IMAD: Technological development among the most important megatrends in a long-lived society
The adjustment to demographic change will take place in a dynamic environment driven by technological development and marked by rapid changes and transformations. The accelerating and intensifying introduction of digital and technological solutions in all fields is upending the environment that we live and work in. New technological products and services create new solutions which, in the context of a long-lived society, provide better opportunities in healthcare, long-term care, transportation and housing. In framing responses to the challenges of a long-lived society, the effective use of these achievements will be considered along with achievements in life sciences (neuroscience, genetics, precision medicine, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals) as well as other complementary sciences.
Digitalisation and the development of information and communication technologies are also creating new professions (with certain older ones disappearing) and transforming the modes of providing information and communicating. This will require an adaptation of educational systems and the strengthening of lifelong learning and training.
Figure 1: The multi-faceted impact of technological development
New occupations and jobs will require a change of business models and an adaptation to the altered business environment - both for businesses as well as individuals. This will make it easier to utilise the benefits of technological development and digitalisation. Technological progress has also been driving a profound change in healthcare and long-term care. And while this has improved the quality of service and quality of life by reducing certain types of expenditure, it has also increased expenditure (i.e. non-demographic factors in healthcare). At the same time, integrated care, which blurs the boundary between healthcare and social services, has gained in importance. The social and healthcare systems will be sustainable in the long run only if a portion of traditional services is replaced by e-health and e-care services. This will also allow elderly people to live in their home environments longer.
Figure 2: Positive effects of ICT development on a long-lived society
Technological development and digitalisation also entail certain risks. In terms of a long-lived society, the most notable ones include changes that may have a negative impact on the labour market, security, performance of large systems, communications and the ability to use the latest technologies. These effects are present at the social and individual levels.
Figure 3: Technological change and digitalisation entail certain risks
The society will have to adapt to digitalisation and rapid technological changes, which will improve the existing models of living, communication and transportation in many ways. However, they will also be challenging for users. Digitalisation will make communication easier, but it also entails the risk of widening the generational gap due to the transformation of established modes of communication, which tends to be easier for younger generations to adjust to. Digitalisation has also been changing the imaginary worlds of younger generations, which may affect communication and interpersonal relations. The widening of the digital gap between the "digitally literate" and the "digitally illiterate" therefore requires a reform of education and the creation of new support and advisory professions.
The development of ICT and the possibility of direct communication on social networks will drive the growth of a "collaborative economy". This will affect the labour market (new employment opportunities with mostly non-standard forms of work) and the operations of the providers of products and services that are well represented in the collaborative economy, while reducing costs for individuals and providing them with new sources of income.
Technological development is thus an underlying megatrend or ongoing change at the global level which redefines the society and has a far-reaching impact on the lives of individuals, the economy, society and culture. It will affect the responses to demographic changes in all spheres of the economy and society, and should be broadly taken into account in conceiving responses brought about by the ageing of society.