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UK crowned Europe’s most digitally savvy nation

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60% of Brits are supportive of increased digitisation in five key sectors, including finance and health. Photo: Getty Images
60% of Brits are supportive of increased digitisation in key sectors, including finance and health. Photo: Getty

The UK is the most digitally savvy country in Europe but faces being left behind by some of its neighbours, new research revealed.

A report from brokerage company eToro and the Centre for Economics and Business Research showed that the UK is the number one user of tech in Europe and comes out on top for card payments and use of digital education platforms.

The country also scores third highest when it comes to online banking use and sits behind only the Netherlands when it comes to accessing health information online.

However, the study found its population less willing than others to accept further digitisation.

Less than half (46%) of Brits are comfortable with the pace at which digital technologies are spreading in the UK, compared with 56% of Europeans.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter (24%) of people in the UK would resist the expansion of digital technologies in the workplace.

“While the UK tops the table for digital adoption, our study reveals very real concerns among Brits about the pace of digital transformation which suggests more needs to be done to increase buy-in for technological change,” explained Yoni Assia, CEO and co-founder of eToro.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 16% of children missed meals during 2020

Still, on average, 60% of Brits are supportive of increased digitisation in key sectors, including finance and health, compared to an average of just 13% who are unsupportive.

The greatest support for increased digitisation is in the energy and utilities sector, followed by entertainment and finance.

EToro’s Digital Transformation Index measured digital penetration, engagement and potential across Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK.

It found that the technology that Europeans engage with most regularly is online banking, with nearly a quarter (23%) using it on an everyday basis and 78% using it at least once a week.

However, Europeans express discomfort about using digital solutions that are not yet well-established. For instance, only a minority (44%) of respondents would feel comfortable carrying out a routine doctor’s appointments via video call.

In the UK, 79% use online banking at least once a week, followed by shopping online (68%), video streaming (68%) and online investing (30%).

The study also confirmed that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across Europe, with more than a third (36%) of respondents having increased their use of digital technology outside of work.

READ MORE: 'Double threat' COVID-19 and Brexit fails to force UK workers to upskill

“These behavioural shifts appear to have imparted long-term changes in preferences and habits,” the report noted, with more than a quarter (27%) expecting their use of digital technologies outside of work to be higher after the pandemic than it was before.

Brits slightly lag the European average, with 32% stating that they have increased their use of digital technology outside of work since the pandemic and 24% saying their use of technology outside of work will increase post COVID-19.

Two-in-five Europeans feel that digital technologies are spreading too quickly, while nearly the same number (39%) say that the pace of change is overwhelming.

“This is perhaps not surprising given the acceleration in digital transformation that has happened as a result of COVID-19,” the study said.

It also found that the social implications around digital technology weigh heavily on the minds of many Europeans. Almost all surveyed (95%) are at least a little concerned about a growing “digital divide” as people without access to digital technologies get left behind.

Pablo Shah, managing economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: “Digital transformation will underpin much of Europe’s economic progress in the 2020s. This research reveals that levels of digital penetration and engagement vary significantly across Europe. While some countries, such as Romania, are poised to close the digital divide, more lukewarm support for digitalisation in countries like the UK may well cause them to fall behind their European peers in the years ahead.”

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