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. Swedes have been early adopters and remain skilled in established uses of the internet, but seem generally less interested in new technology such as robotics.
Our new report suggests that Swedes might be complacent about adapting to ever changing technology. If the gains of new technology are 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?
Swedes say finding information quickly, being able to communicate with each other and simplifying life admin are the biggest benefits of the internet. A minority of Swedes that already use the internet more heavily also favour new innovations such as robotics and going completely cashless.
Swedish adults are generally in favour of change. Also, they are less likely to believe that the world is changing too quickly compared to the European average (58% vs 68%).
Age, education and gender influences Swedish adults’ attitude towards digital technology. Younger adults are more open to new technology. Adults aged 18 to 54 are significantly more likely to be interested in driverless cars than those aged over 55 (39% vs 26%).
Swedish adults with a university degree are more interested in new technologies, such as implants to monitor health, than those without (45% vs 38%).
Sweden should build on its traditional strength in using technology to keep up to speed with further innovation. This involves recognising a potential fatigue when it comes to trying out new applications. Specifically this requires continued training in digital skills, including more advanced ones such as writing computer code. It is especially important here to include groups such as the over 55s and women, who tend to have less of these advanced skills.
Our report also suggests the existences of pioneering groups, which are bucking the trend and both already using more innovative technology more heavily, as well as reporting an interest in cutting edge developments.
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.
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. In particular, we focused on attitudes to three ‘hot topics’: future technology like driverless cars and 3D printed food; robotics and drones; and the sharing economy.