“All new generations will be assuming by default that they will be addressed via digital channels since information can be spread quickly and tech devices are becoming more and more affordable. ”
As the final blog post from our series of posts dedicated to our 25th anniversary, we have to, obviously, address the future directions. Precisely, the outlook of Cybernetica as a company, development of technologies in and out of our scope, and discuss in which directions society in general might be headed towards, hand in hand with the various technologies.
We asked our CEO Oliver Väärtnõu some insightful questions and received seriously thought-provoking answers.
Read Oliver’s thoughts below.
What kind of technologies will become even more relevant in the next 5-10 years?
We can only speculate about that and it’s hard to say from research stand point, hence my rather philosophical answer to this. Even DARPA, who invests in new breakthrough technologies, has their outlook for just 5-7 years ahead. However, one thing that I’m certain of, is that technology’s presence will be steadily growing in our societal organisation. People also expect the technologies to just magically appear in our lives and get more things done for us to make our lives easier. We expect (public) services to find us on their own and we’re not willing to do much to have access to them.
Perhaps one of the extreme outcomes, of which I’m sceptical, is the future based on virtual reality (Metaverse) – a future where people just stay in bed all day and live inside their VR-headsets. Technologically speaking, it would mean an enormous development in processors and servers. We would need to be able to process a huge amount of data and push it through our networks which would call for 6G, 7G and all future G-s. We would need to train the algorithms even more to have the machines make smarter choices in familiar situations as well as new situations they might encounter.
Nevertheless, any path of future will call for even bigger importance of cybersecurity in every aspect – both data security as well as the secure development and defence of the systems’ architecture. Some questions that arise in terms of digital development and cybersecurity:
- How can we know if the decisions are made correctly?
- Do we know for certain that the systems are not being manipulated?
- Big businesses will want to consolidate the markets, but is it the right thing to do from the user stand point if they will be giving away more and more control over their systems and data?
- What’s the correct market balance of various systems, anyway?
- Will there be just 2-3 cloud services that fit 90% of entire data on the planet?
Certainly, the world will continue to digitalise. And that will call for even more energy consumption. Due to that, the energy industry will become even more relevant. We would need to come up with ways of minimising our carbon footprint, find new renewable energy sources, and still continue to invest in efficiency – develop processors that require less energy; design smart networks that automatically switch your energy source, depending on what’s most efficient and cheapest at any given point, let you choose between energy sources or give you the choice to unplug yourself from the network altogether.
People’s habits and expectations to governments go hand in hand with tech development. Would you say there might be clear gap in societal wellbeing between countries that take and that do not take e-government systems into use?
In my opinion, it’s not possible to be a competitive country in the present world without using e-government solutions. It’s clear that these solutions help the government to work more efficiently, as well as make the public services better accessible.
I imagine all new generations will be assuming by default that they will be addressed via digital channels since information can be spread quickly and tech devices are becoming more and more affordable.
Countries that do not deploy e-governance will be falling behind in public sector competitiveness, as well as in their own economic development. Even Estonia is a great example showcasing this – 15 years ago Estonia was known for cheap resources like oil shale, forests etc. And now, we have secured ourselves as a digital country where IT-sectors accounts for 15% of GDP.
Tell us about Cybernetica’s development plans. Will the scope of fields decrease, increase or remain similar to the current situation?
Cybernetica’s strength has always been the development of secure software systems – especially the ones aimed at solving societal problems efficiently – interoperability, border surveillance, digital identity. We should continue to develop in the fields we already have expertise in by finding constant innovation and developing even more effective systems.
Although we are proud of our breakthrough technologies like UXP and X-Road, we need to keep in mind that the world is constantly changing and we have to keep up with it. For example, we thought eID should be a token-based solution but the European Commission came out with the eIDAS 2.0 regulation which stated the European eID should be a wallet-based solution instead. And so, we had to adapt to this new regulation.
However, I do see another two fields that fit well into our development – healthcare and privacy. Healthcare contains already many technologies that we have expertise in – cybersecurity, data protection and distributed systems which mainly come into use with e-health technologies. The privacy field is quite large and we already have some expertise there, but it’s a sphere that is becoming more and more relevant, so it feels only natural to continue developing something we already know about.
I’m personally very interested in energy technologies that I discussed previously. I see great potential of development there since the networks are becoming smarter, production is being optimised up to demand and clients are willing to make more calculated decisions – all of this can be developed within using ICT technologies. So now we’re left with finding out how exactly we can give our input to the energy sector.
How much will Cybernetica grow as a team? Could there possibly be branches in other countries as well?
Cybernetica’s shareholders have defined our size of a maximum 250 employees. If we exceed this size, we will lose the SME status (small and medium-sized enterprise) which results in us losing some financial support from the EU that we are currently using for our R&D. R&D is what distinguishes us from other ICT companies so exceeding the 250-employee threshold has to be a calculated decision. So, at the moment, we will be growing up to 250 employees.
Before Covid we actually decided to open a branch in Japan, but this has been on hold due to the country being closed for almost 2 years and our previous partners finding other solutions in the meantime. We have restarted this process but it depends whether that region is still as interested in our products and services as before Covid. I really hope they are and it would be amazing to see our first foreign branch open already in 2023 which would mostly be focusing on sales. It’s going to be just the first step into branching out and then we can start looking into other regions like the US, for example.
How relevant will cybersecurity and privacy become for the private user?
I believe private users are taking already their privacy and data security seriously. The more we read about data leaks or data being sold to third parties (Surveillance Economy), the more relevant those two features will become. Probably every person feels strongly about how their personal data is being processed and what happens to it, since it’s a very personal thing. The most important thing is for every individual to make conscious decisions about their data and at some point, it may become difficult.
It's not uncommon for extra services or better accessibility being offered in return for one’s data. In this case it should be explicitly said how one’s data is being used in order for the person to make the right decision for themselves.
Another topic that has come into light is the differentiation between data sensitivity – for example health data is extremely personal that should be protected more as opposed to commuting routes, which for some people is fine to share. I believe it’s still every user’s own decision as to what and at which scale their data is being processed – if my Garmin smart watch uploads my data to their cloud, that’s fine. If Garmin decides to sell my data to insurance companies who in turn offer me their life insurance based on my health data, then that obviously crosses the line.
Can SaaS and digital marketing service providers expect stricter regulations in the future that protect private users even more?
Regulations definitely play an important part in the entire puzzle. When GDPR was passed, it was hoped that it’s like a magic spell that will be protecting private users. In reality, people “accept” almost all T&Cs they are presented with, without actually reading any policies through. Something clearly went wrong – we either relied too much on regulations’ powers, or underestimated tech companies or private individuals. For regulations to actually do what they are supposed to, we should be developing three aspects simultaneously:
- Develop and invest into privacy protecting technologies
- Promoting, even demanding, the use of privacy protecting technolgies
- Educate users and expose publicly misuse of data by service providers
- Improve regulations that offer more protection to the end user
Oftentimes, innovation happens before regulators manage to react to the new technologies. Still, at some point the regulations will have to keep up with innovation as far as the digitalisation continues to intertwine itself into our lives.