People around the world believe that new technology including the Internet, social media, and mobile devices has a positive overall impact on their lives, but this belief coexists with widespread anxiety about diminishing privacy. That’s according to a new global survey of 12,002 Internet users in twelve developed and developing countries -- Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the U.S. -- conducted by Microsoft, and published in advance of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
On the positive side, 74% of respondents believed that the Internet and related technologies increased their ability to find cheaper products, while 72% said it has spurred innovation in business, 67% said it has improved education, and 65% thought it improved productivity. Substantial majorities also thought it had a net positive impact on economic opportunity, quality of life, transportation, arts and culture, and their country’s economic competitiveness.
Respondents were not quite as enthused about its capacity for strengthening social bonds (52%), literacy (50%), personal freedom (50%), political expression (49%), and human rights (45%).
Moving on to the negatives, fully 52% of respondents said they believe technology is having a net negative impact on their ability to maintain privacy, versus 18% who believe it has a net positive impact. Meanwhile, 24% said they believe it has had a net negative impact on their trust in media, versus 30% who said it increased their trust. And 26% said it had a negative impact on personal safety and security, compared to 34% who said it had a positive impact.
Whatever your opinion on its impacts, there is no question that the Internet is growing at a breakneck pace. As of mid-2014 the Internet population stood at just over 3 billion, up from just 361 million Internet users in 2000. In proportional terms, that represents an increase from 5.9% of the world population in 2000 to 42.3% in 2014.