We love scenario thinking here at the METISfiles! In a recent keynote at IT-Dagen 2011 in Denmark, METISfiles principal analyst for the elastic enterprise Pim Bilderbeek looked at the current and future state of digital government in Europe. Now is a good time to look at our digital future, because recent events dictate that this future might not be as rosy as we think:
- There is a real threat that the (mobile) Internet will no longer be neutral. Just a couple of weeks ago, KPN threatened to undermine net neutrality, and hinted at new subscription models that would discriminate between Internet services.
- Governments are not ready yet to embrace cloud computing. Recently, the Dutch government announced it is only partially embracing the cloud. This makes the claim of Dutch Government CIO Maarten Hillenaar that Dutch citizens will be the happiest digital citizens in Europe by 2015 look rather unachievable.
- There is concern about the reliability of online services. Last month, the amazon elastic cloud went down. This affected a number of popular Internet services.
- Consumers are getting hit with security and privacy issues. Sony’s online playstation network was compromised by hackers. Apple is keeping tracks of where you are without asking. TomTom is selling consumer travel data to the police.
So, will we ever be ready for Digital Europe? There are four likely scenarios that government officials will need to consider in planning public service accessibility and government digitalization for the next 10 years. The two axes to consider in these four likely futures are 1) the availability of public cloud infrastructure and the trust that citizens have in using this and 2) the digitalization state of the government itself. Will government embrace public cloud for both internal and external services, or will government limit the uptake of both? Will citizens trust government with their data and will everyone have equal access or will there be a dual Internet infrastructure and wide distrust? The graph below lays it all out in four resulting scenarios:
Digital Europe is the preferred scenario of Neelie Kroes and the European Commission. This is the Europe where governments have embraced cloud services. Not only to become more efficient themselves, but also to deliver on-demand services to the business community and citizens. In this scenario there is also a neutral cloud environment available, accessible for every citizen and company, poor or rich, large or small.
Digital Divide is a scenario where governments have embraced cloud services and are delivering on-demand services. However, in this scenario the Internet is no longer neutral. There are in fact several Internets and clouds and there is a division in the level of government service between those who have access to exclusive clouds and those who have not. In addition, there is no catering for those who are not ready to trust the government to safeguard their private data.
Disconnected Government is a scenario where governments fail to implement cloud services, perhaps for budgetary reasons, perhaps for political reasons. As a result government is inefficient and digital services for citizens are scarce. This is all the more problematic because there is a neutral Internet and citizens and business have embraced digital commerce and social networking. As a result the government is out of touch with society and disconnected from the general public.
Twentieth Century is a scenario where governments fail to implement cloud services and the Internet is no longer neutral. This takes Europe back to the 20th century. Digital infrastructure that is content and service neutral is scarce, citizens do not want to bring their private data to the cloud, the government has limited on-demand service availability and has an inefficient IT infrastructure.
Even though none of these four scenarios might actually become reality in their entirety, it is likely that the future of digital society in Europe will have elements of all four included. What do you think the future of digital society in Europe will be? Are we ready for Digital Europe? Let us know!