Digital was our lifeline in 2020, and we are more positive about it since

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Tim Cooper, Global Head, Strategic Communications, Dentsu


  • In 2020, there was an increase in our trust of how governments handle our personal data.
  • More people report their digital skills being used more effectively utilised in the workplace.
  • However, we have noticed a deterioration in our ability to switch off, as well as more aches and pains.

As we look back on an extraordinary 2020, it’s clear that many old patterns of work, leisure and learning have been transformed. But what impact has this had on how people feel about digital?

A couple of years ago, we started measuring how well digital technologies were meeting people’s fundamental human needs.

We have been able to track sentiment using our own adaptation of Maslow’s seminal hierarchy of needs model. Maslow’s triggers are in bold:

  • Basic needs: Access to digital infrastructure (e.g. mobile, internet) and trust in data use by governments and businesses.
  • Psychological needs: Improved health and wellbeing, and quality of life through the use of digital technologies.
  • Self-fulfilment needs: Digital skills empowerment and workplace utilisation.
  • Societal needs: Belief in digital’s capacity to improve society, both now and in the future.

We applied our conceptual framework to an annual survey of more than 32,000 people. Here’s what the results told us:

Image: dentsu, Digital Society Index Consumer Survey, 2020

In turbulent times, back to basic needs

Basic needs have increased by six percentage points across the 18 countries included in our year-on-year comparison. In addition, trust in the use of personal data by governments, as well as ratings of internet speed and affordability, have shown the biggest increases.

In a year during which many of us have been forced to work remotely — and many governments have been using our data to help combat the pandemic — these findings are perhaps not surprising.

How this pattern develops moving forward, though, relies on addressing the privacy concerns that many have expressed in light of today’s crisis, and ensuring that hard-won rights are not permanently eroded as the new normal unfolds.

Furthermore, with access to digital now being even more strongly linked to the ability to work, learn and stay connected, broadening digital access as a fundamental human right is critical.

Concerningly, four in ten people rate their internet services poorly on affordability and around a third rate it poorly on coverage.

A certain mental toll

Psychological needs are the only area among the four to show a decline in 2020. This year, two-thirds of people (65%) report digital technologies as having a negative impact on their health and well-being, with particularly acute increases in European countries.

Consumers report feeling more mentally stressed and finding it hard to switch off. They have more physical health issues such as repetitive strain injuries, they notice a deterioration in their relationships with others, and have experienced more online bullying. Clearly, the experience of remote working, learning and socialising is taking its toll.

As we look ahead, many employers have announced that they will enable more of their employees to work from home full-time. But there is a real challenge in how we manage this transition on terms that will enhance, rather than erode, employee well-being.

Questions also remain in terms of the level of responsibility companies take here, with the idea of ‘enforced’ work-life balance potentially becoming more commonplace.

Upskilling by necessity

In light of the shift to remote working, it’s perhaps not surprising that more people now feel that their digital skills are being more effectively utilised in the workplace:

Image: dentsu, Digital Society Index Consumer Survey, 2020

However, it’s still the case that just over four in ten people (44%) believe that their formal education has given them the digital skills they need. Increasing this proportion and ensuring the more effective use of technology is critical as we look ahead to a productivity-led economic recovery.

This is especially so against today’s backdrop of potential job losses and ongoing furloughs.

A number of companies are leading the way here. Vodafone delivers a number of initiatives focused on the digital upskilling of young people, including a free service called Future Jobs Finder, which is designed to help young people find job opportunities in the digital economy and free digital skills training.

Dentsu’s global flagship schools and early careers programme, The Code, focuses on giving the next generation the skills they need to thrive in the digital economy.

Reasons to be cheerful

Despite the challenges of 2020, belief in the societal impact of digital technologies has risen sharply this year (up six percentage points to 54%). Optimism about the capacity of digital to help solve the world’s most pressing challenges has risen 11 percentage points (to 55%), and overall seven in ten people believe that the positives of digital outweigh the negatives.

It may be that the experience of remote working and staying connected online in 2020 — or the examples of governments deploying tech solutions to combat the pandemic — have helped engender a more positive outlook.

