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Survey Justice and equalities

A data divide in the reasons for using or not using technologies: collective and individual benefit

Belief in accuracy and effectiveness strongly correlated with why people chose (or chose not) to use COVID-19 technologies, survey finds

25 March 2021

Social distancing concept with 3d low-poly people on the street.

The data divide

This is a section from a report of the findings of a nationally representative survey of 2,023 UK British adults to explore public attitudes towards a range of technologies deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic for health outcomes.

Survey respondents who used an app distinguished their primary reasons for using some of the new, government-mandated pandemic technologies – such as contact tracing and symptom tracking – from their primary reasons for using more consumer-facing technologies. With apps such as symptom-tracking and contact-tracing apps, collective goals such as protecting others’ health were the most common motivator (with over twice the percentage of respondents giving that as their answer compared to the other technologies). In contrast, personal health benefits were the most common motivator for other technologies, such as personal-fitness and mental-wellbeing apps, which centred on a greater focus on individual benefit.

There is some disparity between minority ethnic communities and White communities’ public attitudes but it is not significant.

 

This survey included a sample boost of 541 respondents from a minority ethnic background within an overall sample size of 2,023, which was subsequently weighted to adjust for the nationally representative results. The sample size enabled us to identify that, across the majority of technologies we surveyed respondents about, a person’s ethnicity was not, in isolation a strong correlator of how likely they were to be comfortable with, or to use, a particular pandemic technology.

A recent Public Health England report has noted that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities, and that there are some challenging trends that engender ‘missing data’, leading to unequal racial impacts and risk of bias through the lack of adequate data on race and/or ethnicity at risk of perpetuating technologically mediated unequal social and health outcomes from technologies.

More mixed-methods, and in particular, qualitative research complemented with a data-based analysis of healthcare outcomes is required to test this finding, as well as to understand some of the structural reasons that could be contributing to unequal health and social outcomes for minority ethnic communities through the implementation and use of data-driven technologies.1

Gaining a clearer picture of the impacts is itself a challenge, given the limited data about ethnicity that is collected by health services. In the meantime, policymakers and developers should exercise caution in assuming that unequal health and social outcomes result exclusively from differential attitudes to technologies on the part of minority ethnic communities.

The outlier from the trend: public attitudes towards vaccine passports

The next section explore the one notable exception in the data, which related to public attitudes to the introduction of vaccine passports.

Image credit: Eoneren

This is a section from The data divide – findings of a nationally representative survey of 2,023 UK British adults, to explore public attitudes towards a range of technologies deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic for health outcomes. Read the full report here, and explore the full dataset in Github.

Footnotes

  1. GOV.UK. (2020). COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-review-of-disparities-in-risks-and-outcomes [Accessed 19 Mar. 2021]. Source: 2,023 telephone interviews of UK adults between 27 January and 24 February 2021; respondents who have not used the relevant app, and who have a smartphone.

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