Singapore is top digital society in survey of 24 countries

But S'poreans polled feel psychological needs not being met in high-tech economy

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

But the study, done 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 yesterday. It was done in collaboration with analysis firm Oxford Economics.

After Singapore, the US came in second, followed by China and Denmark. Last year, Britain 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, Mr Takaki Hibino, executive chairman of Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific, told The Straits Times 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."

STILL SOME WAY TO GO

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.

DENTSU AEGIS NETWORK, in a fact sheet

  • Insights from survey

  • More likely compared with last year to use an app to book a taxi

    SINGAPORE : 74% 

    GLOBALLY: 44%

    More likely compared with last year to do their shopping online

    SINGAPORE : 82% 

    GLOBALLY: 76%

    More likely compared with last year to listen to music via a streaming device

    SINGAPORE : 76% 

    GLOBALLY: 69%

    Describe their ability to use digital tools and services as strong or very strong

    SINGAPORE : 59% 

    GLOBALLY: 52%

    Trust their government when it comes to their personal data

    SINGAPORE : 62% 

    GLOBALLY: 47%

    Agree that digital technologies will create opportunities in the next five to 10 years

    SINGAPORE : 42% 

    GLOBALLY: 36%

    Agree that formal education has given them technology skills and knowledge needed for work

    SINGAPORE : 53% 

    GLOBALLY: 43%

    Hariz Baharudin

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 the modern and high-tech economy through four perspectives: basic, psychological, self-fulfilment and societal needs.

Compared with 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 fact sheet, Dentsu Aegis Network said: "Singapore performed above average 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 all the 24 countries polled. The global average was 38 per cent.

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

In a statement about the study, Dentsu Aegis Network also 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 not enough is being done to ensure 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."

Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore is top digital society in survey of 14 countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe