A leading nation's critical infrastructure will be brought to its knees within the next five years according to a new report from Gartner. And the move to a more mobile workforce will continue apace. By 2014, percent of organisations will support corporate applications on personal devices, while 80 percent of businesses will be supporting their workforces using tablets by 2013

The report, Gartner's Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2011 and Beyond: IT's Growing Transparency, also claimed that the drive to automation will be such that by 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25 percent of labour hours associated with IT services. And, Gartner said that 20 percent of non-IT companies will become cloud service providers by 2015

But it's the claim that countries' infrastructures are so vulnerable that will garner the headlines. Gartner doesn't speculate as to which countries are most fallible but the report suggests that one of the G20 countries would be hit. Possible targets include stock exchanges, chemical, nuclear or electricity facilities or mobile phone networks – the report also suggests that the attacks could be multimodal, hitting more than one system and could, in theory, lead to a change in government.

Gartner's predictions about the changes to business are less dramatic but no less seismic in scope. There is already a transformation in the way that businesses treat information held on smartphones, where IT departments have moved from resisting such devices to trying to accommodate them. According to the research company, this process is set to continue in the next few years, with more employees wanting to access business information through personal devices such as smartphones rather than corporate PCs.

There's also predicted to be a boom in IT spending as companies who have recognised the importance of IT services to improving their profitability seek to spend more. Gartner is suggesting that there will be a 60 percent increase in expenditure among IT-savvy companies by 2015, although some of that increase is due to a low spend in the last couple of years.

"Gartner's top predictions showcase the trends and disruptive events that will reshape the nature of business for the next year and beyond," said Brian Gammage, vice president and Gartner fellow. "Selected from across our research areas as the most compelling and critical predictions, the developments and topics they address this year focus on changes in the roles that technologies and IT organisations play: in the lives of workers, the performance of businesses and the wider world."

One of the most radical changes will be within social networks where the rise of automated agents will mean that many "conversations" will not be as we conventionally understand the term to mean. Gartner said that these software agents will interaction with communities of users in a manner personalised to each individual, up to 10 percent of online "friends" will be non-human, said Gartner.