Can tech companies solve the world problems?
Tech-free future? Forget it, we have happily enslaved ourselves to digital technology, but are becoming more mindful of the personal and societal costs. This is only one of the many break through discoveries from the latest prosumer report Tech Forward.
Big Tech – the Facebooks, Amazons, Apples, Alibabas, and Googles of the world – has faced mounting criticism in recent years. These companies have been acused of evading taxes, mistreating gig economy and warehouse workers, compromising user privacy and data security, disseminating disinformation, and seeding division. Willing conspirators or not, they are seen as complicit in many of the worst moments society has experienced of late – from terrorist attacks on mosques to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
The report explores if what we all have seen in the media was actually reflecting consumers’ opinions and concerns.
And actually what the report has discovered is that the tech trial won’t happen. Consumers, by and large, seem disinclined to hold Big Tech to account. On the contrary, 92% of Prosumers surveyed globally believe that tech can solve a good part of the world’s most urgent problems. And 7 in 10 Prosumers said their opinion of big tech companies improved because of the actions they have taken during the pandemic.
The most interesting findings are that even if tech is considered as a force for good in multiple categories, it doesn’t mean that Big Tech doesn’t get a free pass: There is a growing perception that the tech giants have acquired too much power, as confirmed by 78% of Prosumers. Consequently, consumers expect these companies to operate responsibly and in the interest of the public good. At a time when some governments faltered, Big Tech emerged as a voice of reason and provider of practical resources.
“92% of Prosumers surveyed globally believe that tech can solve a good part of the world’s most urgent problems.”
To maintain public support, a tech must build a road to good by being:
- More accessible: 56% of Prosumers want to see more women in the male-dominated technology industry “because a better gender balance can help prevent digital biases.” But it’s not just women who are excluded. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, majorities of Prosumers are concerned about who is being left behind — namely, the elderly (72% of Prosumers expressed concern), the poor (68%), and people with physical or mental differences (54%).
- More transparent: Concerns over hacking and digital safety continue to gain momentum. Almost 8 in 10 Prosumers worry about hackers “stealing and misusing” their data, while 53% fear constant monitoring by Apple, Google, Amazon, and the other tech companies they have invited into their homes and lives. Consequently, 88% of Prosumers want “tech companies to offer tutorials on how to protect our data privacy.”
- Inspirational: Being useful every day will not be enough for tech tomorrow. Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that tech needs to help people envision a brighter future: 49% expect technological innovation to help them “dream / envision a better tomorrow.”
“56% of Prosumers want to see more women in the male-dominated technology industry‘ because a better gender balance can help prevent digital biases .”
Not all Tech giants are the same and nor their sins
In terms of e-commerce and social media findings, the report has discovered that various tech companies do not raise the same concerns from consumers. In journeys to retain or regain public support, the various tech titans have different sins for which to account.
E-commerce platforms revolutionized access. Now, they need to do more to control collateral damage, including by improving conditions for their workers (a top expectation of 62% of Prosumers), supporting small businesses (48%), and investing in more sustainable means of package delivery (44% ).
Social media platforms connected the world. Now, they need to rethink their role within our democracies. Nearly half of Prosumers agree that these platforms have become “filled with hate speech and hostility.” Arguably more dangerous, just under half of Prosumers and mainstream respondents in the US now feel that “social media companies pose a threat to global democracies.”
Fielded in spring 2021, this global survey captures the experiences and opinions of nearly 16,000 people in 32 markets.