Smart Society Monitor: The Netherlands concerned about the growing influence of smart technology

November 19, 2021

Services are increasingly being provided digitally. Almost all Dutch people are connected to large tech companies, including Google, Facebook or Amazon, via smart devices, such as their smart phone or activity tracker. However, not everyone is adopting this digital transition without concern. For a significant part of the Dutch population, living in a digital society introduces a feeling of unease. This is in part caused by the concerns that the Dutch have about the influence of Big Tech companies. And this does not only apply to senior citizens. These trends are made evident through the first Smart Society Monitor by Motivaction and Omnicom PR Group, an online survey conducted with over 1,500 Dutch people.

A few striking results from the Smart Society Monitor 2021:

  • 59% of the Dutch population is afraid to lose control over personal data.
  • 54% think that Smart Home devices are listening.
  • Over half (55%) are (strongly) worried about the increasing influence of smart technology in their lives.
  • 73% of Dutch people think that Big Tech companies have too much power.


Smart tech is often still a distant development for Dutch people; they are unfamiliar with important smart tech trends. For example, the terms Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented Reality (AR) mean very little to almost half of the surveyed group. The Dutch are most aware of the impact and significance of topics, such as self-driving cars, Virtual Reality (VR), digital assistants (such as Alexa or Google Nest) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The term Blockchain is least-known, with 55% never having heard of it.


This research also shows that the Dutch have little faith in the smart devices that use these new technologies. They are suspicious towards the use of Smart Home devices, such as smart doorbells, locks or speakers, which can be operated ‘remotely’. 21% trust such devices completely, while 64% are afraid that data will fall into the wrong hands. 59% of the surveyed group are afraid of losing control over personal data when using Smart Home devices that register such data. This is striking, given that only 15% say they have had a negative experience with smart technologies.


The distrust of smart tech is not an isolated phenomenon, and the rise of tech giants has an impact on this. Although half (50%) of Dutch people think that big tech companies are improving society with their services, there are also major doubts about their influence on consumers’ lives. Almost three quarters (73%) of those questioned think that Big Tech has too much power. Less than a fifth (18%) trust the way these companies handle private data. A staggering majority (80%) also says that Big Tech should take more responsibility with regards to the content on their platforms.


The distrust in the power of Big Tech and smart tech companies seems to impact the desired role of the government: 72% (strongly) agree that the Dutch government should act more actively in regulating the impact of technology on the lives of its citizens. Another 69% (strongly) agree with the advent of a Ministry for Digital Affairs, a separate department steering digitisation in the right direction.


“The trust in tech is at stake. That’s a shame, because technological developments have the potential to enrich and simplify our daily lives,” says Kevin Hengstz, Senior Researcher and Tech Lead at Motivaction. “Think of a new job you find online or a new love you meet virtually. Nonetheless, those who may not be able to easily keep up with the digital transition have been disregarded for too long. Around 16% of the population, particularly Dutch people who are afraid that something might go wrong online and who are unable to oversee the wider opportunities of tech, are at risk of missing the boat due to a lack of technological skills. These are not necessarily just senior citizens. Add to this the distrust of tech, and this is an issue that governments and companies need to be much more aware of.”

Juriaan Vergouw, Senior Communications Advisor at Omnicom PR Group adds: “An accumulation of fake news incidents and impactful data breaches have rendered tech and their suppliers less positive in the public eye. This has consequences for the trust in, and reputations of, organisations that thoroughly invest in digitisation and those who facilitate it. On the other hand, there is a great opportunity for tech companies to bring groups of consumers into the current digital transition, through careful education. Or even, by opting for a social position on digital inclusion and making technology accessible to all.”


To narrow the gap between digital innovation and the consumer, strategic communication consultancy Omnicom PR Group and research bureau Motivaction have joined forces on the ‘EVERYTHING CONNECTED‘ platform. As a first step, the partner agencies are launching the Smart Society Monitor, a new online tech survey conducted among more than 1,500 Dutch people, aged 18 and above. The study was created through preliminary qualitative research among tech experts from the business, academic and media communities. The study also makes a connection to Digitality, a study that classifies the Dutch according to digital attitudes and behaviours over the past 10 years.

The first measurement of this survey was conducted online between the 21st and 30th of April, 2021. This was done with a sample of 1,504 Dutch people, between the ages of 18 and 70, from Motivaction’s StemPunt panel. The results are representative based on education, age, gender, value orientation, region and interactions.

With the insights gained from the Smart Society Monitor regarding tech adoption, as well as the advice from Motivaction x Omnicom PR Group, organizations and companies can develop more focused (communication) policies. This will allow them to enter into dialogue with their stakeholders more effectively, to guide the digital transition and realise digital inclusion.