Digital Society - Finding beauty in the chaos


Posted on: Jan 18, 2018 by Christopher Joynson

Imagine the scene – waves and waves of technology crashing against the shoreline of our society, spreading out far and wide, to then dissipate into a distant ‘retro’ memory.

Geographies across the shoreline are impacted by each wave in different ways and at different times – some have been at the forefront for years and are being grinded down by legacy, others are less mature and receive each new wave in a manner not seen before.

One wave is followed by another, bringing new opportunities, behaviours and threats. No one knows exactly what the next wave will bring, but we all know that it will be more impactful and intrusive than ever before.

Where does this leave you and I – the citizens in our society? We are the tiny grains of sand. Some of us get picked up by the waves and embrace our new capabilities. Others may find ourselves left behind, and out of touch with the new concepts and behaviours that each wave brings.

It is at the individual level where the beauty lies in our chaotic digital society. Every one of us has our own unique emotions and perceptions that culminate in a gut instinct – do I trust this new technology, or do I distrust it?

Understanding the feelings that differentiate us from each other has become the key to controlling the digital divide in our society, and is the core premise behind our recently published Digital Inclusion Survey.

A look into the unknown

Back in October 2017, my colleagues and I from the Atos Scientific Community published a global, public survey that asked each respondent to tell us how they feel about the latest technology – whether they feel comfortable with it and would embrace it, or whether they feel discomfort and would steer clear.

We received over 1,500 responses in total from 63 countries – building a picture of technological emotional uptake on a scale not seen before, from as far afield as Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan and Afghanistan. In total, all of these people spent 260 hours’ worth of time completing the survey, which makes the results all the more special.

Some headlines from the results include that:

Across all respondents, people feel most comfortable with accessing the internet and buying a paperless travel ticket, and least comfortable with having a payment method (chip) embedded in their skin and artificial intelligence governing the country

There was an almost perfect relationship between age and comfort, with older people feeling less comfortable than younger people across nearly all of the questionsPeople over the age of 60 feel much less comfortable with having an assistant (e.g. Google Home, Siri, or Alexa) in their bedroom than they are with having nanobots in their bloodstream to fight disease

 

This is just a taster – there is much more insight to be taken from this survey, and we will be disclosing the full set of results in the near future.

Seeing through the chaos – an opportunity to take control

When we put all of the responses onto one chart, aggregated by persona (those people of the same location, gender and age grouping) we see the image below – a chaotic tangle of perceptions and emotions.

 

The beauty lies within each of these lines; the feelings of trust, security and privacy or otherwise that they represent, and the powerful insight they provide into our future.

The metaphor of waves of technology coming down on society’s shoreline appeals to me because it hints at the lack of control that we have, as individuals, over what is coming next. Only by understanding the drivers behind technological uptake on an individual level can we take some control over how our digital society progresses in the years to come.

We can ensure that new collaborative and social platforms are embraced by those that need them the most, that societal trends such as cash-free transactions and the gig-economy are developed in an inclusive and engaging manner and that our privacy, security and trust are supported rather than threatened by the latest technologies.

This responsibility is of increasing importance to all of us.

Survey published in collaboration with Rob Price, Marcelle Schillings, Poppy Mulvaney, Papa Ngal Diao and Sudhir Chopade. You can learn about some more of the survey results in Rob Price’s very festive blog, here.

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About Christopher Joynson

Digital Transformation Consultant and member of the Scientific Community
Christopher is a Digital Transformation Consultant with experience of strategic projects across financial services and central government. As a member of the Scientific Community, Christopher brings his background in law and a fresh innovative mindset to offer holistic perspectives on the implications of technological change for our society. His main area of interest is the digital divide, and how we can ensure that sections of our society are not left behind by the digital world.

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