New research by Readie finds major differences in attitude to new technology across Europe, with Germans most sceptical and Bulgarians most positive about its impact.

​Key findings

Research by Readie shows that attitudes to new technology and the sharing economy vary strongly between European countries. Germans tend to be the most sceptical about implementing new technologies and using digital platforms to share their resources. Bulgarians are the most positive about new technology and the sharing economy, followed by the Spanish.

Openness to using new digital technology

German men, compared to German women, are considerably more willing to try new technologies, such as driverless cars (42 per cent vs 28 per cent) or get brain surgery from a robot (39 per cent vs 23 per cent).

Millennials are also more open to new technology than older generations. This includes using different digital platforms and also sharing their own resources online, which 30 per cent of Germans aged 18-34 are open to renting out their home versus only 8 per cent of those aged over 55.

Germans with a university degree are more open to trying a range of new technologies including driverless cars and letting a robot look after family, compared to adults without a university education.

Potential issues holding people back from embracing digital change

Despite of 74 per cent of Germans saying they are excited about the future and the opportunities that new technology is bringing society, many say the benefits of the internet and digital technology are not spread equally across society. Large businesses, people living in towns and cities, and those under 30 years old are seen as the biggest beneficiaries.

Many Germans lack the skills to actively use technology. Although 95 per cent say they are confident writing and sending emails, only 9 per cent are confident using code to develop software. Furthermore, only three in ten German employees say they are offered basic digital training by their employers. Employees in the old Bundesländer (West Germany) are being offered more training opportunities than those in the new Bundesländer (East Germany).

When asked to consider the issues of technological change, Germans rank the increase in cybercrime, such as hacking, infringement of privacy and stolen data, the breakdown of face-to-face relationships, and potential access to dangerous products amongst the biggest problems. Job loss due to automation was the smallest concern.
Digital technology is changing every aspect of our lives and creating huge opportunities for society. For these benefits to be fully realised, however, people need to have the skills and the confidence to use new tools and platforms.

If innovations are perceived as being ultimately harmful, or the gains of new technology viewed as being too unevenly distributed, public opposition could become a major barrier to further progress. The key question the policy and business community have to ask themselves is: How ready are Europeans to live the digital life? If they are not ready, what is holding them back?

Lessons for governments and businesses

Digital technology is creating enormous opportunities for society, but not everyone perceives themselves as having access to these.

However, as our research shows, in Germany a number of groups – older people, those without a university degree and women – tend to be particularly unprepared and unwilling to engage with the opportunities digital change offers.

Governments and businesses must consider more carefully how open different sections of the population are to new technologies. It is clear that many people are optimistic about the future. Building confidence is key to empowering people to trust and embrace new technology which has potential to improve all our lives.

(Photo by Håkon Sataøen on Unsplash)