Survey finds low levels of public trust on technology - Taipei Times
Thu, Jun 14, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Survey finds low levels of public trust on technology

By Chien Hui-ju and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

There is a low level of public trust in the government, experts, the corporate sector and the media, but general support for the government’s efforts to foster talent in the technology industry, despite worries that such development could affect the environment or lead to job losses, a Risk Society and Policy Research Center survey released yesterday showed.

The survey aimed to gauge the public’s attitude toward, and general knowledge of, technological risks.

Asked about an “economy first, environmental concerns later” approach, 58.5 percent of respondents disagreed, 35.4 percent agreed and 6.2 percent were noncommittal.

When asked if the government should prioritize policy efficiency before human rights, 56 percent disagreed, while 36.3 percent agreed and 7.7 percent did not provide a definitive answer.

Overall, respondents were highly supportive of government efforts to invest in new technology and foster new skilled jobs, with 52.3 percent of respondents saying that the government should prioritize development of new technologies, while 42.4 percent disagreed and 5.3 percent were neutral.

A total of 71.6 percent of respondents said government funding should prioritize fostering skilled workers in the technology industry to increase the nation’s competitiveness, while 24.7 percent disagreed and 3.7 percent were neutral.

Asked about the greatest risks Taiwan faces in terms of technological development, 30.5 percent said pollution, while 22.2 percent answered financial fraud over the Internet.

Environmental damage was third at 20.3 percent, followed by job losses at 9.4 percent, cybersecurity with 5.4 percent and mobile payment risks at 3.7 percent.

The environment was the greatest overall concern, as more than half of respondents expressed worry, the survey found.

On a scale of one to five, with five being the most trusted, respondents rated experts at 2.774, the media at 2.532, the government at 2.509 and the corporate sector at 2.344.

The government’s decisionmaking relies too heavily on experts and it should better communicate with the public when promoting policies, center director Chou Kuei-tien (周桂田) said.

Forcing policies and disregarding the public’s will is not the solution, he said.

The general distrust of the government stems from a lack of transparency, or outright obfuscation, and encompasses both major political parties, he added.

Without changes to how the government manages technology, it will be difficult to foster a creative environment for emerging technologies, Chou said.

The overt reliance on experts should be corrected, with more consideration for social concerns or ethics, he said.

“Through technology, we can traverse that last mile to becoming fully democratic and allow the public to have a voice,” Chou said.

The public’s general distrust of experts, the government, the corporate sector and the media is a warning sign, he said.

Social trends lead to technological innovation, and it is only with public consent that such social innovations can be developed, he added.

Public concern is not necessarily an obstacle, and as long as science takes into consideration such concerns when developing new technologies, products will be better accepted by the public, Chou said.

The center, an affiliate of National Taiwan University’s College of Social Sciences, conducted the survey in March and collected 1,107 valid samples.

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