As we move ahead, understanding how the crisis will have permanently altered our relationship with digital is key for businesses and governments alike.

Given we are currently in the midst of the large-scale release of a number of COVID-19 vaccines, there’s potential for a broader groundswell of optimism and belief in science and technology to improve the human condition. This also represents an opportunity for brands to explore how to human qualities via digital, giving people the meaningful experiences they crave.

Now, isn’t that cause for hope?

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Pro-EU forces won a 70% triumph in the European elections

Greater EU Civil Protection capacity needed in light of lessons from COVID-19

The world’s impact in a small Brazilian town and the increased demand for mental health

What will education look like in 20 years? Here are 4 scenarios

High level political talks didn’t break the stalemate in Ukraine

EU officially launches its first naval mission against migrant smugglers

Half the world’s refugee children not in school, UN agency finds

What does Tsipras have to offer to the rest of Europe? Is it worth an early advance of €10 billion? Berlin sturdily denies it

Spread Her Wings: Let Her Fly

This is the environmental catastrophe you’ve probably never heard of

Protecting farmers and quality products: vote on EU farm policy reform plans

Donors must do more to align development finance with climate goals

Can the Notre-Dame fire freeze the ‘Yellow Vests’ uprising?

What we need is more (and better) multilateralism, not less

ICC Appeals Chamber acquits former Congolese Vice President Bemba from war crimes charges

Venezuelan exodus to Ecuador reaches record levels: UN refugee agency steps up aid

Here’s how innovation could help car companies hit by COVID-19

Adriatic Sea: MEPs adopt multiannual plan for fisheries

GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Latin America, in association with The European Sting

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution can help us beat COVID-19

Dutch voters reject EU-Ukraine partnership and open a new pandora’s box for the EU

How we can embrace the electrical vehicle transition by adopting smart charging

Trade in fake Italian goods costs economy billions of euros

No hard drivers in sight to remodel the stagnating affairs of the EU

Charges against Baha’i in Yemen must be dropped: UN experts urge release of detainees

Conditions deteriorating alarmingly in Yemen, warns senior UN official

Six months after the Beirut port explosion: reflections from a first responder

5 things you need to know about your microbiome

GREXIT final wrap-up: nobody believed Aesop’s boy who cried wolf so many times

EU Parliament raises burning issues over the FTA with the US

UN Security Council hails ‘courage’ of Afghan voters

TTIP is not dead as of yet, the 15th round of negotiations in New York shouts

The Tears of lovely Memories

Parliament elects the von der Leyen Commission

Boosting the EU’s Green Recovery: EU invests over €2 billion in 140 key transport projects to jump-start the economy

The Great Reset needs great leaders to help the most vulnerable

How global tech can drive local healthcare innovation in China

EU elections 2019: Rise of nationalist trends and populism in Europe challenges the EU edifice

MEPs back measures to reconcile career and private life

Fostering global citizenship in medical students through exchanges

Brazilian officer a ‘stellar example’ of why more women are needed in UN peacekeeping

Dreaming of China

Code of Practice on Disinformation one year on: online platforms submit self-assessment reports

South Asia can become an innovation hub. Here’s how

First calls under Horizon Europe to be launched by the European Research Council

European Commission calls on national political parties to join efforts to ensure free and fair elections in Europe

An American duel in Brussels: Salesforce against Microsoft over Linkedin deal

How Mobile Technology is Changing the Healthcare System

SRHR the indispensable ally in ending HIV

Mental health in the pandemic: how to stay emotionally stable?

Suicide Prevention: Using Graduation as a Transformative Tool

As the inventor of copy and paste dies, here are other computing innovations we take for granted

Give a chance to the brothers of Ailan: reception of refugees in Greece

Rare diseases are more common than you might think

Coronavirus: rescEU medical stockpile expands in four Member States

Finland has giant supermarkets that only stock second-hand goods

Working Muslim women are a trillion-dollar market

Why does the whole world want Britain to stay in the EU?

New rules make household appliances more sustainable

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s