Digital productivity the next frontier in the economy
Smart Societies based on Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) developments are accelerating, and astonishing innovations will emerge during the next few years as more companies enter this sector and spend money on developing it. AI applications are already being used in healthcare and gaming, to name just two sectors adopting this cutting edge technology.
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These processes are already underway through global interconnection, facilitated by technologies such as the internet, broadband, smartphones and mobility. More importantly for these particular developments is data analytics through M2M (machine-to-machine), which allows for better management of the various aspects of our society. This will lead to interaction between these two developments – and even integration, merging humans and machines. Artificial intelligence has made this increasingly possible.
Some of the predictions and scenarios discussed might not be exactly right, as we are pushing the boundaries of our current level of knowledge. Some issues could attract strong responses from those with different views, and most likely some of the predictions will end up producing completely different outcomes. But what really matters is the discussion itself.
Sector and industry transformation
The digital economy began to take hold a decade or so ago, and some organisations were quick to react, while others were slow. The naysayers saw the impact of the internet on their business as a fad that would soon fade away; others, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Yahoo, saw it as the new business model.
A decade later it is clear who was right and who was wrong. The digital economy is here to stay and those who fail to participate will become the road-kill on this superhighway. One of the real threats to traditional business is that those who are embracing the digital economy have an opportunity to grow their business faster, and thus widen the gap between the winners and the losers.
The government sector is also at a crossroads here. Because of their large share in the economy and in national ICT spending governments can drive transformation and innovation in the national economy. Furthermore, like the business market, governments have to face the reality of transformation. For example, the healthcare sector is rapidly approaching a fiscal cliff. Costs attached to healthcare have grown to a completely unsustainable level.
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Only through digital transformation can we afford to maintain our hard-earned lifestyle.
Efficiency levels in the healthcare sector are among the lowest in the economy – estimated by IBM to be minus 40%. Through e-health $30 billion can be saved over a 10-year period. Healthcare is clearly becoming an area where key killer applications emerge – applications that utilise truly high-speed broadband networks.
As the financing of the public health systems in Australia becomes increasingly costly an opportunity exists to lower costs through more effective use of web services for healthcare consumers. With widely available and cost-effective ICT developments in data analytics, M2M and high-speed broadband infrastructure, e-health is enabling customers to benefit from advances in medical technology and medical services.
The Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) is a key enabler in that policy and a report on these developments is included.
While broader economic conditions in Australia remain subdued, spending on e-health solutions is likely to continue.
In the report we also list the key projects in Australia. We provide an overview of trials, both publicly- and privately-funded, and initiatives in e-health, with an overview of pilot programs as well.
Education is seen as one of the main 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 occur.
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; they 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 unlikely that the traditional education system will be able to cater for the massive requirements generated by the skills and knowledge acquisition associated with this new environment. Digital adaptation will be needed to break through the old structures.
Perhaps far more threatening are the many social and economic changes 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.
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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-frontline areas such as administration. At the same time the public sector is at a crossroads – 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, as well as 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. But 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 policy on the National Broadband Network has also sharpened its focus on the digital economy and the leadership role the government will have to adopt to kick-start developments in the area of e-government. This has resulted in the National Digital Economy Strategy – close to 100 different projects are now being developed under this policy.
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