Skip to content
Survey Justice and equalities

A data divide based on use, acceptability and comfort

Differences in public attitudes between those who have chosen to use COVID-19 technologies, and those who have chosen not to

25 March 2021

woman wearing a protective mask while sitting in a bus and using a mobile phone

 

 

 

 

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.

There is a data divide when it comes to levels of comfort with the technologies themselves, even just among those who are aware of them. This was usually strongly correlated with use. While above 50% of respondents who indicated they used the relevant app were ‘very comfortable with its use’, less than 50% of respondents who indicated they did not use the app were ‘very comfortable’, with a much more sizable minority of between 24-50% indicating that they were less comfortable with use.

This gap suggests that developers and policymakers should consider in co-design the involvement of those who are not using technologies as much as they consider the involvement of those who are using their technologies.

The main reasons respondents cited for not using the apps tended to centre on views about efficacy and accuracy. As the chart above illustrates, a significant proportion of people who chose not to use the apps listed above believed that they would not be effective in improving their own health, that they would not be effective in improving health outcomes for others – particularly in relation to contact-tracing and symptom-tracking apps – and the belief that the apps themselves would not be accurate.

Concerns about bias and discrimination, and advice not to download the app from friends and family, was also a consideration for those who did not use a contact-tracing app. Concerns that the app would not be accurate was greater in the case of digital contact-tracing than, for instance, in the case of using a mental-wellbeing app.

 

 

The primary reason most people did not use consumer-facing apps, such as mental-wellbeing or personal fitness apps, was the belief it would not improve their own personal-health. There were also noticeable differences across income, disability and COVID-19 vulnerability, with those who have a disability or are more vulnerable to COVID-19 being more likely to give this reason, as well as, somewhat counterintuitive, those on higher incomes (of over £40,000 a year).

The reasons underpinning this result require further mixed-methods research, but one hypothesis to test in the case of long-term health conditions is that there was limited expectation that these apps would be effective in helping to address more complex conditions and clinical needs. Policymakers and developers seeking to ensure equitable uptake should place emphasis on understanding differential attitudes before and during implementation, seeking to ensure technologies are effective for all groups in society.

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

The next section finds that belief in accuracy and effectiveness strongly correlated with why people chose (or chose not) to use technologies.

Image credit: blackCAT

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.

Related content