Identity Governance Blog

Megatrends and Identity Governance and Administration

April 30, 2019

A common theme in many megatrends is that the deployment of technology will contribute to providing the efficiency improvements necessary. Here IGA will play a critical role in protecting the technologies that are deployed.

Analysis shows that technology will help prevent future issues associated with greater population density, natural resource shortages, and climate change. Without cybersecurity protection, system attacks will result in physical disruption and stealing of sensitive information. Identity governance and administration (IGA) plays a critical role in granting access to only authorized individuals to these mission critical systems.

Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to predict the future. If I could, then I would have won the lottery and would not be writing this blog. If you could, then you would have won the lottery and most likely would not be reading it.

While we cannot determine exactly how the future will turn out – lottery ticket numbers predictions are very exacting – we can examine the likelihood of specific predictions becoming a reality. This will give us a good understanding of the general direction that society will move in.

What will be happening in the world in the next five, ten, or twenty years from now? What can we start thinking about today that will help us address future challenges? How will these changes impact identity governance and administration (IGA)? This blog examines four broad megatrends that are most likely to impact the world in the next ten years and the relevance of identity governance and administration in these future scenarios.

What are megatrends?

Megatrends are major forces that could potentially have a significant impact on the future of society, business, the economy, and the population. The concept of megatrends is used by large businesses to help them understand what their industry could look like ten years from now. The result of megatrends research is used by businesses to create multi-year strategies, by financial institutions to determine where they should invest for long-term returns, and by governments to help them make policy decisions and plan for major projects such as major infrastructure changes.

There are many different definitions of what makes a megatrend, but trends defined by most researchers fall into the following broad categories:

  • Increased urbanization as populations migrate to being city dwellers
  • Climate change as global temperatures continue to rise
  • Population growth and demographic changes as people live longer
  • Technological innovation due to scientific advances

Impact of megatrends

The megatrends highlighted above are all likely to have an impact on or be impacted by identity governance and administration. Let’s examine the key areas of each megatrend to understand how each will impact or be impacted by identity management.

Megatrend #1: Increased urbanization

It is estimated that by 2050, 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities and there will be 50 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants. To support this significant growth, governments will have to:

  • Create and manage sustainable environments which will include managing natural resources and increased recycling efforts
  • Manage transport infrastructures so that dense populations can move quickly and easily between their homes, work, education establishments, and leisure facilities
  • Protect citizens against critical national infrastructure terrorist attacks as the effort required to disrupt electrical or water supplies to a mega-city with over ten million inhabitants is not much greater than for a smaller town but the consequences are much more significant

The technology that will be deployed to support these and other critical smart city initiatives will be based on a combination of cloud technology, mobile devices, data analytics, and internet of things devices such as road sensors and cameras. The technology will monitor the physical environment to collect, store, and analyze huge quantities of potentially sensitive data. The smart city infrastructure will also actively control physical devices such as wind turbines, traffic lights, and driverless public transport. The data stored and the potential to manipulate physical devices could be an attractive target for malicious individuals or organized crime groups wanting to cause disruption or use the data to commit fraud or for other criminal purposes.

To prevent attacks on critical smart city technology, governments need to deploy an IGA solution which will rigorously control and monitor the infrastructure to ensure only authorized personnel will be able to access the data and physically control the devices.

Megatrend #2: Climate change

When national governments met in 2015, they ratified the Paris Agreement agreeing to legally binding CO2 emission reduction targets to slow down the increasing rate of global warming. To achieve these targets, governments must find innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a combination of technological advancements and changes in behavior through economic incentive schemes.

In countries where there is tax relief to encourage companies to become more energy efficient or where payments must be made when carbon is emitted, it is in the interests of businesses to install systems to reduce their energy consumption. Deploying technologies such as smart building management systems to automatically control efficient energy usage are attractive ways to reduce energy but, if not secured properly, could introduce a potential entry point for network cyberattacks as seen during the data breach at the US retailer Target in 2013.

Regardless of measures being implemented, climate change is still happening and requires governments and businesses to change the way they operate to compensate for its effects.

It is anticipated that as climate change accelerates, changes in the quality of water, air and food will have a negative effect on the health of citizens requiring greater amounts of healthcare provision. In addition, the erosion of coastlines due to rising sea levels will result in people moving inland to cities. This will increase the challenges associated with urbanization discussed above.

