Countries around the world improving e-services through digital technologies The key benefits of the digital economy include eliminating unnecessary costs, creating greater efficiencies and increasing productivity. These benefits are of particular importance when considering the healthcare, education and government services sectors.
The healthcare industry is under increasing pressure from growing and ageing populations which still require high quality medical services. One of the most inefficient sectors in the world is healthcare, and at the same time, this is the largest industry on the planet. It is also a key reason many governments are experiencing budget problems, because of the ever-increasing costs within this sector. To a very large extent these costs relate to the silo mentality within the industry.
The sector is ripe for an e-health revolution and many countries now understand the importance of e-health for the future. Millions of people around the world can potentially benefit from e-health applications. Cost savings through e-health are expected to be between 10% and 20% of total healthcare costs. Despite the need for cost saving measures, high-quality health care needs to be provided and maintained. So through e-health at least we can increase quality without increasing costs.
Education is also 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 ICT initiatives have been implemented within 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.
Many governments around the world are also now well aware of the importance of implementing digital solutions such as online services, cloud computing and m-government. The benefits of many of these developments include cutting costs and improving processes and information flow with the primary aim to improve customer service for citizens.
Cloud computing has been well received by many government organisations and BuddeComm sees governments around the world continue to deploy cloud platforms and indeed increase spending in this area. The huge uptake and penetration of smart phones and supporting infrastructure also means there will be a ground swell of pressure from citizens wanting ready access to government services via their mobiles. This will also become a key focus for governments going forward.
It is unlikely that the traditional systems will be able to cater for the massive requirements that lie ahead of society in relation to healthcare and education. Digital adaptation will be needed to break through the old structures. The use of IT and telecommunications technology within these sectors is set to further increase dramatically over the coming years as high-speed broadband becomes widely available and mobile innovations continue to offer viable alternatives to the traditional methods of offering essential services.
An element that is often overlooked in the e-health debate is that it has as much to do with interconnected care, as it has to do with the delivery of services. For e-health to work there needs to be a horizontal interconnection between patients, clinicians, nurses, parents, carers and health workers.
Medicine will change from its current reactive mode, in which doctors wait for people to get sick, to a mode that is far more preventive and rational and is known as P4 medicine, a system that is Predictive, Personalized, Preventive, and Participatory.
E-education is a sector that BuddeComm predicted would be a leader in digital transformation. However this has not happened. The sector has largely resisted change and is largely unprepared for the massive economic and social changes ahead.
The corporate e-learning sector tends to fluctuate more than other sectors, as enterprises increase or curtail their training expenditure according to the economic climate. Following an all-time low in 2010 on the back of the international credit crunch, the corporate e-learning market is on the up again and is expected to witness rapid growth, driven by rising demand from corporate customers.
There is also an increasing uptake of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Businesses are starting to realise they can save money by running such courses instead of instructor-led training.
Internet media companies are becoming involved in services for the broader digital economy, including e-education, e-health and e-learning. However their initial attempts have not always been a success with Google Helpouts closing in April 2015 due to lack of growth and Google Health also closing down.
Adopting digital technologies will be central to solving looming government problems, but it will also require comprehensive reforms to the public sector.
Companies mentioned in this report Apple, Coursera, Google, IBM Watson, Moodle.
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