China ranks top on embracing digital technology in daily life, but with foundation challenges

China is ranked top on optimism about the impact of digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) on daily life, but there is a gap between the positive attitudes and the foundations challenges in the country that need to be addressed, according to the latest research.

Dentsu Aegis Network has released the China edition of the Digital Society Index (DSI), created in partnership with Oxford Economics, ranking 10 countries on how successful they are in building a digital economy that works for all in society.

73% of people in China believe that the future impact of digital technology will be positive overall, as well as in terms of its ability to create jobs and address societal challenges. In comparison to negative perceptions in the West, 65% believe that emerging digital technologies (e.g. AI, robotics) will create job opportunities over the next 5 to 10 years.

China also has the smallest gender gap in terms of digital engagement out of the countries analysed. Men and women in China are almost equally positive about the future impact of digital technology. The gender gap in digital engagement score in China is one percentage point (72% for women versus 73% for men) compared to the sample average of seven percentage points (42% for women and 49% for men).

In addition, 68% of people in China believe that their formal education (e.g. school, college, university) has given them the technology skills and knowledge they need — the highest proportion by far out of the countries analysed.

However, the research reveals that although attitudes among Chinese are positive, there are some foundational challenges that need to be addressed, such as the ICT sector in China is relatively underweight; many people still don’t have access to the internet; and the security of data infrastructure trails that of other economies analysed.

Despite large scale investment in new technologies and many ground-breaking innovations, China ranks further down the index in terms of digital dynamism (8th), the core engine of digital growth.

Susana Tsui, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network China commented, “Ensuring access to the right skills, building confidence in new products and services, as well as establishing the right norms and protocols around sharing data, are all essential elements of a future-proof strategy.”

In order to close the gap, the research suggests business in China should focus on scaling up the value chain, broadening access to digital services across China, and ensuring data security.