BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – I like people, global and local issues, and numbers … so I present a mini-series of surveys on major issues which have been debated at The Economist.

Obviously the results only represent people with at least a basic level of computer and Internet savvy. However, the results may be sufficiently indicative because most questions along with the careful wording of questions lead to a straightforward answer: Agree, Disagree or Do Not Know.

The Economist has received a few thousand responses to each of their questions. I post results only when Hawaii surveys exceed 100 responses.


TECHNOLOGY Results (click to take the survey, part 1, and technology survey part 2.)
The results are summarized in the Table and discussed below.

The original debate questions in The Economist address various issues relating to technology. Ten questions were selected and International and Hawaii responses are compared.

For the first four issues, both The Economist and Hawaii respondents agree. For the next two issues either International or Hawaii responses are neutral, and for the last four issues the opinions are clearly opposite.

Both Hawaii (80%) and international response (62%) disagrees with the position that genetically modified crops and sustainable agriculture are complementary. Both agree that the Internet is making journalism better and that we are now in a new tech bubble. More international respondents (61%) than Hawaii respondents (56%) agreed that social networking technologies will bring positive changes to education.

Economist respondents want NASA to send astronauts to the moon but Hawaii is clearly ambivalent on this. Hawaii respondents believe that innovation works best when government does least but The Economist habitual government subsidy readers overwhelmingly place government at the center of innovation (84%). It does not take a genius to know who’s right. Just think about the last time that a PC, smartphone or search engine was invented in Europe…

Hawaii respondents clearly agree (81%) that if the promise of technology is to simplify our lives it is failing, but The Economist respondents mildly (53%) believe that technology has simplified our lives. Technology has simplified my life. As an engineer and researcher, the Internet and digital scholar tools have cut down by annual time spent at the university library from 1 to 2 weeks a year in the late 1980s to less than two hours per year after 2000.

Exact opposite responses to the argument that the continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of education: 56% of international respondents disagree and 57% of Hawaii respondents agree. In other words, Hawaii respondents believe that technology doesn’t do much for education. Maybe that’s a generic response because public education in Hawaii produces poor outcomes. Or, perhaps in Hawaii we buy a lot of technology for schools but don’t use it in an effective and exciting manner. (However, that’s not the case at Liholiho Elementary that my 5th grader attends since kindergarten.)

Underutilized technology is certainly the case with intelligent transportation systems (ITS) on our highways. Hawaii has spent upwards of $500 million on ITS and signal infrastructure since 2000. Yet traffic signals still operate mostly like Christmas lights and, like Chicago in the 1970s, we get our traffic conditions from … Jason Josuda on FM radio. In 1994 I bought a Saab 900 with a Radio Data System. The car could show on the dash messages about road conditions. It was disabled for the US and if I still had it, it could be useless in Hawaii in 2012.

Hawaii respondents got the next one right: 65% agree that we’re on a post-PC era, and that smartphones and tablets will soon dominate. No question that this will be so by 2020 in most of the US. Only 28% of international respondents agreed to this. Much lower disposable income (due to lower incomes and higher taxes) do not allow Europeans to change technology items frequently.

Finally from President Obama, to Linda Lingle and many luminaries in the between, math and science education is the best way to stimulate future innovation. Correctly, 74% of international respondents agreed but only 33% of Hawaii respondents agree. Sun, surf and R&R does not jibe with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math!)