articles | 14 April 2021 | EY Cyprus

Half of global citizens risk missing out on governments’ digital services boom due to privacy concerns, EY survey warns

Governments pushing ahead with increased online services run the risk of alienating large numbers of their citizens due to concerns around data privacy, according to How can digital government connect citizens without leaving the disconnected behind? a new EY survey of 12,100 working age respondents across 12 countries. Conducted by Ipsos MORI, the survey further reveals a roadmap for governments attempting to deal with the increased digitization of services brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 53% of survey respondents say risks outweigh benefits of government sharing their data
  • 72% believe technology can be used to benefit society but concerns about inequality and social cohesion emerge

Over the past year, the pandemic has increased the need for governments to offer more services remotely, and in some cases, they have been delivered entirely online. This has resulted in the generation of much larger volumes of citizens’ data which is then collected by governments.  Yet more than half (53%) of those surveyed think that privacy and security risks around how their data is shared outweigh the benefits. Forty-six per cent (46%) think data should not be shared between the public and private sector, with only 29% saying that it should. And 41% think data should not be shared within the public sector, while only 33% believe that it should. Almost three quarters of respondents (72%) are opposed to governments selling their personal data to a private sector company, even where the objective is to fund better public services or tax cuts.

Technological optimism tempered by mistrust

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

There are further concerns around the impact of increased reliance on technology as a means for communication on social cohesion. Globally, 32% of citizens believe technology will make people feel less connected to their communities. However, demand still exists to further develop people’s digital skills. Sixty-one per cent say they would be likely to use government training schemes that improve their digital skills if they were available. 

Finally, the survey segments respondents into seven personas, in terms of their attitude towards technology. These categories offer insights into how governments should consider working with different societal groups.

Commenting on the report, Sakis Moyseos, Associate Partner and Government Sector Leader at EY Cyprus, remarked: “The digitization of public services is providing enormous benefits for both the state and citizens. However, a significant portion of society is understandably concerned about the use of their personal data, and therefore select to distance themselves from digitized services. Governments need to explain to citizens the benefits of digitization and, above all, gain their trust concerning the use of their personal data."

To read the full survey findings click here.

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