New research published by Readie shows that UK adults believe that the positives provided by the internet outweigh the negatives (78 per cent), but also that the benefits are not shared equally across society. People aged under 30 and residents of urban areas are seen as the biggest beneficiaries.

Employees based in London are being offered more digital skills training than others around the country, a situation that needs to be urgently addressed by policymakers and businesses to prevent the development of an entrenched digital skills gap.

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The research

In collaboration with ComRes, we polled 9,000 people from across Europe – Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK – to test public opinion as the EU works towards establishing a digital single market. The research explores how open people are to integrating new technology in their lives and what issues might prevent them from harnessing the opportunities.

The Readie Ranking 2017

So, how open is the public to using new technology? We found that the UK tends to be moderately sceptical, with Bulgarians and Spaniards the most willing to try it out.

For this ranking, we focused on attitudes to three ‘hot topics’: future technology like driverless cars and 3D printed food; robotics and drones; and the sharing economy.

This ranking measures public openness to using new technologies across eleven example questions (see Chapter 1 in the full report). For each question, the countries were ranked according to the responses with the top country receiving a score of 9, the lowest a score of 1. Responses were combined and the mean rank over all questions was calculated for each country.

More than half of the UK adults surveyed said that they would be willing to substitute human soldiers in the battlefield with robots and drones (55 per cent) – the highest of all European countries. The UK also came out higher than the European average when offered brain surgery from a robot that can operate with more accuracy than a human doctor (40 per cent vs 38 per cent).

Over 102 million contactless cards are in current issue in the UK, and yet only 28 per cent of UK adults are in favour of abolishing cash in favour of solely digital currencies. The European average was 37 per cent, with Bulgaria leading the pack (54 per cent).

What else did we find?

Overall, the majority of UK adults are excited about the future and opportunities that new technology is bringing to society. However, our research highlights that UK adults reported low digital skills capabilities. These skills will be particularly important in the future workforce.

Over 90 per cent of respondents said that they are confident writing and sending an email, but just one third of UK employees are being offered basic digital training by their employers. Londoners say they are offered more advanced digital skills training like building websites, data analysis, coding or software programming than those living in other parts of the UK.

When asked about issues of technological change, cybercrime is cited by more than half of UK adults as one of the biggest problems. Similarly, half of UK adults said protecting personal data from cyberattacks should be a priority for the UK government.

What’s next?

While new technology and platforms are creating exciting opportunities for people, businesses and governments across Europe, the UK must ensure that these developments are inclusive and that everyone is equipped with the skills they will need to make the most of the digital future.