Last year, we predicted that public sector hesitancy would hinder crisis preparedness. The choice at the time was straightforward but not necessarily simple: Build and fortify COVID-19-era competencies or return to pre-pandemic business as usual. We advised public sector leaders to use 2023 to prepare to help business and society navigate the next great wave of global changes wrought by burgeoning systemic risks. Public sector leaders who heeded our warnings strengthened their talent pool, improved trust with customers, and retained their hard-won crisis capabilities.

In 2024, we expect proactive government leaders to take decisive steps to manage imminent global challenges on two fronts. At home, governments will seek to maximize economic opportunity while limiting social disruption from the generative AI boom. Abroad, allied democratic nations will accelerate their response to a changing international order as emboldened authoritarian powers flex their economic and military might. Our predictions for the public sector in 2024 include:

  • Governments will create three regional tech markets as they pursue digital sovereignty. Nearly two years of growing tech protectionism caused by the shadow of gray zone warfare will culminate in three segregated tech markets: EU, Sino-Russian, and US-led Indo-Pacific. The final tipping point may come from increasingly restricted exports of advanced technology, digital regulation regimes of online services and platforms in different markets, or both. Regardless, the rise of three markets for tech development and adoption will force public and private sector organizations to adjust their supply chains and the global tech industrial complex, including the likes of Microsoft, NVIDIA, and IBM, to decide whom they want to serve and from where. Already, Kyndryl has made the call to separate its China business, impacting some 6,000 staff.
  • Skills deficits will thwart half of government efforts to address talent shortages with AI. Facing waves of civil service retirements and employee burnout, governments will experiment with genAI to preserve the irreplaceable intellectual property that these people would otherwise take with them. But these efforts will be hampered by persistent tech skills gaps and a lack of competitive compensation and rewards to attract new talent with AI skills. In response, some organizations will resort to expensive outsourcing while others will encourage employees to acquire relevant skills, such as through microcredential courses.
  • GenAI-created disinformation will fail to change the course of national elections. The tech industry and governments will launch a host of tools that stymie adversarial efforts by state and nonstate actors to sway opinions and destabilize societies. These efforts will focus on limiting the spread, rather than the creation, of disinformation. Why? Because the real danger lies not in its existence but its distribution — regardless of whether it is generated by AI or humans. In 2024, we expect solutions such as Google’s toxic speech identifier Jigsaw and government initiatives like the US’s National Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation Plan to be just the beginning of a wider reckoning. The technology industry will be further spurred on by companies in the private sector that redirect their spending to platforms that accelerate their efforts to curb AI-powered disinformation, misinformation, and online toxicity.

Read our full Predictions 2024: Public Sector And Government report (client access required) to get more details on all of these predictions, plus two bonus predictions for public sector mission, business, and technology leaders. Forrester clients can also set up a guidance session to discuss these predictions and plan for how to navigate 2024’s turbulence.

If you aren’t yet a client, you can download our complimentary Predictions guide, which covers our top predictions for 2024. Find additional complimentary resources, including webinars, on the Predictions 2024 hub.