Future imperfect

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19 April 2017 | 0

Niall Kitson portraitWhen a report promising some vision of the future arrives in my inbox it’s usually in the form of an economic analysis with an alarmist headline.  Anything forecasting the death of rural business, the end of voice calling on mobile phones or what the endgame for the PC market looks like are worth a chuckle but, to be fair, they’re not entirely fanciful. Businesses are staying offline in part due to poor regional broadband; mobile operators compete on data rates instead of calls and texts; and even chip makers like Intel are looking at smartphones, tablets, VR and drones to stay viable. The problems are real, but it’s more accurate to frame them in the context of potential solutions than outright. And one thing Irish people don’t do is hysteria. Cynicism however…

This brings me to the third round of surveys released under OMD’s Future of Ireland report. The latest report compiles the results of an Amarach online survey of 1,000 Irish people from Dublin, Cork and Limerick conducted during November 2016. Instead of easily quantifiable results like ‘number of connected devices in my home’ or ‘how often to you upgrade your phone’ The Future of Ireland examines more ephemeral themes. For example, the first edition in 2015 was split into six sections: Happiness, Hope, Belonging, Family, Change, and Destiny.

As you might expect, there isn’t a lot of optimism on show in 2015. Only 44% of respondents said they expected to be better off by 2025; 47% expected their income level to improve; 33% said they expected their job prospects to improve; 44% expected their skills won’t improve (bad news for employers); and 47% said they expected homeowners will be more likely to rent than own. There are plenty of other stats to pour over showing concern for the survival of high street retailers and rising concern for a federalist European super state.

However, according to the 2016 survey based on a similar methodology released this month, the Irish attitude to technology appears to be much more optimistic than our appraisal of our society. Some 44% of respondents reported seeing opportunities for inventions and innovations that could make their lives better. That means almost half of Irish people have an idea for some product not already on the market. Furthermore, a massive 67% said Ireland should embrace change, rather than delay it.

These two figures in tandem probably tell us more about the true nature of what it means to be Irish. Sarcasm is a way of life for many but when it comes to innovation we’re a different people – forward thinking, perceptive and determined.

It’s easy to be miserable in a time of declining social mobility and increased automation but Irish people have a gra for thinking their way out of problems. That’s something you never get tired of reading about.

Next up from the Future of Ireland is a breakdown of four archetypes: Creatives, Advocates, Realists and Doubters. It will be interesting to see how this survey’s findings break down. I’m guessing it will be another win for the optimists.


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