EUROPEAN VIEWS: The impact of digitalisation and automation on daily life

We have recently published our mid-term review on the Digital Single Market, which consists of a series of initiatives to eliminate existing barriers and to allow citizens to fully access goods and services online. In order to revamp our strategy and to take into account citizens’ concerns, a new Eurobarometer survey was conducted.

Eurobarometer is a series of public opinion surveys conducted regularly on behalf of the European Commission since 1974. Special Eurobarometer surveys, such as the one on “The impact of digitalisation and automation on daily life” published on 10 May, are a key instrument in analysing people’s attitudes towards specific policy fields.

One of the Digital Single Market Strategy’s priorities is to carefully manage the consequences of digital transformation on our society and economy. For this reason, the last survey investigates the impact of use of robots and artificial intelligence, but also of e-health and online public services on citizens’ life. The survey was conducted in the 28 EU countries between 18 and 27 March, among nearly 28,000 citizens with face-to-face interviews at home, in their native language.

Here are some key findings.

1. Most recent digital technologies are having a positive impact on society, the economy and quality of life

Three quarters (75%) think the most recent digital technologies have a positive impact on the economy, while 67% think these technologies have a positive impact on their quality of life and 64% think these technologies have a positive impact on society. 69% think that improving the quality of internet (speed, reliability) would be a key factor for increasing the use of digital technologies.

2. Trust in online social network stories is weak

The main criterion for considering a story on social media to be trustworthy is the fact that a story comes from a reliable source (36%), followed by whether the story looks well referenced (19%) or if the respondent trusts the person who shared it (17%). 36% said they have ever used a fact-checking website to see if an online social network story was trustworthy.

3. A careful management of the use of robots is needed

Attitudes to robots and artificial intelligence are generally positive and depend greatly on the level of information receive. However, respondents express the need for careful management and widespread concerns that the increasing use of robots leads to job losses. Almost three quarters agree that due to the use of robots and artificial intelligence, more jobs will disappear than new jobs will be created (74%), and almost as many agree robots and artificial intelligence steal people’s jobs (72%). Only one third of them say they would be comfortable having a robot assist them at work (35%).

4. Health and care services online are not widespread

In the last 12 months, less than 1 in 5 respondents have used health and care services provided online (18%). Respondents are much more willing to share their health and well-being data with doctors and healthcare professionals (65%) than with public authorities or public sector companies (21%) or with private sector companies (14%) — even if anonymised and for research purposes. Overall, there is a good demande for this kind of services: over half of Europeans would like online access to their medical and health records.

Read the summary of Special Eurobarometer 460 here and the full report here.