machine-to-machine) and IoT (Internet of Things) linked to data analytics (big data) developments are accelerating, and as more companies enter this sector and spend money on developing it, we will see further astonishing innovations emerge over the next few years. Applications are already being used in infrastructure, telecommunications, healthcare, education as well as in government; we will address this in detail in this report.
Given the current social, economic and political developments, it becomes clear that we seem to have reached a ceiling in our intellectual ability to address the complex issues that society is facing. Society lacks the capacity that is required to address the holistic nature of the current challenges. Without that analytic capacity, it will be impossible to come up with the right answers.
In the end it is about people, smart people – what is needed is a vision from the top from our leaders and smart communities who work from the bottom upwards.
This process is already underway through global interconnection, facilitated by technologies such as the internet, broadband, smartphones and mobility. The latest developments are in M2M and IoT where we link different data sets together and use so-called ‘big data’ technologies and analyses to better manage the various aspects of our society.
Smart Cities and Smart Infrastructure
The development of smart cities and indeed smart countries require vision and recognition of the fact that many of today’s social, economic and sustainability problems can only be solved with the assistance of ICT. In many situations the ubiqueness, affordability, capacity, robustness, security and quality necessary for this calls for fibre optic and high-speed wireless infrastructures. This need will increase dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years as industries and whole sectors (healthcare, energy, transport, water) carry out the process of transforming themselves in order to much better address the challenges ahead.
We need to create smart cities, smart businesses and smart countries, with high-speed infrastructure, smart grids, intelligent buildings, etc.
In order to manage our societies and economies better we need to have much better information about what is happening within all of the individual ecosystems, and in particular information about how these different systems interact. Currently they all operate within silos and there is little or no cooperation or coordination between them. ICT can be the bridge to bring them together; to collect data from them and process it in real time. Information can then be fed back to those who are managing the systems, and those who operate within them, such as doctors, teachers, business people, bureaucrats, politicians.
Some of these data interactions are already happening around smartphones, social media, traffic and crowd control and weather information.
Progress in e-health developments in Australia remains slow and low key. Unlike the USA for instance, where e-health is driven by health insurance companies and private health care organisations, the developments in Australia largely depend on government initiatives. The fact that private companies are driving the development elsewhere is a clear indication that significant cost savings can be achieved through e-health.
Back in 2010, it looked like that the national broadband network (NBN) could be a catalyst in kick-starting these initiatives, the most important policy initiatives in this respect were linked to the Medicare reforms, which provide health insurance coverage for selected video consults in rural and regional areas, as well as projects linked to the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR). However, with the downgrading of the NBN and a lack of interest from the current government in e-health in general, hardly any new initiatives have been undertaken since 2013, while the early initiatives have largely been put on hold.
This inertia also has an effect on other e-health initiatives that were starting to emerge in parallel with the early NBN e-health developments. As most e-health services depend on policy leadership from the government as well as on a high quality, high-speed broadband network for their distribution, nothing much is excepted to happen over the next 3 to 5 years, unless something dramatically changes.
However, as the financing of the public health systems in Australia becomes increasingly costly, the opportunity exists to lower costs through more effective use of e-health.
Education is seen as one of the key sectors that will benefit from developments in the digital economy, but so far the results of adaptation have been mixed. While new ICT gear has entered the classroom it is being used within the traditional classroom learning system. In order to fully utilise these new technologies a true sector transformation will need to take place. Good examples can be seen in developing economies where there are little or no traditional systems in place. There, for example, children are using smartphone apps and the internet to bypass these traditional systems and are basically using the new technology for self-education. Schools are then adapting to these new circumstances. Freely available educational material from many school and university websites around the world is assisting this development.
It is most unlikely that the traditional education system will be able to cater for the massive requirements that lie ahead of society in relation to the rapid changes in skill and knowledge requirements. Digital adaptation will be needed to break through the old structures.
Perhaps far more threatening are the many social and economic changes that are taking place in society. Not only is the traditional education system ill-equipped for this transformational process, the costs involved in running such a system are simply no longer economically viable. The use of IT and telecommunications technology within educational environments is set to further increase dramatically over the coming years as high-speed broadband becomes widely available in Australia. Simultaneously, the capability of internet services dedicated to e-education purposes is set to increase enormously over the next decade as well. Australia, with its large landmass and relatively small population, is an ideal market for remote education services, and as such Australia is home to many successful e-education service providers, as well as being a relatively important export market for e-education services. Rather than addressing the education system by making it more expensive, government policies should be directed to make the system more efficient, e-education can play a key role in this.
Governments are facing revenue and expenditure pressures that will only intensify in the coming decades as the Australian population ages. This is creating an urgent need to reduce costs, particularly in non-front line areas such as administration. At the same time, the public sector is at a crossroads of how services have been delivered in the past and how they will be delivered in the future. It is also facing structural changes, such as an increasingly mobile workforce and more complex service delivery channels.
To deal with these cost pressures and impending structural changes, governments will need to fundamentally change their policy-making and regulatory frameworks, and their approach to service delivery. Adopting digital technologies will be central to solving these problems, but it will also require comprehensive reforms to the public sector. However, such reforms are not just about cutting costs. Improvements to public sector efficiencies and effectiveness, and reduced administration costs can also flow on to a healthier national economy and enable improved services in areas such as health and education.
Many countries around the world are now well aware of the importance of e-government and many governments have shown leadership in developing online services. The benefits of e-government applications can include cutting costs and improving processes and information flow, but one of its primary aims is to improve customer service for citizens. The government has taken a leading role in developing a National Cloud Computing Strategy, which in turn has created trust within the broader industry to start adopting new opportunities that are becoming available here.
Number of pages 192
Last updated 1 Jun 2015
Lead Analyst: Paul Budde
Could I thank you for making a contribution to this on so many occasions and declare my association with you as a Central Coast resident. I want to say how proud we are of you and how much your expertise has informed us.
Senator Deborah O’Neill, at the Select Senate Committee on the NBN – March 2014
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