Personal technology is changing lives around the world – what we learned from talking to 10,000 people in 10 countries

The following post is from Mark Penn, Executive Vice President, Advertising & Strategy, Microsoft.

This week I am in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, where I am releasing the results of a Microsoft survey of 10,000 Internet users in 10 countries. As someone who listens carefully to consumers in order to ensure Microsoft communicates about its products and services as effectively as possible, I wanted to understand how personal technology is being viewed today around the globe.

In both the developed and the developing economies we surveyed, people overwhelmingly told us that personal technology is transforming their lives in a variety of sectors, including business, education, transportation, social bonds, arts and culture and other areas. Each country may prioritize differently the sector they feel has benefited most, but all agree that personal technology has made important changes possible.

Chinese citizens, for example, say that personal technology has positively impacted personal freedom more than people in any other country surveyed. Developing countries – especially India – say that personal technology is improving education and health as well as healthcare. Brazil says that personal technology has had a strong impact on arts and culture. China and India say that their quality of life has improved due to personal technology.

Poll Data

Notably, people around the world perceive personal technology to be driving innovations across all sectors. This phenomenon is particularly true in the developing world, where people see personal technology as the foundation of economic empowerment. It is seen as key to creating job opportunities and helping bridge economic gaps.

Our survey also found concerns about the impact of personal technology, mostly focused on personal safety and security, family bonds, and above all, privacy. Following news revelations surrounding WikiLeaks and the National Security Agency, the study finds that the developing world is more willing than the developed world to trade privacy for security. Of the 10 countries surveyed, India is the most willing – and Germany is the least willing – to sacrifice privacy for security.

Despite privacy concerns, however, nearly three-quarters of parents around the world want their children to have more, not less, access to personal technology. As in other areas of the study, differences emerge between developed and developing economies. In developing countries, parents are especially supportive of increased access to technology for children. Whereas in developed countries, opinions are mixed, with more parents feeling there should be limits to technology access. In China, people say that personal technology’s biggest positive impact on children is expanding their knowledge of the world. In other parts of the world, people say technology’s most positive impact on children is providing them with the skills they need for the future.

On Friday in Davos I am pleased to be joined on a panel to discuss the survey by a number of experts on personal technology and its societal impacts. Maria Bartiromo, the award-winning journalist and author, will moderate the panel consisting of Marc R. Benioff, Chairman & CEO,; Maurice Lévy, Chairman & CEO, Publicis Group; Bill McDermott, Co-CEO, SAP; Alan Murray, President, Pew Research Center, and Lawrence H. Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary and current Charles W. Elliot University Professor, Harvard University.

We invite you to read the entirety of our survey, entitled “Views from Around the Globe: How Personal Technology Is Changing Our Lives,” by clicking here. The survey was taken between Dec. 26, 2013 and Jan. 3, 2014. The 10 countries surveyed include the U.S., France, Germany, Brazil, Russia, China, India, Japan, Mexico and Turkey.

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