Fifteen years into the 21st century, people still think overwhelmingly that personal technology is making the world better and more vital, according to a new report from technology giant Microsoft.
Large majorities in all five developed countries studied (including France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United States) and all seven developing countries examined (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa and Turkey) said they think technology has vastly improved how they shop, work, learn and generally get stuff done.
Six in 10 people in developing countries think personal tech has had a positive impact on social bonds, compared with just 36 percent of people in developed countries who do.
"While the poll showed widespread agreement about the positive impacts of technology overall, there is also an emerging digital divergence in the attitudes between the developing and developed countries surveyed regarding how technology will affect people going forward," Mark Penn, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Microsoft, told eWEEK. "Developing countries express deep and genuine enthusiasm about the benefits of technology, whereas developed countries—where technology is more ubiquitous—express greater concerns about emerging issues such as the sharing economy and fitness."
Respondents in all 12 countries polled think personal technology has had a positive impact on the ability to start new businesses, with Indonesia and Brazil leading the way.
Study participants in each of the 12 countries think personal technology has improved innovation in business, including more than three-quarters of those in developing countries, and in Indonesia, Brazil and India, more than 80 percent of people think this.
In addition, respondents in every one of the 12 countries think personal technology has had a positive impact on their ability to find more affordable products, including 77 percent in developed countries and 72 percent in developing countries. In China, 65 percent believe this.
However, every country but India and Indonesia said current legal protections for users of personal technology are insufficient, and only in those two countries do most people feel fully aware of the types of personal information collected about them.
In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed, with India the only exception, people said technology's effect on privacy was mostly negative.
"If there is one persistent concern about personal technology that nearly everybody expresses, it is privacy. Majorities of respondents in every country but India and Indonesia say current legal protections for users of personal technology are insufficient, and only in those two countries do most respondents feel fully aware of the types of personal information collected about them," Penn said. "It's a note of caution to everyone in both technology and government: ignoring citizens' privacy anywhere can cause peril everywhere."
One particularly interesting finding was that 57 percent of people in developing economies think personal technology has made people in their countries more fit, thanks to apps for diet management, calorie counting and exercise incentives—but 62 percent of respondents in developed economies think personal technology has made people in their country less fit because of the amount of time they waste in front of their PCs, tablets and other devices.