Digital consumer switches off as 42% of people in the UK take steps to reduce data shared online

Published on:
  • 3 out of 10 people think digital is having a negative effect on their quality of life
  • Brands look for new engagement strategies as consumers seek more balance consumption habits 

3 April 2019, London: The Digital Society Index 2019, released today by leading advertising and digital communications group Dentsu Aegis Network, reveals the fall in trust and the impact of the digital technologies in people’s lives are prompting consumers to take back control of their data and express concerns about the future of the digital economy. Developed with Oxford Economics and headlined Human Needs in a Digital World, the study draws a complex picture of varying levels of optimism and significant implications for brands and businesses.

Today’s digital consumer takes back control 

While just a couple of years ago, consumer understanding of how digital businesses used personal data was generally poor, 77% people in the UK say they would stop doing business with an organisation that misused their data. This red line on data represents the number one driver of distrust. These concerns go beyond the tech industry: all businesses deploying digital products and services find themselves under a similar level of scrutiny.

In addition to this, there is rising concern about the impact of digital on health and quality of life. Asian countries tend to perform poorly on this measure which debunks the myth that digital health is a first-world issue. As emerging markets embrace digital rapidly, they are perhaps more aware of the sudden impact digital can have on their well-being.

Despite the fact that digital technologies can help connect people and foster a sense of community, the trust and well-being factors are notably prompting people across the globe to seek a healthier balance of digital media consumption. According to the study, 42% of people in the UK have limited the amount of data they share online, 18% have actively limited the amount of time they spend online or on their smartphone, and 14% have deactivated a social media account. 

Consumers who are taking back control through actions like these, in ways that could have negative implications for brands, have in fact a higher propensity to use digital products and services (e.g. shop online, use an app to take a taxi or stream music). In other words, research shows people embracing digital are most likely to push away from it. It creates significant implications for brands, businesses and governments in terms of how they engage with consumers through digital channels. 

Optimism about the future of the digital economy

Against this backdrop of falling trust and the new consumer behaviour, the Digital Society Index reveals also varying levels of optimism around the digital economy, with 44% of people in the UK feeling the pace of technological change is too fast.

While the potential benefits of digital are huge, people’s digital needs are largely not being met

Those in emerging markets tend to feel their basic needs (digital access and trust in data use) are well addressed, but notably not as regards their psychological needs (health and well-being) of digital technologies. However, people in developed markets are generally positive about their basic and psychological needs, but much less so in respect of self-fulfilment (skills, education and jobs) and societal needs (belief in digital as a force for good).

On equality, societal issues and employment opportunities the study revealed widespread concerns in the UK:

· 6 out of 10 people agree that not enough is being done to ensure digital technology benefits everyone in society rather than a select few. 

· Only 35% of people are optimistic that digital technology will solve the world’s pressing challenges.

· Less than one in four think digital tech will create jobs. After the expansion of the study from 10 to 25 markets in 2019, global scepticism about emerging technologies ability to create jobs rises by 7% from 29% last year.

Digital Society Index: Country rankings

Drawing on a survey of over 43,000 people globally, the Index assesses countries’ performance across dynamism, inclusion, and trust, to measure how well they are building a digital economy that works for all in society. This year Singapore, the US and China rank as the top digital economies in the world. The United Kingdom falls to 5th after ranking first in 2018, while the Nordic markets dominate the top ten.

Download the report here


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For further information contact:

Mandy Rayment

 Head of Corporate Communications

T: +44 20 7550 3253


About Dentsu Aegis Network

Part of Dentsu Inc., Dentsu Aegis Network is made up of ten global network brands - Carat, Dentsu, dentsu X, iProspect, Isobar, mcgarrybowen, Merkle, MKTG, Posterscope and Vizeum and supported by its specialist/multi-market brands. Dentsu Aegis Network is Innovating the Way Brands Are Built for its clients through its best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital and creative communications services. Offering a distinctive and innovative range of products and services, Dentsu Aegis Network is headquartered in London and operates in 145 countries worldwide with more than 40,000 dedicated specialists. 

Notes to Editors:

Full DSI Ranking

MarketOverall Index rankingDynamismInclusionTrust
United States2.183
United Kingdom5.3516

Full Digital Needs Framework Chart

NB: due to level of imputed data we have chosen not to rank Taiwan

· Basic needs refer to access to digital infrastructure (i.e. the internet, mobile networks) and trust in data use

· Psychological needs refer to the impact that digital is having on personal well-being

· Self-fulfilment needs refer to having the right skills, education and opportunities to find fulfilling work

· Societal needs refer to the optimism that technology can solve the world’s most pressing challenges and has an overall positive impact on society