“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ....” This famous line by Dickens, written in 1859, remains true in 2022. As we start another year where the pandemic casts uncertainty on the future, we as technologists stand at a crossroads. In the face of the loss of innumerable lives to a continuing epidemic and at a time when the sustainability of the planet itself is under scrutiny — where should we best direct our attention?
The answer is definitely not a simple one and is not even a single one. For my first post of 2022, I look at some of the major issues we'll see more of in the coming year. As we look into quantum computing, cloud technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics and process automation, below are some of the mission areas that will require our collective focus and attention as technology grapples with some of its toughest problems yet.
1. Future of Public Health
The pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to reform the underlying structure of public health amidst extreme challenges. The last two years have highlighted the pervasive health inequities not just within any one country but across the world. As technology leaders we need to come together and use the collective power of artificial intelligence, large-scale cloud computing, big data and data sharing, electronic health record and telehealth to transform healthcare at its core — from transforming large scale research to solving supply chain problems, health equity and distribution by making health care accessible to all through the use of ubiquitous technologies — especially in rural and low-income areas. Unequal access to health care is not just a health policy issue, it's a problem technology can help resolve and it is a mission area that will require our collective thinking and support.
Building a sustainable and resilient climate has yet again emerged as an imminent need for the future of the planet. As COP26 came to an end, it became apparent that technology will be needed to solve some of the basic problems of large-scale pollution, traffic and overall sustainability through making our electrical grids efficient, enabling the use of alternative energy sources, building smarter cities and ecosystems and providing for more effective monitoring of our weather systems, oceans and sea levels.
3. Hybrid Work Environments
The pandemic forced an entire workforce to work from home for long periods of time and potentially changed the way we work forever in the process. Organizations will continue to focus on building an optimal hybrid environment. Picking the right tools and building out the infrastructure are key to success in a hybrid world.
Lessons learned in large-scale transformations have taught us that any large-scale organizational change needs to transpire in conjunction with technology to be successful and vice versa. As hybrid work environments scale up, digital collaboration environments will inevitably become the one constant that ensures everyone is connected and up to date with progress, whether they are in the office, at home, in the field or traveling. Technological innovation is needed to further ensure that no employee is left behind and everyone experiences an equitable work environment whether working from home, a central office or in a remote location.
4. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
At the same time the world grappled with a pandemic, world events also unfolded to showcase the inequities still inherent within our society. Research continues to show that diverse workforces are far more efficient and productive. Yet inequities persist. The coming years will need technical solutions and the collective ingenuity of business and technology leaders to further the DEI cause. An equitable training program, easy access to virtual trainings for all, focused hiring and retention programs, transparency reports and diversity workshops are just some of the ways we will continue to see growth and innovation. Solving problems of inequity is a key technological focus and will remain so in the year ahead.
Related Article: 5 Ways Diversity and Inclusion Changed in the Last Year
Last but not the least, we saw cryptocurrency grow to new heights in 2021. While some financial experts are still coming to terms with this, Bitcoin hit multiple all-time high prices as major companies adopted it in droves. However, the technology is currently only in its infancy. As interest rises in crypto, financial and technical experts will need to work together to secure and regulate its usage. It is difficult to predict where this technology is headed but we do know it will require further technological innovation and collaboration as the world tries to better understand its usage.
Let’s ring in the new year on a positive note. It’s a future of digitalization. A future of large-scale cloud-based technologies, a future of telehealth and cryptocurrency, a future of 5G and quantum computing and it’s a future of humanity. A future where we humans will wrestle with issues of building an equitable and safe world and ensuring a sustainable planet. While we focus on engineering and innovation, as technology professionals we will need to come closer to the mission and work to ensure the technology we create builds a better future for all.