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January 18, 2021

Business sentiment towards technology warms up as Covid-19 forces firms to go digital

By GlobalData Thematic Research

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased businesses’ appreciation of technology, according to GlobalData’s Emerging Technology Sentiment Analysis Q4 2020. A particular beneficiary has been cybersecurity, with 57% of respondents to our poll stating that their attitude towards cybersecurity had become more positive in 2020.

This is unsurprising. Cyber protection agencies around the world reported increases in cyberattacks in 2020. With more operations than ever being conducted remotely, the importance of cybersecurity has increased.

Positive sentiment towards cloud computing, another widely used technology, has also increased. Like cybersecurity, cloud computing increased in prominence last year due to the enforced shift to home working. As demand for cloud services increased, so did sentiment towards the technology for more than half of our respondents.

The increase in positive sentiment extends to less mature technologies, such as augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and even 5G, all of which were viewed more positively at the end of the year than at the start by more than half of those surveyed.

Technology perception is positive

Some of the emerging technologies surveyed are not yet perceived as disruptive, even if businesspeople felt more positive about them in 2020. One of our polls asked respondents to identify which of seven emerging technologies was already disrupting their industry. Only around a quarter selected AR and blockchain, while more than 40% picked cybersecurity.

There are, however, different short-term expectations for technologies as diverse as AR and blockchain. AR use cases gained visibility in 2020 through adoption in retail, healthcare, and logistics. As a result, AR ranked second only to cybersecurity in terms of an increase in positive sentiment. AR may not be disrupting all sectors just yet, but enterprises are warming up to the technology, and it is a technology to watch in 2021.

Blockchain has a steeper mountain to climb. Almost a fifth of respondents agreed with the statement that blockchain was all hype and no substance. This was the highest share of any of the seven technologies that GlobalData enquired about in Q4 2020. Three-quarters of respondents said that blockchain was not disrupting their sector and, even though 38% had become more positive towards blockchain during 2020, an equal share said their view had not changed, and the remaining 24% felt more negative towards the technology. Tech vendors have overhyped blockchain, and the technology’s weaknesses (limited scalability, high energy consumption) are increasingly apparent to enterprises. If these problems are mitigated, and expectations set to more realistic levels, views might change.

Disruptive potential

Looking into the future, AI is perceived as having the most disruptive potential. Almost 50% of our poll respondents expect AI to significantly disrupt their industries, the most of any emerging technology. As high-performance computing enables more data points to be processed faster, AI’s disruptive force will become increasingly evident.

In 2021, businesses will be focused on tackling the crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Embracing disruptive technology will be an essential part of plans to overcome the downturn. GlobalData will continue to monitor sentiment towards emerging technology quarterly.

GlobalData’s quarterly Emerging Technology: Sentiment Analysis Q4 2020 report is based on four polls that received 1,663 responses from executives across 18 business sectors. The polls were conducted online in Q4 2020 and were designed to help us understand the current sentiment of the business community towards emerging technologies and evaluate how sentiment is likely to evolve over the near future.