Shallow focus of globe (UK)

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Short-term tech benefits during Covid-19 do not outweigh longer-term issues, according to global study

According to the latest Digital Society Index (DSI), surveying over 32,000 people globally, the short-term tech benefits during Covid-19, such as upskilling through webinars and using social media to engage and relax, are still outweighed by longer term concerns over poor health and inequalities.

In the study, by global marketing agency, Dentsu Aegis Network, a fifth of Brits have been using technology to upskill during the pandemic, using educational apps and webinars. A quarter of Brits say that tech has helped them to relax over the last few months with one in ten using tech to monitor their health.

However, countries who have been living with Covid-19 for longer have felt the negative impacts at a far greater scale. Two in every three people in China (64%) believe tech has had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing, followed by Singapore (47%) and Hong Kong (41%).

And across the globe, technology’s impact on well-being is causing massive concern. Half the people surveyed feel it is increasing the inequality gap and over half (57%) are worried about the pace of tech change, feeling it is moving too fast.

The study highlights how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has entered a new period of “tech-love”, interacting with technology in a more positive way than ever before, revealing one third (29%) believe tech has enabled them to connect with friends, family and the world around them during lockdown, while a similar proportion (29%) of people globally believe tech is enabling them to relax and unwind at a time of potential stress.

The study reveals that people in emerging markets are learning new skills and improving their knowledge, fuelled by the rise in digital solutions and online courses. With more time at home to learn and self-improve, almost half of people surveyed in South Africa (46%), Mexico (44%) and Brazil (43%) have been using tech in this way. That compares to one fifth (18%) of people in the UK and a quarter in the US (24%) who have also been using technology to upskill using educational apps and webinars.

Reflecting positive engagement with technology during the pandemic, people are increasingly optimistic about the role of tech in society. A growing share of people globally believe in tech’s ability to solve societal challenges, such as healthcare issues like COVID-19 – 42% in 2018 vs 45% in 2019 and now 54% in 2020.

This optimism translates into increased brand expectations. The pandemic has forced businesses to re-consider their interactions with consumers. When it comes to providing new services to help people mentally and physically, a massive 66% of people globally say they would not just ‘want’ but expect organisations to use tech in a way that has a wider positive societal impact in the next five to ten years. Over half in the US (60%) and UK (59%) feel this way, with people in China (84%) and South Africa (82%) needing it most.

Masaya Nakamura, CEO Global Solutions, Dentsu Aegis Network, responding to the results said: “The pandemic has forced us to become more conscious of the role technology can play in meeting our fundamental human needs. There has been a period of ‘techlove’ during the COVID-19 crisis, with brands using technology to pivot their relationship with consumers to support and empower their well-being. If this is to endure into the recovery, the challenge for brands is to humanise technology and ensure it is being deployed in service of people’s needs. That also means ensuring that increased investment in functional capabilities like e-commerce is matched by equal focus on building a truly empathetic brand.”

Despite the shorter-term benefits of technology during the pandemic, the report shows that there is a longer-term trend of a ‘techlash’ - a negativity felt towards technology that has been felt across the globe in some countries more than others.

Across the globe, 57% of people today believe the pace of tech change is too fast (a level that has been consistent since 2018). Nearly half of the people surveyed also believe that digital technologies are increasing the inequality gap between rich and poor, a sentiment seen most in South Africa (61%), China (61%) and France (57%).

Even though social media is helping people stay connected, almost a fifth of people in the UK (17%) and US (14%) have found technology has caused them to feel more mentally stressed and made it harder to switch off. This is higher than the global average of one in every 10 people (13%)

Nakamura added: “As we look to the recovery, brands need to put more focus on creating bespoke solutions that aim to help people lead better lives, rather than pushing a product or service on them. Brands need to think about the full lifetime value they can provide to consumers, integrating all elements of marketing, sales and service. Providing helpful experiences is at the forefront of every businesses’ mind during the current pandemic and should be for the next decade and beyond.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Andrew McKay .

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