People and businesses remain unprepared for next wave of technology

RobotThe attitudes of businesses, public sector employers and people to the next wave of technological change remains a tangled and sometimes conflicting mishmash of fear, uncertainty and indifference according to three new reports. According to a new study published by Vodafone and YouGov, while businesses are aware of their need to keep pace with technological developments, around half doubt they will be able to keep up over the next five years. Meanwhile, a study from marketing technology firm Rocket Fuel claims that British people are broadly aware what is meant by artificial intelligence and many feel it will have a positive impact on their lives, especially millennials. However, another study from jobsite Indeed claims that a fifth of young people are unaware of the idea of automation and its potential impact on the jobs market and around half don’t even consider it when making their career choices.

According to the Vodafone study, the pace of digital disruption has left 50 percent of British businesses and public sector organisations surveyed uncertain about their ability to keep up with technological trends over the next five years. However, nine out of ten business leaders believe digital technology is essential to their business’s success. The research, which surveyed more than 1,100 decision makers across private businesses and the public sector in Britain, also uncovered what it claims are the ‘universal truths’ of doing business. These are the factors which senior decision makers believe have always been and continue to be true, and almost eight out of 10 businesses (78 percent) confirm these fundamentals will still apply in 10 to 20 years. The top five business truths, all of which can be positively impacted by the effective use of digital technology, were:

  • delivering quality customer service (74 percent)
  • providing quality products and services (72 percent)
  • providing value for money (65 percent)
  • controlling costs (65 percent)
  • delivering profitability/ return for investors (53 percent)

However, while a majority saw quality customer service as a universal business truth, it is clear that achieving this has become more difficult in today’s digital economy with an overwhelming consensus that digital technology has changed customers’ expectations. Today’s customer expects:

  • an almost immediate response to their enquiries (73 percent)
  • to be able to reach a company through a variety of different channels (such as telephone, retail store, email, web chat, social media, online forums, face-to-face etc.) to purchase a product/ service (70 percent) or ask for help (67 percent)
  • to receive a consistent experience online or offline (53 percent)

This will continue to be a challenge for businesses over the next five years with nearly 40 percent of respondents anticipating that customers’ growing expectations (such as around quality of service and responsiveness) will disrupt the organisation and how business is done.

According to the study from jobsite Indeed, almost half (49 percent) of young people aged 16-25 in Britain are not taking the issue of job automation into account when choosing their career. Furthermore, the study claims that 17 percent are not aware of the trend towards automation and the effect it will have on future employment both at the low and high end of the skills market.

This appears to be slightly at odds with the survey from Rocket Fuel, which claims that most people in Britain believe that artificial intelligence is a force for good according to a new survey, with only one in 10 thinking that it’s evil. A large majority (92 percent) claim some understanding of what AI is and almost half (48 percent) believe AI is a force for good or mostly good. 42 percent of Brits are excited by AI or think it will solve big world problems. However, 21 percent see AI as a threat or are scared by it.

There is a greater awareness of the uses of AI in everyday life among men than women, with women more likely to perceive AI as a thing of science fiction or limited to laboratories (21 percent), compared to men (13 percent).

When it comes to the workplace 45 percent don’t believe AI will impact their job, 10 percent think it will have a positive effect and nine percent believe their job will be under threat. Interestingly those on the lowest incomes are more likely to see AI as changing their job for the better. Perhaps surprisingly it’s younger age groups who are most suspicious of the technology, with 20 percent of 18-24 year olds citing AI as a force for evil, double the percentage of any other age group. Also 18 percent of 18-24 year olds believe that AI will threaten their jobs, again double the number of any other age group.

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