Technology protects companies from economic downturn

PwC study ‘Are we ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?’

  • 63% of business leaders say technology provides protection against economic downturn
  • Consumers also recognise the benefits: 70% feel that technology makes their lives easier;
  • However, concerns remain: 68% are sceptical about sharing their data and about possible breaches of their privacy and security - particularly with regards to technologies that track their location

Tuesday 17 December 2019 - A new PwC report finds that 63% of companies believe that technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), such as artificial intelligence, robotics and Internet of Things, can protect them from economic hardship. Consumers, on the other hand, are not fully convinced. While 70% of them believe these technologies make their lives easier, 67% are concerned about the data being collected about them. If the Fourth Industrial Revolution is to be widely adopted, businesses must respond to consumers' needs for transparency and control.

Technology: the band-aid for economic headwinds

With concerns about a slowing economy continuing, 63% of business leaders say 4IR provides protection against economic downturn through improved efficiency, operational performance and increased productivity. In addition, business leaders believe that 4IR technology gives them a competitive advantage (80%), creates new revenue streams (76%) and accelerates research and product development (76%). They also agree that 4IR technologies increase the value of their products and services (81%), improve efficiency (79%) and the customer experience (79%). Business leaders also expect 4IR to increase the value of their company's products and services and promote more efficient production, operations and customer interaction.

“The uncertainty fuelled by rumors of a possible economic downturn, the current Brexit discussions or trade tensions are causing many companies to switch to a preparation mode in which they are careful about spending on technology. However, it is wise to continue to invest in technology in order to ensure a competitive advantage. In this way, companies are investing in their own future by stimulating more efficient processes and productivity gains,” explains Jochen Vincke, Partner at PwC Belgium.


Consumers caught in the middle

Consumers on the other hand experience a conflicting relationship with digital technology. On the one hand, 90% say they use at least one 4IR technology and 70% that 4IR technology makes their lives easier.

On the other hand, 68% are concerned about the collection of their data and about possible breaches of their privacy and security. Consumers are particularly uncomfortable with technologies that track their location. However, consumers are willing to use 4IR products and services to exchange health information - such as blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature - to improve their health or quality of life (57%) or to access or store financial information (40%).

Consumers are more inclined to use 4IR technologies if they can disable certain functionalities (72%); are guaranteed immediate notification of an infringement (64%); and the guarantee that their data will not be shared (64%). ​ Only 52% feel comfortable sharing their personal data for the sole purpose of improving a service or product. 

To gain consumer confidence, companies need to address their concerns by clearly explaining how they use and secure personal data. This means integrating privacy and data security into systems and infrastructure from the outset, ensuring transparency about what data is collected and how it is used, and giving consumers greater control over how technology - and their data - is used. Such measures increase consumer confidence,” explains Xavier Verhaeghe, Partner at PwC Belgium.

To download the full report, click here:

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