Top 10 Technology Trends Expected in 2020

Earlier this year, Access Partnership highlighted the top ten trends we see for 2020 across the tech sector broadly, arising from regulation of Artificial Intelligence (AI), privacy, supply chain security, 5G, and other issues. The full report, Tech Policy Trends in 2020, is informed by our perspective as tech policy experts in all regions of the globe.

The satellite industry – which has long argued for carve-outs from tech regulation on the basis that its networks provided only the “pipe” – will be increasingly touched by these trends, even if some relate more directly to digital platform giants. Issues such as data privacy, supply chain issues, and cybersecurity in 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) could be more relevant than ever, and should be monitored. Here’s a review of our top 2020 trends:

Artificial Intelligence: The new European Commission recently issued a white paper setting out its vision of “human-centric” AI based on ethical notions of security, privacy, and dignity. Lagging behind the U.S. and China, and with its increasingly protectionist tone, Europe could seek to exclude third-parties from the ecosystem. At the same time, the U.S is moving forward with legislative initiatives, having released its “Artificial Intelligence for the American People” policy. Developments such as AI in export control are also of interest.

The Digital Services Act: Europe’s proposed Digital Services Act (DSA) will be the defining digital regulation of the decade, much as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set the standard for privacy regulation further afield. The DSA, aiming to address the responsibility of online platforms such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter for harmful content online, will upgrade liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services, and products to incentivize companies to remove illegal and harmful content.

Tech Protectionism in Europe: European leaders are increasingly concerned about reliance on foreign-owned technologies and becoming “technologically sovereign.” The European Union has planned a three-step approach for imposing more tech regulation and standards, assessing reliance on foreign technology, and creating European alternatives. The Commission has been tasked with assessing Europe’s reliance on non-European technology for critical services and infrastructure in 2020, putting Europe first in sensitive sectors like critical infrastructure, defense, and space.

Supply Chain Security: As for hardware, a robust global supply chain exists for software. A new focus on software supply chain security — especially for open source software — is expected in 2020. At the same time as the U.S. and Europe consider action, China is expected to develop its own rules targeting Western “unreliable entities” in the supply chain for Chinese finished goods. Finally, watch for supply chain shifts away from China toward smaller South and Southeast Asian countries, like Vietnam.

Spectrum Sharing: Increasing demand for the finite resource called spectrum – especially for 5G – means 2020 will see the mainstreaming of spectrum-sharing frameworks. Current regulatory approaches to this are fragmented, but European technical bodies have signalled that spectrum sharing will feature in strategic five-year plans, and the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2019 outcomes suggested a trend towards more sharing to enable unlicensed access to spectrum.

5G Security: Security for 5G is important as the expected use of 5G in manufacturing, healthcare, smart cities, industry, agriculture, and other applications makes it strategically vital and more relevant in control functions. Driven by spectrum availability and diverse devices, security discussions are ever more relevant for both public and private networks.

U.S. Privacy Law: While 2020 will not likely see a U.S. comprehensive privacy law passed, it may reveal the outlines of an eventual law which will have impacts at least as consequential as the EU’s GDPR. Partially in response to the California Consumer Privacy Act, and to avoid disparate treatment as other states take up similar regulation, a Congressional consensus that something must be done at a federal level has produced drafts of consumer privacy acts.

Data Sharing Regulations: 2020 will be the year of regulation on data sharing, in which regulators may introduce prescriptive and burdensome laws. These may require data to be stored locally, mandate local trust certification, require companies to conform to standards set by incumbents, and instruct companies to categorize shared data to the point that it is no longer useful. Already, in Europe and Asia, regulators are working on this. Australia’s Consumer Data Rights rules will be extended to the energy and telecommunications industries, and Japan and Singapore already encourage data sharing.

IoT Regulation: In the past year, lawmakers have started regulating IoT, especially network and device security – a trend that will only grow in 2020. There has also been a push to regulate less obvious issues of e-SIM technology and roaming, key contributors to the growth of IoT. Measures have been seen in the U.K., United Arab Emirates, and at the U.S. state and federal levels, and secondarily through things like the EU Cybersecurity Act.

The Rise of Green Technology: Sustainability, climate change and green processes have become priority items in the agendas of policy-makers and regulators worldwide. Because Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are instrumental in monitoring climate change, mitigating and adapting to its effects and facilitating the transition towards a green and circular economy, policy-makers are working with industry to develop new standards and frameworks, including at the ITU and the European Commission. VS

Contributors of the original trends report include Simona Lipstaite, Mike Clauser, Heloise Martorell, Michael Laughton, Haude Lannon, Chris Adams, Logan Finucan, Seha Yatim, Maria Zervaki, and Nikita Andersson.

previousRegional Roundup: September 2016nextSpace Start-Ups: Where Do They Go Next?