Like the technology used to address increasing urbanization, the technology used to reduce climate change and help compensate for the effects of global warming needs to be protected against malicious criminals. Businesses deploying smart technology to reduce their energy consumption, and governments using technology to manage resources and provide advanced healthcare need to deploy IGA to prevent unauthorized access to prevent significant disruption and loss of sensitive data.

Megatrend #3: Population growth and demographic changes

The United Nations estimates that the population will keep growing until 2100. Reports suggest that it will reach 8.6 billion in by 2030, 9.8 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100.

This significant population growth will increase pressure on natural resources and energy requirements. It is estimated that by 2030, the world’s energy requirements will have increased by 50%, water by 40%, and food by 35%. Governments will have to find ways to protect and maximize the use of the natural resources they have available, find ways to grow food more efficiently, and continue to generate power from renewable energy sources.

Systems that are put in place to monitor and control critical national infrastructure providing water, electricity, gas, and oil could be attractive targets for terrorist groups or nation states that want to cause maximum disruption to large populations.

In addition to the population growth, in certain areas the average age of the population will increase significantly causing a greater strain on the healthcare systems as they will need to treat more illnesses that occur in later life. Digitization and continuous or regular monitoring systems to detect illnesses earlier will need to be used to increase healthcare efficiency.

The technology deployed to monitor energy production and use, maximize food production, and improve healthcare efficiency as populations grow needs to be protected as it could be exploited by rogue nation states wanting to cause disruption.

Megatrend #4: Technological innovation

Technology innovation is everywhere. We are seeing the increase of self-driving cars, 3D printers, blockchain, advances in artificial intelligence due to greater computing power being available, smaller and more sophisticated smartphones, and the internet of things where more of physical world is connected, managed and controlled. The rate of technology innovation is greater than ever before and the benefits that these innovations bring mean that the rate of adoption is also increasing rapidly.

These new opportunities provide many benefits to their users including freedom of movement to ease of manufacturing bespoke parts, distributed and secure transactions, and more efficient cities. However, the increased dependence on technologies like these and the increase in the amount of data they need to collect and store to operate correctly and efficiently means that they are becoming increasingly interesting targets for individual hackers, criminal groups, and nation states wanting to cause significant disruption.

Keeping these new technologies secure is an ongoing job for both their creators and those that choose to deploy them. The designers and manufacturers of the technology innovations are responsible for ensuring that the software they build to run these systems is as secure as possible from day one and that they continually develop patches to plug any security holes that are subsequently reported by end users and researchers.

Those that deploy the technologies have an equally important role to make sure that the new technology systems are only accessed by those who need to access them. While this might initially seem like a trivial task for a single technology with a few users that do not change, it soon becomes a complex ongoing project as the amount of technology increases and as the population of users changes on an increasingly regular basis. Those who deploy the new technologies need to ensure that they limit access to those who need it, perform regular reviews to ensure that business requirements have not changed, and that the access rights of employees or contractors that leave the company are revoked as soon as possible.

Deploying new technologies can bring significant benefits to organizations which could result in cost savings, efficiency increases, and ways to get ahead of the competition by serving customers better. However, if access is not controlled, the new technologies can introduce significant security holes into a company’s infrastructure, allowing criminals to gain access to many different parts of the business where they could access potentially sensitive information and disrupt business operations.

The future and identity access governance

Regardless of whether you work in government, manufacturing, agriculture, or any other vertical, the effects of megatrends will ultimately have an impact on your organization. Governments need to consider smart cities and the concept of a “digital country”, manufacturers need to look at internet of things devices to make manufacturing smarter, and agriculture needs to increase food production efficiency to support a growing population.

A common theme in each of the megatrends is that the deployment of technology will contribute to providing the efficiency improvements necessary. However, if access to this technology is not secured by only allowing access to those who need it, malicious individuals, organized criminal groups, or nation states could either cause widespread disruption by disabling the systems or steal confidential and sensitive data which could be used for illegal activities. While some things are difficult to predict, it is almost certain that IGA will play a critical role in protecting the technologies that are deployed to improve efficiency and prevent large-scale problems from occurring. Without IGA, governments and businesses will not be able to guarantee continuous operation of systems that are critical to the wellbeing of their citizens and employees.

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