Understanding Scotland – Technology January 2022

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We are delighted to present this Understanding Scotland report exploring the Scottish population’s attitudes to and expectations of new forms of technology.

We explore how people believe these new technologies will impact on Scotland’s economy, public services, populace and future. We find that people are broadly optimistic about most new technologies, though to a lesser extent than when these questions were asked in 2020, and with the notable exceptions of driverless cars and augmented reality.

There is a clear belief that new technologies will improve public services, particularly with regards to education, and to a lesser extent,

healthcare. There is also broad support for using new technologies for tackling crime in specific ways, most notably for tracking potential criminals and to trace missing people.

However, we also find clear (and often growing) concerns over privacy and misuse of new forms of technology, as well as potential job-losses.

When it comes to regulation to mitigate against these risks, people believe that the Scottish and UK Governments should be responsible

for drafting such regulation.

We compare our findings to previous results when the same questions were asked in January 2020 and find that attitudes towards technology are becoming consistently less positive. Subsequent waves of the survey will monitor further changes and trends in this data, and the value and insight of Understanding Scotland will grow exponentially over time, as we track, explain and anticipate long-term shifts and trends.

Key Takeaways

This edition of Understanding Scotland brings you insights from over 2,000 members of the adult (16+) Scottish public.

  1. People are broadly optimistic about new technologies
    On all but two new forms of technology, a greater proportion of people believed they would would be beneficial to Scotland’s economy, future, populace, and public services than the proportion saying they would not.
  2. But less so than a year ago
    There was a consistent fall in the proportion of people predicting positive impacts compared with 2020. The proportion of people saying that new technologies will have a broadly positive effect on public services, for example, dropped by 8 percentage points between 2020-21.
  3. There is clear public support for using new technology in tackling crime
    At least 3 in 4 respondents supported all measures specified to tackle crime, rising to 93% supporting the use of technology to trace missing people.
  4. But there are concerns and risks around misuse and over-reach
    There was considerable concern over personal privacy, with 87% of people concerned that their personal information might be shared without their knowledge. 86% and 77% were also concerned about businesses and governments, respectively, gathering data on them without their knowledge.
  5. People can see the economic and social benefits of new technologies, but it’s less clear whether/how they’ll benefit people
    While a plurality of people believed that almost all technologies would benefit most people in Scotland, this proportion was considerably and consistently smaller than the proportion predicting positive impacts for Scotland’s economy, future, and public services.
  6. There are clear benefits for public services in the public’s mind
    Half (48%) of people believe that new technologies will impact positively on public services, with only 20% disagreeing. They predict especially large impacts on education, and smaller but notable impacts on healthcare.
  7. People are sceptical of driverless cars and augmented reality
    A plurality of people did not believe that driverless cars or augmented reality would impact positively on the Scottish economy and society. 55% of people, for instance, disagreed with the suggestion that self-driving cars would benefit most people in Scotland.
  8. Young people envisage clearer and/or larger impacts of new technologies
    64% of young people disagreed, and 23% did so strongly, with the suggestion that new technologies will make no difference to public services. The equivalent figures among those aged over 65 were 51% and 11%, respectively.
  9. And there is considerable (and growing) concern around job-losses
    Two thirds of people believed that many people delivering public services could lose their jobs due to new technologies, up 4 percentage points on 2020, and rising to 71% in the most deprived fifth of neighbourhoods.
  10. People believe governments should be responsible for regulating new forms of technology
    67% and 56% of people believe that the Scottish and UK Governments, respectively, should be responsible for regulating against adverse impacts of new technologies, notably ahead of civil society (30%) and businesses (20%).