Singapore is top digital society, but most feel psychological needs not met by digital economy: Study

Singapore is the top digital society, according to British media and digital marketing communications company Dentsu Aegis Network, because it ranks high across three matrices the survey used: dynamism, trust and inclusion. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore has emerged as the top digital society, with more citizens trusting technology and reaping its benefits compared to their counterparts in the United States and China, according to a study of 24 countries.

But the study, by British media and digital marketing communications company Dentsu Aegis Network, also found that a higher than average number of Singaporeans are aware of the negative effect technology can have on their well-being.

The results of the survey, which polled more than 43,000 people from July to August last year, were released on Thursday (April 4). It was done in collaboration with analysis firm Oxford Economics.

The United States was in second place, followed by China and Denmark.

Last year, the United Kingdom took the top spot. The US came in second, and China third.

This is the first time Singapore has been included in the company's annual Digital Society Index study, which is in its second edition.

When asked why Singapore was excluded from the first edition of the survey, Mr Takaki Hibino, executive chairman of Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific, told The Straits Times that the first edition surveyed only 10 countries.

He said: "Following the success and rich insights generated by the initial index, we expanded the sample to include 14 additional markets including Singapore."

Singapore is the top digital society, according to the firm, because it ranked high across three matrices the survey used: dynamism, trust and inclusion.

Dynamism is the strength of a country's core digital sector, while trust refers to the extent to which people have trust in data use as well as broader optimism about the future.

Singapore ranked second when it came to these two indicators.

The Republic was also found to have the seventh-highest level of inclusion, which is the access people have to the benefits created by a country's digital economy.

But Dentsu Aegis Network also found that there is "an imbalance" in how Singaporeans feel towards the digital economy.

In its study, the company developed a framework to examine people's needs in a high-tech economy through four perspectives: basic, psychological, self-fulfilment and societal needs.

Compared to the global average, more Singaporeans felt that their basic, self-fulfilment and societal needs were met - but fewer felt that their psychological ones were addressed.

In a factsheet, Dentsu Aegis Network said: "Singapore performs above averagely against basic, self-fulfilment and societal needs but performed poorly against psychological needs.

"People in Singapore feel that some of their digital needs are being met but are aware of the negative effect of technology on their well-being."

At 25 per cent, Singapore had the smallest proportion of respondents who said their psychological needs were met out of the 24 countries polled. The global average was 38 per cent.

The study also dived into specific themes such as consumer behaviour and jobs, and compared the responses to the global average.

For instance, 74 per cent of Singaporeans are more likely to use an app to book a taxi, which is a significantly higher proportion than the global average of 44 per cent.

More then three-quarters of people surveyed here said they were inclined to listen to music via a streaming device, compared to the global average of less than 70 per cent.

In a statement, Dentsu Aegis Network said its survey results revealed a "crisis of confidence" in the digital economy.

Although more than half the people surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region were optimistic about the positive societal effects the high-tech economy will have and how it can help solve global challenges such as poverty and environmental degradation, nearly three-quarters felt the pace of technological change was too fast.

The study also found that almost seven in 10 people in the region, and more than half worldwide, felt that not enough is being done to ensure that digital technology benefits everyone in society rather than a select few.

In the statement, Mr Hibino called for businesses to help people develop their digital skills.

He said: "It is no longer a question that people need to be at the heart of the digital economy. However, there is still a long way to go in meeting the digital needs of many.

"If this aspect is not fulfilled, innovation will always fail."

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