The Third Wave: Digital by Desire

By Dr Hannah Rudman
21 December 2015

Digital by Default

Those of us working in and with the public sector, or those of us in receipt of public funds have been working with an ethos of “Digital by Default” since 2012. Then, the UK Government released the Government Digital Strategy which set out how the Government would transform the way it delivers services to citizens, including moving services online to be Digital by Default. UK and devolved governments have worked out policies, and frameworks for procedure.

Digital by Design

Governments have built digital software development teams to develop online services, and these are being created by applying the latest thinking from computer science and management art. Design thinking approaches are being applied via service design for new digital ways of interacting with government, and a mix of the most appropriate values and principles of both Agile and Lean development methodologies and project management practices frame the activity. Mygov.scot and gov.uk show what’s been achieved so far in terms of Digital by Default access to public services. The Digital by Default ethos also underpins the Digital Scotland programmes to strengthen digital connectivity, digital participation, and the digital economy by 2020.

Digital by Desire

With a third wave of new technologies about to disrupt the mainstream digital landscape over 2016, I’d like to suggest that we must now also become Digital by Desire. I define a third wave of technologies as the simultaneous impacts of artificial intelligence, the internet of things, augmented reality, and pervasively collected data from mobile, satellite, and sensor technologies. (The first wave of technologies emerging 1995-2005 built the web, the second wave emerging 2005-2015 were social and mobile). The third wave of new technologies are emerging now, meaning we are in the early days of this shift. They offer us huge opportunities to become smarter and better. Together, third wave technologies provide situational awareness in real time, enabling us to take instant action wherever we are. For people this means we can expect living, personal services, curating our experience in real time. For businesses, the third wave will mean getting used to operating globally in real time. The third wave of technologies demand of us to become digital by desire as the speed and scale of digital changes present challenges to our current notions and understandings of privacy, trust, and governance.

In my work this year with public agencies and arms-length government bodies, I’ve witnessed an increasing importance being placed on the appropriate use of personal data – people are reclaiming rights, seeking autonomy and agency with their data. The nature of trust will likely be re-defined in 2016 and beyond as consumers and employees change their privacy priorities.

Therefore, we will also have to encourage civic society and customers to be Digital by Desire through gaining their trust and showing them how they can maximise the opportunities of our digital age if we are to engage them with services that are Digital by Default. The third wave will be a new, massive digital disruptor, and we will need to encourage people to participate with it. We can engage people through stories told by film and interactive media to engage our imaginations about the third wave’s possibilities (and its threats). My recent AmbITion Scotland and AmbITion programmes all included digital storytelling and peer-to-peer sharing and engagement – to develop a movement of people grappling together with digital opportunities and challenges to collectively shape our future. We need clear communication so we all know we have agency over our digital lives, and we need to create transparent debate and negotiation about data trust and privacy so we know we have personal autonomy and civic authority in the digital landscapes of our lives.

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