Divided by a common technology

THERE are so many surveys demonstrating Europe's backwardness compared with the US when it comes to all things connected with the internet and high technology that there is a danger they will have the opposite of the intended effect. Far from acting as the "wake-up call" that their proponents want them to be, they will elicit yawns and shrugs of resignation.

However, there are other reasons for researching attitudes to new technology - as ICL, the IT systems and services company, has clearly discovered. Its international report The Lifestyle Revolution, launched last week, was commissioned because the company, controlled by Fujitsu of Japan, felt that the breadth of its reach required it to find out more about its customers, and also its customers' customers.

Chris Yapp, director of the company's information society programme and author of the report, points out that through its involvement in such initiatives as the National Lottery and loyalty cards, the organisation "touches the lives of 100 million people", though most people are unaware of this contact.

With the figure expected to increase 10-fold in the near future, the company saw the need to obtain a better understanding of how people use and view technology, with the aim of creating products and services that answered customer demand.

While the research throws up much food for thought, the company and those organisations that pay pounds 250 for it will not find many instant answers. Indeed, the picture it paints is somewhat confusing. Yes, the French confirm their internetphobia, with only 17 per cent admitting to using it, while Swedes and Americans are great enthusiasts. But why are Americans, then, more concerned than anybody bar the Germans about the security of using the net for shopping?

In fact, there are so many instances where responses to questions are split along national lines that the report should give those who have been pushing the globalisation card so strenuously pause for thought.

As Mr Yapp says, there is a clear trend towards "global technology, but local adaptation". Just as advertising agencies have found that "one size fits all" does not work even for universally known products, so it will not with technology.

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