The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a series of reports on trends that it believes will impact U.S. government and society over the coming years including developments on science and technology, supply chains, and national security threats.
Every four years, GAO releases a strategic guide for its work to help lawmakers in Congress oversee Federal operations and address governmental and societal issues over a five-year period. In its newest plan, GAO outlines key efforts for 2022-2027; goals and objectives for serving Congress and the nation; and trends that are affecting government and society, while also detailing how technology plays a role in these efforts.
The Trends Affecting Government and Society portion of the plan includes “12 papers on trends that will likely affect government and society in the next five to 15 years – including science and technology in an innovation economy, global supply chains, racial and ethnic disparities, and national security threats,” GAO said.
The watchdog agency’s paper on Science, Technology, and Innovation Economy highlights trends on how the United States is increasingly facing expanding and changing competition; critical needs to modernize aspects of the U.S. intellectual property (IP) and technology transfer systems; a decline in the U.S. share of global R&D spending; the persistent shortage of skilled technical workers; and loss of domestic manufacturing that creates gaps in the nation’s innovation system.
To push back on these trends, GAO suggests that the U.S. develop policies to encourage innovation, while also rethinking competition policy, improving incentives for small businesses to innovate, and reversing the decline in public R&D investment.
A separate paper covering Security Implications for an Increasingly Digital World discusses current trends of people spending more time teleworking; criminals shifting activities online; and people increasingly relying on digitals tools for news and information.
GAO said the U.S. must balance security and safety, as well as prepare for and mitigate related security issues.
“As society adopts new digital technologies, law enforcement’s ability to identify and counter illicit activity online will depend on its ability to understand and employ these new technologies,” wrote GAO.
The agency’s Future of Global Supply Chains paper looks at current trends in global trade, and a related drop in global international trade in 2020 due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The paper states that “recent events have raised questions about the economic and national security risks” supply chains may pose. “The U.S. and other countries may adopt measures to incentivize or force companies or certain industries to: shorten their global supply chains and increase domestic production,” wrote GAO.
Education and Telework
In other papers included in the new report, GAO discusses the outlook for telework, virtual classrooms, and health IT, and how workers, students, and citizens are impacted differently through these trends based on different races, genders, income levels, and education.
GAO’s paper on Online Learning and Technology in Education insists that the United States address challenges to leverage technology in the educational landscape, and address concerns surrounding long-term learning loss, disengaged K-12 students, and lower college enrollment.
“Building on what educators have learned about effective digital practices will be critical to creating learning options that meet the needs of a diverse student population; to offering lifelong learning opportunities for workers; and to ensuring a skilled workforce,” wrote GAO.