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Disruptors and drivers of change


T This section aggregates and summarises the emerging trends surfaced though this quarter’s Environment Scan (E-Scan) into headline or high-level disruptors and drivers of change. These disruptors and drivers of change direct attention to some of the broad, underlying factors that could affect Australian and New Zealand societies, communities and economies – and therefore police – over the short, medium and/or longer-terms.

The October 2017 Annual Trends Analysis identified five significant drivers surfaced during the 2016-17 E-Scans:

  • Increasing demographic diversity - People in Australia and New Zealand are getting older and more ethnically diverse, yet these changes are not evenly distributed across geographic areas.
  • Hyperconnectivity and the rise of machine intelligence - Rapidly advancing technology is playing an increasingly disruptive role in our societies and economies, changing the way people interact with each and lowering the costs of innovation for organisations.
  • Shifting economic tides - Growing inequality, diminished access to adequate housing, and the looming threat of technological disruption appear to be creating conditions that places strain on a large number of people.
  • Changing trust environment - An erosion of trust in government and democracy can lead to increasing political polarisation and preferences for populist leaders.
  • Youth under pressure - Increasing diversity, rapidly advancing technology, shifting economic environments, and changing trust landscapes are all factors with which young people must contend to create a life for themselves.

Future E-Scans, building upon the available evidence base, may give further weight to these drivers of change, reveal new drivers, or provide evidence that these drivers are overstated or misdirected. The disrupters and drivers of change identified below are the result of thematic analysis of the various topics canvassed during the current E-Scan.

Beyond the hype cycle
Technologies are a constant source of excitement about the future. Yet there are ever more signs that many of these ‘fourth industrial revolution’ technologies are beginning to find applications in a growing range of fields, including policing. There are signs that some countries in Asia and the Middle East are experimenting with a synthesis of robotics, artificial intelligence and facial recognition to expand their services. Other technologies, like drones and blockchain, are finding application across an ever-wider range of use cases - both positive and negative. Police will need to keep abreast of these emerging uses, and their consequential opportunities and threats.

Shifting community attitudes
The erosion of social cohesion continues in Australia, despite signs of renewed engagement in political processes. This erosion is driven largely by falling acceptance within Australian society, and growing rejection of migrants. Trust in police remains strong at the aggregate level, but there is some indication that spatial, demographic and socio-economic factors are associated with the degree of trust. Understanding the relationships between these factors and trust in police will be of increasing imperative in a socially dynamic future.

Jobs and growth, yet barriers remain
After a protracted period of slow economic growth, there are some signs that our economies are beginning to emerge from their slumber. Reinvigorated economic growth may serve to reduce economic pressures on some households, but as always, economic gains are rarely evenly distributed. As such, there is evidence many workers intend to work later in life, while childcare continues to be a barrier to greater workforce participation for many women. These pressures will impact police workforces in various ways.

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