Governments’ race for digitization of services will divide citizens globally: Survey

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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Governments pushing ahead with increased online services are creating the risk of dividing large numbers of their citizens due to concerns around data privacy, according to a new EY survey conducted with 12,100 respondents across 12 countries. 

The survey that focused on ‘How can digital government connect citizens without leaving the disconnected behind?’ further outlines a roadmap for governments trying to deal with the increased digitization of services brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the pandemic has increased the need for governments to offer more services remotely, and this has resulted in much larger volumes of citizens’ data being collected by governments.

Yet about 53 percent of respondents say that privacy and security risks around how their data is shared outweigh the benefits. Forty-six percent think data should not be shared between the public and private sector, with only 29 percent saying that it should be shared. About 72 percent of respondents are against governments selling their data to a private sector company, even where the objective is to fund better public services or tax cuts. 

Arnauld Bertrand
Arnauld Bertrand
Consulting Leader
Government & Public Sector
EY Global

“The survey findings should be a wake-up call for governments across the world. The benefits of a more digital state, including increased efficiency, better value for taxpayers, and better quality of service for citizens, will be significantly reduced if large segments of the population aren’t convinced of them and are at risk of disengaging from increasingly digitized public services.”

Concerns over digitization

While the survey shows optimism that technology improves the quality of life (according to 72 percent of respondents), there are significant concerns about its broader impact. Many believe that risen use of technology will probably increase the social inequalities, with 32 percent stating that technology will lead to greater social inequality and 34 percent stating that technology gives more power to those who are already rich and powerful.

Globally, 32 percent of citizens believe technology will make people feel less connected to their communities. However, 61 percent say they would be likely to use government training schemes that improve their digital skills if they were available. 

Personas governments must reach

The survey categorizes respondents into seven personas: Aspirational Technophiles, Capable Achievers, Diligent Strivers, Tech Skeptics, Privacy Defenders, Passive Outsiders and Struggling Providers. These sections offer insights into how governments should consider working with different societal groups. 

For example, the survey shows that Aspirational Technophiles, Capable Achievers and Diligent Strivers are more comfortable with sharing their data to access a service or perform a transaction online, and with their data being shared. But there is a lack of support among Tech Skeptics, Privacy Defenders and Passive Outsiders about governments and businesses gaining access to their data.

Also Read: WhatsApp to go on with privacy policy updates; Affirms to clear users’ confusions