The Networked Society

Challenges and Opportunities

As networks and connectivity increase their basic functions, key elements of society are undergoing transformative change. According to Cisco, connected devices are projected to explode over the next five years from 14 billion to 50 billion. This transformation is seeing a reorientation of society where networks that transmit data, information and commands are integral to the existence and operation of people, places and services.

The networked society is transforming the technological and social landscape, presenting challenges and opportunities for research, industrial development and innovation. New and exciting immersive and pervasive ambient computing environments provide massive volumes of information permeating every aspect of existence. The data generated by these technologies can be automatically converted into knowledge capable of supporting decision making. This enables the fusing of intelligent mapping of real and social worlds at a global scale. A range of augmented reality and wearable devices is changing how rudimentary tasks are performed, affording a massive improvement in the quality of life.

Many sectors of the economy face significant disruption as a result of the networked society. Automated processing of information through ambient computing environments and their capabilities will transform the provision of services, such as personal health, personalised insurance, and the delivery of government. The ubiquity of transaction monitoring has reduced the cost of data collection to near zero, driving changes in service delivery across all sectors, such as business, manufacturing, agriculture, health, education, resources, and cultural industries. Additionally, the nature of work will change, blurring the boundaries between business and personal life. This will transform future work place arrangements, enable productivity gains, drive economic growth, and provide significant opportunities for government policy development.

The networked society also presents many challenges. There are key issues in relation to how information is obtained, processed, stored and used when networks transcend jurisdiction. The growing amount of personal data transmitted across networks has privacy and security implications. Additionally, the networked society is transforming cultural and social practices through the use of communications technologies allowing greater connectivity between people. This requires a rethink in understanding information security and integrity challenges from societal, cultural, legal, and governance perspectives.