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Shift+Ctrl: The Scottish public and the tech revolution

Research into how the Scottish public feels about the new and emerging technologies that are increasingly shaping our world.

Key findings

  • Participants in the research reported that lockdown had increased their use of technology, particularly to stay in touch with friends and family. However, they worried about over-reliance on ‘contactless’ or ‘faceless’ communication – with loved ones and services providers.
  • People who are more knowledgeable about new technologies are more likely to hold a favourable view of their impact on the economy and society.
  • The most significant predictors of knowledge of these technologies are gender and social grade with men and those in the ABC1 social grade category are more likely to know a lot or a little compared to women and C2DEs.
  • Three-quarters of people believe lots of workers will lose skills as a result of automation and that there will be more jobs lost than gained as a result of automation over the next 15 years.
  • While people believe technology can improve public services, they are concerned that new technologies may exacerbate a ‘postcode lottery’ of unequal provision of services in different areas.

We are living through the fourth industrial revolution – the fourth period of intense technological advancement that humans have experienced. This revolution is already dramatically shaping our world and has the potential to define the future of our society, economy and public services.

These issues have been brought into sharper focus during the COVID-19 pandemic as many companies, public services, voluntary organisations and community engagement programmes have been forced to rapidly shift towards digital-led services. In many cases, it is the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution that are powering the innovations, platforms, apps and services ensuring communities can stay connected, vital public services can be accessed and businesses can keep working.

However, to date, little has been done to really understand in detail how much people in Scotland know about the technological advances shaping our lives, and how the public feels about their potential to disrupt – and improve – our society.

This research represents some of the most in-depth analysis of the opinions, aspirations and concerns of people in Scotland in relation to the technologies driving the fourth industrial revolution. It lays bare the challenges we face as we recover and rebuild our society after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authors: Jessica Clark and Adam Lang, Nesta, and Mark Diffley and Sanah Saeed Zubairi, Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research.

Photo by Micah Boswell on Unsplash


Jessica Clark

Jessica Clark

Jessica Clark

Programme Coordinator - HARP, Nesta Wales

Jessica worked with Y Lab.

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Adam Lang

Adam Lang

Adam Lang

Head of Nesta Scotland

Adam led the work of Nesta in Scotland, working across missions, practices and partnerships to deliver impact against our strategic objectives in Scotland.

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