Britons confident of keeping pace with technology as Germans and Italians fear falling behind

UK aims to be a science and tech superpower after Brexit

Keeping up with the times with a trial of an e-scooter rental in London. Getty Images 
Keeping up with the times with a trial of an e-scooter rental in London. Getty Images 

Britons are optimistic that their country is keeping pace with technology, while Germans and Italians fear their nations are falling behind, a poll has found.

A survey of 11 countries on both sides of the Atlantic found that people in Sweden and the UK were the most confident about their technological futures.

The UK has a stated aim of becoming a science and tech superpower by 2030 as part of its post-Brexit "Global Britain" ambitions.

The government wants to make the UK a “meaningful actor in space” and a global leader in artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has forced citizens, businesses and governments to adapt to online working.

Asked whether Britain was keeping up with technological developments and innovations, 71 per cent of respondents in the UK told the Transatlantic Trends survey that it was.

There was a similar level of confidence in the US, where 69 per cent of those surveyed said they were happy with their country’s progress.

But only 41 per cent were happy in Germany, and 50 per cent of the public there felt that the country was lagging behind.

Italy was bottom of the table, with just 36 per cent praising their country’s technological progress and 50 per cent voicing concern.

Germany and Italy were the only countries with a negative view overall.

Other EU countries – Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, France and Poland – received higher marks from their own citizens.

The EU in March unveiled plans for a digital transformation by 2030, with 5G networks everywhere and 75 per cent of companies using modern technology such as AI or cloud computing.

With Britain and the EU both seeking strategic autonomy, there are fears that the UK could become a science and tech competitor with the bloc.

“A plurality of respondents in nine of 11 countries are somewhat confident that their country is keeping pace with technological developments,” the study's authors said.

“Germans and Italians, however, are almost split on the issue, but lean towards a pessimistic view.”

Customers carry their purchases as they leave the UK's first branch of Amazon Fresh. Getty Images
Customers carry their purchases as they leave the UK's first branch of Amazon Fresh. Getty Images

Split views on security threats

The same survey found that Germans were the most likely to see climate change as their most important security challenge.

Respondents in France and the UK were more likely to be concerned about terrorism and extremism.

The report said people’s views of the threats facing their country were linked to their political affiliations.

In Germany, most Green party supporters saw climate change as the most important issue for transatlantic co-operation.

Meanwhile, voters aligned with the far-right Alternative for Germany party were more likely to see terrorism as a major threat.

The Greens, who are seeking the chancellorship for the first time at September’s German election, said Germany faced technology challenges in a manifesto published earlier this year.

They said that the German economy was showing signs of lagging behind other countries and tech giants even before the Covid-19 crisis.

“The pandemic hit some branches of the economy hard, but some sectors had already overslept the transformation,” they said.

Updated: June 8, 2021 09:53 PM

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