Cyber terrorism, job losses among feared side effects of technological change in Canada: Ipsos poll

Police have charged a boy after a video was posted online allegedly making threats concerning a Brantford, Ont., school.
Police have charged a boy after a video was posted online allegedly making threats concerning a Brantford, Ont., school. File photo

The rapid pace of technological advancement is widely feared to hold severe ramifications for national security, the job market and the cohesiveness of Canada’s communities, according to a new Ipsos poll provided to Global News.

The poll was conducted as part of Ipsos’ CanadaNext project, in which Canadians were asked to share their thoughts about how technology, businesses and communities will change in the next 10 years.

Fewer than a quarter of Canadians were identified as strong believers in technology, who feel that technology will lead to more and better jobs, and that the overall benefits of technology outweigh the risks.

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However, nearly a third identified with the opposite belief, fearing that technology was outpacing their ability to keep up, and stood to threaten the job market and privacy.

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Indeed 70 per cent of Canadians agreed that the world is changing too fast, while only 41 per cent said that new technologies will do more good than harm.

The poll suggested that some of Canadians’ concerns over technology may have to do with their lack of faith in the government’s ability to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Sixty per cent said government and legal regulations are being outpaced by technology, and over half admitted that they themselves, as individuals, were struggling to keep up.

Technology is profoundly changing retail, banking and the job market

However, a majority of Canadians (61 per cent) feel that Canadian businesses will take advantage of new technologies to improve their businesses.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said that half of all retail transactions, including groceries, will take place online within the next decade, but only six per cent said this will have a positive personal impact for them.

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Similarly, 64 per cent said that the majority of financial transactions will shift to smartphone platforms, but only one per cent said this would have a positive personal impact.

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Canadians also expressed concern over the future of brick and mortar retail and banking.

Some 75 per cent of respondents said that there will be half as many retail stores and physical bank branches 10 years from now, but 46 per cent said this would have a negative impact on Canadian retail, and 26 per cent feared a negative impact on Canadian banking.

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Canadians also identified benefits and concerns related to the sharing economy.

Nearly 70 per cent said the growth of the sharing economy will have a positive impact on Canada. However, just over 20 per cent expressed concern that they would suffer as a result of reduced government revenues as a result of decreased sales taxes.

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The influence of technology, the sharing economy and other innovations on the job market were also addressed. Sixty-one per cent said that it will become increasingly common for people to have several short-term jobs over the course of their career, rather than one or a few long-term jobs.

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Over half felt that most Canadians will find themselves in totally new jobs every five years and that the days of single-profession careers may be coming to an end.

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All things considered, just a third of Canadians were willing to state that technological advances will lead to better quality and quantity of jobs for Canadians. On a related note, only 26 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied in the education system’s ability to prepare students for the jobs of the future.

Poll respondents said Canadians seeking employment in the coming years would be well advised to look to information technology (73 per cent), telecommunications (68 per cent) and health care (57 per cent), and would do well to stay away from retail, agriculture and forestry.

Big data could lead to big problems

Over 60 per cent of Canadians said that internet traffic will increasingly come from household appliances. Twenty-three per cent said this would have an ultimately positive impact for Canada, but only one per cent said they stood to gain from this personally.

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The poll also found that privacy and security concerns are top of mind when Canadians think of technology.

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In the next 10 years, Canada will suffer a major cyber-terrorism attack affecting telecommunications, banking, electricity and transportation systems, according to 72 per cent of Canadians.

Furthermore, a Top 10 Canadian company will be left devastated by a massive personal data leak, over three-quarters of Canadians said.

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In addition to cybersecurity fears, Canadians also said the nature of data ownership needs to change with the times.

Seventy-five per cent said data collected by governments should be owned by the citizens they collect it from, while 72 per cent said data generated by Canadians should be protected and regulated like a natural resource.

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Canadians were also reluctant to trust the private sector with their data. Only 27 per cent said that data collected by government should be given freely to the private sector; 62 per cent said private companies using government data should pay a royalty fee.

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Redefining the meaning communities

Technology was just one of several factors Canadians identified as steadily changing the character of Canada’s communities.

Eighty-four per cent of respondents said Canadians will increasingly move to the biggest cities, while 83 per cent said people will identify with online communities more than geographic-based communities — both trends were identified as having a negative impact on the individual and on Canada as a whole.

Immigration was also perceived as changing the nature of Canadian communities. Eighty per cent of respondents agreed that around 60 per cent of all Canadians will be recent immigrants or the children of recent immigrants, with 10 per cent deeming this as a positive for Canada.

READ MORE: Overwhelming majority of Canadians say refugee rules must change: Ipsos poll

Overall, the results of the Ipsos CanadaNext poll suggest that Canadians are accepting technological change with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Technology and the sharing economy are seen as beneficial to both businesses and consumers, with the flip side represented by an uncertain job market. With young Canadians revolutionizing the retail world and pushing it into the digital sphere, increased convenience is expected — but at the cost of privacy.

Finally, technology — alongside other factors such as immigration — is perceived as accelerating declines in social cohesion, which could place strains on Canada’s communities in the coming years.

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These are some of the findings of the Ipsos CanadaNext poll conducted in June, 2017. For this survey, a sample of 2,000 Canadians aged 18+ from Ipsos’ online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

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