Test: 43% of Russians Are Now More Positive About Technology In Light of the Pandemic


Within the Open Innovations Forum framework, the results of the annual research by RVC and the Institute of National Projects, devoted to studying socio-cultural factors of Russia's innovative development, were presented. The study's focus in 2020 was to assess how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has changed Russians' attitudes towards modern digital technologies.

According to the study, 43% of Russians said they are more prepared to use new technologies due to the coronavirus pandemic and the period of self-isolation. The key “beneficiaries” of the pandemic are medical and educational services. For example, 24% of respondents noted that they have become better about telemedicine; a fifth of the respondents began to trust more devices that track health status and automatically transmit data to a doctor. Medical diagnostics using artificial intelligence is less credible — only 8% of Russians are more optimistic about this technology.

In education, 23% of Russians began to have a better attitude towards distance learning of schoolchildren, and in the group of respondents with school-age children, this indicator was even higher (29%). Various unmanned technologies also maintain consistently high confidence levels: The idea of delivering goods by drones or robots is positively perceived by 50% of respondents. About a third of Russians are ready to become a passenger of an uncrewed vehicle. These technologies in Moscow have even higher support: 58% and 38%, respectively.

The only technology for which the coronavirus has become a rather negative factor is the use of neuro implants. In the survey, the respondents were asked to rate their attitude to such technology as implanting a computer chip connected to the brain to restore hearing. Unlike in 2018, when 37% of Russians would be calm about this technology, in 2020, this number is only 26%.

“We see that during the period of the pandemic and self-isolation, the attitude of the population towards the majority of NTI technologies has practically not changed. This can be interpreted as the result of the action of two opposing factors. On the one hand, many of the technologies we asked about — drones, telemedicine — simplify contact-free interaction, and therefore the demand for them during the pandemic becomes more explicit. On the other hand, we see a significant increase in the sense of uncertainty among the population. For example, if a year and a half ago, almost a third of Russians answered that they have long-term plans for more than three years, now the share of such people has decreased to 14%. We assess this increase in uncertainty as a factor that counteracts the positive perception of technology. The only technology that has significantly changed perception is neuro-chipping. And we admit that massive phobias that spread along with the pandemic played its role here,” said Alexei Gusev, Director for Development of the RVC Innovation Ecosystem.

The study also assessed the attitude of the population towards the possibility of vaccination against the coronavirus. It turned out that the respondents trust the Russian vaccine more than foreign-made vaccines. So, when vaccinated with a domestic vaccine, 50% of Russians would feel calm, while a foreign vaccine would be acceptable for only 31%. The main factor influencing preferences is age: the older the respondent, the better they relate to the Russian vaccine and not the foreign one.

The pandemic has exacerbated the issue of the permissibility of the collection and use of personal data of citizens. The survey showed that people's attitude towards using their data by the state depends on the purpose. Thus, 76% of Russians consider it permissible for law enforcement agencies to use face recognition algorithms. Meanwhile, 66% would tolerate if the government collected information on citizens' contacts to identify potentially infected people. At the same time, older people with higher incomes demonstrate a higher level of tolerance. On collecting personal data for digital passes, the opinions of Russians were practically divided in half.

The situation with the issue of data security is worse. Only 30% of Russians believe that the data collected by the state is appropriately protected. The higher the level of education and age of a person, the less often they agree with this statement. Thus, among people aged 18–22, 54% of respondents consider their data appropriately protected, and among 45–60 — only 25% of respondents think so. Insufficient protection of personal data with an increase in the amount of information collected can lead to public discontent and the proliferation of personal data hiding strategies. In general, most Russians (55%) are confident that citizens should have the right to choose what personal data the state has access to, even if it limits public safety to some extent.

“Based on the research results, we see that the issue of personal data is perceived ambiguously. Despite high acceptance rates for technologies such as face recognition with video cameras or chain-of-contact tracking during the epidemic, most citizens believe their data is not protected. It is typical that in the most “digital" city of the country, Moscow, this trend is even more noticeable — only 23% of Muscovites consider their data protected. In general, we believe the management of alienated data is a cornerstone of the digital economy's development. I would single out four of the most realistic scenarios for responding to this challenge. The first one is the Chinese scenario with strict state control, but at the same time, opportunities for the accelerated development of national business. The second scenario is the American one, which is most favorable to large tech corporations. The third scenario is the European GDPR centered around the rights of an individual. And finally, a conditionally technocratic scenario can be distinguished when, due to technical security protocols, data protection within platforms is ensured. This is the path, for example, Telegram is trying to follow. The attitude of Russians to this crucial issue not only for the development of the economy but also for building a post-covid society as a whole will depend on which scenario is chosen in Russia,” commented Alexander Auzan, Dean of the Faculty of Economics of Moscow State University and a member of the Board of Directors at RVC.

The research of RVC and the Institute of National Projects is based on a telephone survey of more than 5 thousand respondents conducted in July–August 2020. The sample is representative both for each region separately and for Russia as a whole. The findings of the study were verified through expert interviews.

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