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How information technology is changing the landscape for federal employees.

The Federal Workforce in 2020


Younger workers have been brought up with an always-on connection to people and information thanks to technology. What impact will this have on the future of your agency workforce?

According to a new report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Elon University, it could mean good or bad news, depending on whom you ask.

A survey of 1,021 technology stakeholders and critics found opinions evenly split as to whether younger generations' connectivity could yield a net positive or net negative by 2020. Researchers said young people growing up hyperconnected to each other and the mobile Web will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do well in some key respects.

At the same time, however, connectivity also will drive young people to thirst for instant gratification, settle for quick choices and lack patience, the survey found.

More specifically, respondents were asked to read two statements and select the one they believe is most likely to be true in the year 2020. The majority (55 percent) agreed that the hyper-connected, multitasking lives of teens and young adults will yield helpful results in 2020. Some 42 percent agreed with the opposite statement -- that hyper-connectivity will yield "baleful results."

"While 55 percent agreed with the statement that the future for the hyper-connected will generally be positive, many who chose that view noted that it is more their hope than their best guess, and a number of people said the true outcome will be a combination of both scenarios," the report states.

Meanwhile, respondents were consistent in their predictions of the most desired skills for young people in 2020. The most popular skills were public problem-solving through cooperative work, or crowdsourcing; the ability to search effectively for information online and be able to discern the quality of information; synthesizing details; being strategically future-minded; the ability to concentrate; and the ability to distinguish between "noise" and the real message.

"Memories are becoming hyperlinks to information triggered by keywords and URLs," said Amber Case, CEO of Geoloqi, in response to the survey. "We are becoming 'persistent paleontologists' of our own external memories, as our brains are storing the keywords to get back to those memories and not the full memories themselves."

Reporter Portrait for GovernmentExecutive.com

Brittany Ballenstedt writes Nextgov's Wired Workplace blog, which delves into the issues facing employees who work in the federal information technology sector. Before joining Nextgov, Brittany covered federal pay and benefits issues as a staff correspondent for Government Executive and served as an associate editor for National Journal's Technology Daily. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Mansfield University and originally hails from Pennsylvania. She currently lives near Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where her husband is stationed.

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